The February cross country meet scheduled to be held at Surfside Academy was cancelled. The shady dealings of Mr. Adams with the school leadership had become public knowledge. Mad parents pulled their children out of the school and moved them to other schools as lawsuits against Surfside piled up. The school was no longer in a position to host a public sporting event. This made the bright point of February to be Daisy’s birthday, not cross country running. She was now officially 16 and able to get a driver’s license.
At the Drivers of Motor Vehicles office, Connor encouraged her as they stood outside the DMV’s glass doors, “You’re going to do fine Daisy. Don’t get so stressed about it.” They were in line, but the line was so long that they had not even entered the building yet.
“If I fail, Andy will tease me for the rest of my life. You know how he is.” Daisy moaned.
“If you fail, I will bring you back on Monday, and I won’t tell Andy, okay?” The line moved an inch forward. Connor opened the door and they stepped inside the building.
“Oh gosh.” Being inside the building made Daisy feel even more nervous. “Do you promise?”
“I promise, babe,” he kissed her nose, “Now please, quit worrying.” He put his hand on her shoulder and inched her a few more steps forward as the line continued to creep.
When they finally reached the place where the testing was to be done, Connor went over to analyze the “Wanted” posters while Daisy continued through the DMV stations, one at a time.
Two hours later Daisy proudly showed him her new license. “My photo stinks, but I got it! I’m all legal now!”
“Let me see. Yep, I saw that mug shot up on the wall over there. It was right next to that crazy-eyed serial killer I think,” he teased as he opened the glass door for her and they left the building.
“You did not!” She marched across the parking lot in search of the car that she was going to drive, legally this time, with Connor trailing behind her.
“Where is my Daisy girl gonna take me? I’m yours for the whole afternoon?” He playfully yanked a strand of her hair as he opened the driver side door for her.
She looked at the bright blue sunshiny sky. “Ummm, wanna get some ice cream at the boardwalk?”
“Sounds great.” Connor cranked up the music, rolled down the windows and Daisy drove to the boardwalk ice cream shop without a care in the world.
February Saturdays were unique in that you had both hot sun and cold ocean breeze combined. The water was also cold but on beautiful days like this, people found other reasons to be at the boardwalk. The picnic style tables were speckled with families eating. Teens whizzed by on skate boards while Daisy and Connor meandered down the platform eating ice cream.
Connor pointed up into the sky at the gulls. “Look Day!”
She looked up into the sky at the gulls playing in the air. Connor quickly snuck a huge bite of her ice cream. He took almost the whole ball right off the top!
“Hey! That’s mine!”
“Mine now!” He grinned as he swallowed the huge bite in one gulp.
“I want some of yours! You ate almost my whole cone!” She scowled and punched him in the arm. “You animal!”
“Ow!” he howled playfully. “Want mine? Here you go.” He held his cone out to her angelically.
Daisy became suspicious of his sweet looking face. She just glared at him.
“Come on babe, you can have some. Really, have some.” He continued his angelic appeal.
Deciding to give it a try, she reached out and took a cautious bite.
“Like it?” he asked sweetly.
“It’s okay, mine is better,” she mumbled with a half grin.
He threw his arm around her happily and kissed her head. “Have another bite, come on babe.” He held out his cone to her. A little more relaxed, she took a second bite.
“Maybe yours is okay. It’s hard to get used to nuts though. I don’t like nuts in my ice cream.” She held out her cone for him. “Want another bite of mine?”
He gulped down another huge bite. “Thanks, babe.”
Daisy’s mouth hung open. Her cone was empty. She stared at him in disbelief while he crunched on the end of his own cone. With one last mighty gulp everything was gone. He laughed at the face she was making at him.
She wanted to fuss again but his big happy grin melted her heart. She decided to just let it go and be happy.
“Ya know Daisy, Coach Peggy told me to try running backwards. She said it’d be good for my knees.”
“Really, go for it then. I’ll run behind you and tell you if you’re gonna hit someone,” she offered.
“Deal.” Connor turned around and started running backwards down the boardwalk platform. Daisy jogged along slowly, right after him.
“Left, left, go left!” she squealed.
Kaboom!“Hey, watch where you’re going!” a stranger scolded.
“Sorry, sorry about that,” Connor apologized to the stranger then turned around and gave Daisy an irritated look.
“I was saying, left, left, left,” she returned. “Why didn’t you go left?”
“My left or your left.” Connor shook his head confused. “Okay, okay. Just raise your hand on the side that you see people then.” He started off running backwards again and Daisy followed.
Whenever she raised her left hand he knew to veer to the right. Whenever she raised her right hand he knew to veer to the left.
When they came to the end of the platform they climbed over the railing and continued walking in the dunes. Up and down the sandy mounds they went until they came to the highest one. Climbing to the top, they looked out across the ocean, admiring the bright blue horizon speckled with boats.
“Aaah, what a beautiful Birthday-day,” Daisy sighed.
“Yep.” Connor tossed his flip-flops to the side and handed Daisy his watch. “Time me, I’m gonna do some sprints up and down these dunes. I need to get my strength back.”
“Kay.” She adjusted the setting on his watch. “Ready, GO!”
Sand flew everywhere as he ran up and down the dunes as fast as he could. He ran the length of five or six dunes then returned. On the last one he just rolled down the side of the dune into Daisy’s feet, laughing so hard he could hardly breathe. “Oh gosh, I’m so out of shape!” he panted. “When you see Coach Peggy, make sure you tell her you saw me do these dang things, or she’ll never believe me.”
“I wanna try.”
“Yea, give it a go, girl.” He grabbed the watch and reset it.
She tossed her flip-flops and crouched down into a starting position. Her grin signaled Connor that she was ready.
“On your mark… get set… GO!”
She ran up and down the dunes until her muscles burned, then slid down the last dune giggling, “Oh gosh!” She lay in the sand looking up into the sky exhausted. “Who in the world thought up that exercise?”
Connor chuckled. “Our beloved Coach Peggy. Who else?” Then he gave her a little kick. “Come on.”
She held out her hand. “Help me up.”
Connor grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. Hand in hand they walked down to the edge of the water and stuck their toes in the ice cold waves. “Aaaaaah, that feels so good,” Daisy purred.
Connor smiled at her happy sound. “I got you a birthday present. But you have to search me for it.”
“I am not going in your pants Connor, so you can just wipe that smirk off your face,” Daisy playfully returned.
“What smirk? If I wanted you in my pants I would have just grabbed you like this.” Connor grabbed her around the waist and threw her up in the air.
She screamed out in playful laughter as Connor tossed her around energetically.
“Okay, okay, okay, I believe you! I believe you! I’ll search you! I’ll search you!” she hollered.
“Alright then, that’s what I wanted to hear,” Connor laughed. He held his hands up in the air and stared at the sky while she searched his pockets.
She found his wallet first. There was only a five in it. She looked up. “It’s my birthday and you only have five bucks in your wallet?”
“I had more this morning, babe. But after your DMV fee, gas in the car and ice cream, I lost a few bucks.” He rolled his eyes at the sky and shook his head like she should have known that.
“Oh.” She resumed her search.
There was a little something in the front pocket. “What’s this?” She pulled out some tissue.
Daisy unraveled the twisted up piece of tissue. Inside she found a silver coated sharks tooth with hook on it. “Oooooo, how did you get it silver coated?” she asked in amazement as the sunshine bounced off it brightly.
“I took the tooth to the jeweler’s and just told them my idea and they did it for me.” Connor smiled, thinking himself pretty clever.
“It’s beautiful. Can you put it on the silver chain I’m wearing?”
“That was the plan, turn around and I’ll do it for you.”
He gently unhooked her silver chain, added the new silver coated sharks tooth and carefully hooked it back again. “There we go. Now, let’s have a look.”
She turned around and beamed a special smile for him.
“Happy Birthday, babe.” He leaned over and gave her a simple kiss. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight. “Thank you, Connor. I love it. No one else in the whole world has one like it.”
Her overflow of appreciation made Connor feel very warm inside. “There’s no one like you in the whole world either.” He chuckled shyly.
“Maybe there are some more teeth out here.” Daisy looked down at the myriads shells at her feet.
Picking up an empty drink carton from the sand, Connor followed Daisy along the shore in lazy lover’s bliss. No thought of time or school crossed their minds.
Soon the carton was full of ocean treasures and a tooth or two. “Let’s take all this back to the car. I have some wire in the glove compartment. I’ll hook the teeth you found to the leather strip necklace around the rear view mirror.”
“Yea, okay.” They turned around and headed back to the car.
Connor opened the driver side for Daisy to get in. Then he hopped around to the passenger side and dug in the glove compartment. He found his needle nose pliers and wire. Daisy sat back and watched him wrap the wire carefully around the teeth and add them to the necklace. There were now five shark’s teeth on the thin leather strip. He placed the necklace back up on the rear view mirror.
“It looks nice,” Daisy complimented in a dreamy voice.
“It does. I like sharks teeth.” He admired his creation hanging on the mirror then turned to Daisy and touched the silver tooth around her neck. “I like this one too.”
“This has been a perfect Saturday afternoon.” She smiled at him. “Thank you.”
“Yea,” he kissed her, “Now tell me, what’s next on the birthday agenda?”
“It’s nearly dinner. Let’s head home.”
“Great, I’m starving!”
“You’re always starving.” Daisy giggled as she cranked up the engine and backed out of her parking spot. “I guess eating both ice cream cones wasn’t enough for you, huh?”
“Nope.” He smiled.
At home, Grandma was in the kitchen making birthday specialties. “Don’t come in here! OUT! OUT!” She shooed Daisy away from the kitchen entrance. “Connor, keep her busy somewhere else. I’m not ready for her yet.”
“Let’s go sit in the recliner.” Connor tugged on her hand and she followed him to the living room.
Daisy grabbed her notebook and plopped into the huge lazy boy chair. Connor squished in right next to her and pulled the foot rest lever. “Perfect.”
“I wonder what God would say to me on my birthday?” Daisy leaned back with her finger to her lips. “Hmm… I think I will write a letter, no a poem, from God to me.” She opened her journal, excitedly pondering the possibilities.
Connor smiled at her energy but, “How are ya gonna do that?” His eyebrows raised high at the unusual idea.
“I’m just gonna start writing, and whatever comes… comes.” She looked out the window wistfully searching for her first thought.
Connor yawned. “Okay girl, you go for it. I wanna hear it when you’re done.” He shut his eyes for a little Saturday snoozing.
Come on out here and let Me see you!
You’re so cute, running around free as a bird!
Others catch the breeze that your free running creates.
They run in your wake… and you… they appreciate.
You have nothing to fear.
I’m watch ‘in out for you, from here!
Just relax and move… cause you are in a good groove!
With Love, Your Heavenly Father
“Connor, wake up, wake up, I got it!” She jiggled his arm.
“What’s that, babe?” He drowsily turned to his favorite friend.
With deep, heartfelt excitement she read her new poem aloud. “Do you like it?”
“It’s great.” He rubbed his arms and stretched a bit. “Hmm… I wonder what He’d say to me?”
Daisy held out her pen. “Do you wanna try writing a poem?”
“Naw… ” His eyes roamed the room quickly. “Isn’t your Bible out here somewhere?” He sat up. “Aha, there it is.” He grabbed her Bible off the coffee table and opened it to Matthew 8:23 and read aloud, “The disciples followed Jesus into a boat. Jesus fell asleep. A big storm whooped up and the disciples got scared so they woke Jesus up. Jesus spoke to the storm and it calmed down. When they arrived on land, there were two demon possessed men who wouldn’t let Jesus and his men pass into town. Jesus rebuked the demons and cast them out of the two men. Jesus and his men proceeded to go into town, but the town people came out and asked Jesus to leave. He listened to them and left.”
When Connor finished reading aloud Daisy asked, “So… what is God saying to you?”
He rubbed his chin. “Well, I see lots of things here. I see first that with following Jesus, there might be storms. Second, Jesus can calm storms. Third, Jesus doesn’t listen to demons, he casts them out, and fourth, Jesus did listen to the town people, and he left when they asked him to.
Connor kept on thinking, “Jesus won’t listen to demons, but he will listen to people. If you want Him, He comes. But if you don’t want Him, He leaves.”
Connor and Daisy sat there looking at each other as they chomped on this brand new thought for a while.
“We’ve already asked Him to be with us. He’s here,” Daisy finally concluded.
“Yea, and since He listens to us, I’m put ’in in a request.” He bowed his head, “Dear Lord, please make it easier for Andy and Maria to understand each other and quit fighting, amen.” Connor’s stomach grumbled. “Man, I’m so hungry, let’s go see if Grandma is ready yet.”
The minute the two of them managed to pull themselves out of the gigantic, lazy boy chair they heard Grandma in her sing-song voice, “Dinner is ready!”
After dinner, the door bell rang.
“Happy Birthday!” Maria yelled when Daisy opened the door.
“Come in! Come in!” Daisy excitedly hugged Maria and Andy.
“Here, I got ya something.” Andy handed her a heavy box.
“What’s this?” She returned to the table where Connor and her Grandparents were sitting to open it. “Andy got me something,” she said to those at the table while she studied the wrapping job. “I’m guessing you wrapped this all by yourself, eh Andy?” She giggled as she found a place that wasn’t covered in tape and ripped it open.
“Of course, who else?” Andy plopped down in the chair next to Connor then patted the chair beside him. “Here Care-Bears, sit here.” Maria propped herself on the arm of the chair next to him.
Daisy pulled out an enormous blue candle from the ripped up mess. “Wow! I’ve never seen one this big before. Where did you get it?”
“Man, that thing is the size of my head!” Connor chuckled.
“My mom got two of ’em for our house.” Andy smiled. “When I saw them I thought of you and I nabbed one for ya.”
“This is your Mom’s?” Daisy kicked his leg. “You’re such a cheap skate!”
“Ow! I asked her first. Besides, that thing will last forever, she doesn’t need two.” Andy pointed at the candle. “That’s your favorite color, right?”
“Yea, but still.” Daisy shook her head like one might do at a small child.
“It says on the sticker that it has an ocean fragrance, and it’s blue.” Andy crossed his arms like he’d said it all but he continued anyway, “I thought of you when I saw it. It’s yours, now show me some love Baby-Day.” He grinned his usual confident grin.
“Oh, alright.” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “Thank you.” She took the lighter from the other side of the Birthday cake and lit the huge thing. Everyone was silent as they tried to catch the fragrance. “Hmm… It does have a nice aroma.”
“That’s just what my mom said,” he chuckled. “Now, has the baby had her spankings yet?”
Connor cleared his throat. “Uh, nobody spanks Day but me.”
With humorous smiles Grandma Rose and Grandpa Joe got up from the table and retreated to the den.
“You’re no fun anymore Connor. Remember the good old days when we ganged up on her and chased her all over town?”
“Yep,” he winked at his girl, “But I just started running again. I can’t catch her any more. She’s too fast.”
“Well I can!” Andy huffed.
“Oh, shut up, Andy.” Daisy put her hands on her hips defiantly. “I’ll just drop this candle on your foot and you won’t be running anywhere for a week.”
“Hey, is that strawberry cake?” Maria interjected. “Can I have some?”
“Sure.” Daisy pulled the cake to their side of the table and started cutting pieces. “Do you want another piece Connor?”
“Course,” he grinned.
Andy elbowed Connor. “Ya know, I need to ask your advice on something.”
“I got a package from you know who,” Maria announced as she bit into her cake. “This is really good. Did your grandma make it?”
“No.” Daisy put the knife down and went around to the other side of Connor to sit in the vacant dining chair next to him. “Davis bought it. He was here at dinner but left already.”
Andy cleared his throat. “Excuse me, the cake is great but can we move on to more important things please.” He stuck his hand out to Maria. “Let me show’ em what you got today.”
Maria pulled a brown envelope from her bag and passed it to him.
“Look at this, man.” Andy handed it to Connor.
Connor opened the puffy envelope and pulled out a long, black, rectangular piece of lace with rounded edges. It had one sheet of notebook paper attached to it which he read aloud, “My Mom is Catholic. Aren’t you sort of religious too? The Catholic girls wear these when they go to Mass. Merry Christmas, sorry it is late.”
There was no name, but they all knew who it was from. They stopped eating cake and stared at the odd gift.
After a while, Maria broke the silence with, “I told you he was different.”
“What do you make of it, Connor?” Andy asked seriously.
“Uh, well, Maria did him a favor by visiting his horse. This must be, ya know, some kinda thank you or something.”
“So the guy knows how to say thank you, big deal,” Daisy said in a hushed tone so her grandparents wouldn’t hear her. “We aren’t supposed to have anything to do with him.”
“Did you email him back?” Connor asked.
“Yea.” Andy shrugged. “We just said, thanks for the Christmas gift. That’s it.”
Connor tossed the envelope into Maria’s lap. “I’d get rid of that, if I were you.”
“Come on.” Maria hoped against hope that her friends would see what she saw. “I realize that I was wrong to visit his horse to begin with but don’t you feel anything when you read his note? He’s trying to be nice. Can’t we at least pray for him?”
“I don’t think he is nice,” Daisy stated emphatically. “Gift or no gift, he is not a nice person.”
The word prayer triggered a chord in Connor because of what he’d read in the Bible earlier. “I don’t really share your view of this guy but, uh, I can pray for him.”
“Okay, you lead the prayer then.” Maria waved him on and bowed her head before the others had a chance to disagree.
“Uh, okay. Dear Lord, uh, I know you created all mankind, and, uh, it is Your will that everyone, everywhere know who You are. So, uh, please reveal yourself to Gary Adams in a way that he can understand. I ask you to enter his life right now. And if his family is doing a number on him like Maria thinks then, ya know, take him out of that situation and put him in a safe place so he can have peace and learn to live right, amen.”
Maria was the only one crying at the end of the prayer, but everyone felt better that something had been said to the Lord.
Andy patted her back. “You alright?”
“Yea.” She wiped her eyes. “Thank you, Connor.”
Connor stretched and looked at his girl sitting beside him. “Ya know, Day got her license this morning.”
“She did?” Andy stuck his hand out. “Let me see the mug shot.”
And that is how Daisy’s Birthday went.