“Mrs. Langley, Ms.Victor, come in! Wow, you have a lot of stuff!” Daisy tried to hug the ladies as they entered the house but their arms were just too full. The hugging turned into a silly game of kissing the air and package dropping.
Rose came out of the kitchen to see what all the noisy laughter was about. “Here, put those things on the table.”
“Oh thank you, thank you. I don’t know how many times I dropped this stuff on the way up.” Cindy Victor exhaled heavily, “Whew.”
Rose took the bags, one at a time, and laid them on the table. “What in the world?” She pulled a rubbery jellyfish from a bag.
Vanessa playfully snatched it. “You’ll see soon enough,” she giggled.
“This party is going to have an ocean theme.” Cindy pulled other ocean things from the bags.
“It’s not legal to pull up dune grass!” Rose was astonished at what she saw on the table.
“This isn’t real grass,” Vanessa corrected. “We made it.”
“Well, my goodness alive.” Rose wagged her head. “You could have fooled me.”
“We haven’t got much time before Peggy gets here. Chop-chop ladies!” Cindy clapped her hands briskly like she did to her employees at work. “Let’s get moving!”
All the ladies snapped into fourth gear. Rose went back to cooking in the kitchen. Daisy went back to organizing her nail polish and foot washing things. Vanessa sorted through the pile of beach things in the center of the table.
Connor meandered through the dining area, licking his fingers. He had been in the kitchen sampling Grandma Rose’s finger foods. He wasn’t quite sure he was done yet. He could hear the party food calling him to come back for another sampling session.
“Oh Connor, I’m so glad you’re here.” Cindy sighed in relief. “Can you help hang these from the ceiling?”
“Uh, sure.” He went back to the kitchen, dug around in the closet and returned with a step-ladder and a mouth full of one of Grandma’s treats.
“Now what exactly,” he stopped to swallow, “What exactly am I doing here?”
“Well, I want all these jellyfish to hang from the ceiling.” She fluttered her hands around in the air. “Ya know… just all over the place.”
“O…K…” He picked up a rubbery creature and looked it over. “What’s it made of?”
“Silicon, I think. When we turn the lights down, they’ll glow,” Cindy spoke over her shoulder as she returned to the table for more supplies. “We use’ em at the restaurant for parties.”
“Cool.” He chuckled as he climbed the ladder. “Halloween in March.”
Cindy whirled around at the speed of light. “It will not look like Halloween. It will look like the beach.”
“Uh, yes mam.” He shut up and went to work.
The bell rang and Daisy raced to the door. “I got it!” she hollered.
Maria, Susan and Grace stood at the door, holding gifts and deli food trays.
“Perfect timing.” Daisy pointed to the overflowing dining table. “Just find a place for your stuff over there.”
The girls came inside and set the food trays on the dining table. They saw Connor on the step-ladder and went to investigate.
“What are you doing?” Grace stared up at him quizzically.
“I’m setting up for Halloween.” He chuckled as he hung the last jelly fish. “Like it?”
Cindy Victor looked up from her task. “Connor Davis Bailey,” she growled.
The girls giggled. “Is there something we can do?”
“Don’t ask me.” He climbed down the ladder and picked it up. “I just do what I’m told.” He strolled off to the kitchen to put the ladder away and grabbed another snack.
The girls noticed the unfinished table. “Ms. Victor, can we fix the table for you?”
“That’d be a big help.” Cindy showed them all the handmade things and explained her table idea to them. The girls went to work.
Connor moved to Daisy’s side of the room and asked, “Is there anything else?”
“I can’t think of anything. Why don’t you go running with Andy or something?” she whispered back.
The door bell rang and Cindy answered it. An uncountable number of excited ladies flooded through the front door toting gifts. “Where’s Peggy?” they screamed in a tone that was a little too high pitched for Connor’s ears.
“She’ll be here any minute.” Cindy pulled them inside and hugged them all. “We have to hurry and finish the room before she gets here.”
When Connor saw the new bunch of screaming ladies, he considered Daisy’s words a little more seriously.
“Uh, maybe I will call Andy.” He moved into the hallway to use his cell. “Hey Andy, come over man. Let’s take a run.”
Andy started laughing on the other end of the phone. “I knew you couldn’t stomach a bridal shower for an entire day.”
“They’re so noisy, man.” Connor laughed. “Do ya want to run?”
“Yea okay, I’ll be over in a minute.”
The door bell rang again. It was Peggy this time. The whole house shook with excitement. “Peggy!” All the ladies rushed to the door for hugs.
Connor silently inched his way through the congested doorway, across the hall and into his own apartment.
Peggy went the full circle of the living room and dining area hugging and greeting each and every lady that had come. Once the full circle was complete, she plopped down in the armchair next to Daisy, who was sitting on the floor. A sudden unexpected flow of tears came. “This is almost too much for me to take in.” She fanned her face with a sheet of paper trying to stop the tears. “I can hardly believe I’m really getting married again.”
“It’s real,” Vanessa answered back joyfully. “You can believe it.”
“It is. I…I…” Coach Peggy was going to say something but as she looked around the room, she changed her thought. “Okay educate me please. What the heck is hanging from the ceiling?”
“Glowing jellyfish!” Cindy Victor proudly announced. “Sometimes I use them at my restaurant. Do you like them?”
Peggy shook her head in amazement. “I have now… seen everything.”
Ladies around the room giggled at Peggy’s shocked expression.
Daisy got up on her knees and whispered in Peggy’s ear. “I have all my stuff out. Can I do your feet?”
“My feet?” Peggy looked at her feet, not knowing what she meant. Daisy pointed to all the items at the base of the armchair. Then Peggy understood, “Well, my goodness dear, I’ve never had my feet done.” She stuck her feet out to Daisy with a big grin. “Knock yourself out girl, these feet of mine probably need all the help they can get!”
Daisy pushed the pail of lavender scented water up to Peggy’s feet and gently set them in.
Meanwhile, Connor changed clothes at home and waited for Andy to arrive. When he heard the bell, he opened the door to find Andy standing, blank faced in a pile of dirt.
“What the heck happened man?” Connor looked at the dirt all over the floor.
“You tell me. I just got here.”
Connor stepped out into the hallway to investigate. There were broken pieces of flower pots and cut up flowers mixed in with the dirt as well. The flowers were of course, white and yellow daisies.
Andy pulled a note off Connor’s door which read, Somebody needs a haircut! Andy picked up a large pair scissors from the floor. “Check this out!”
“Shhhhhh, let’s clean this up before Daisy sees it!” Connor exclaimed in a hushed tone. “It will scare her to death, man.” He ran to the kitchen and grabbed the trash can and broom. Andy picked up all the broken pot pieces and put them and the pair of scissors on the balcony while Connor bagged up the dirt and flower debris. When they were done they studied the note.
“This is more like a kid’s prank than something Mr. Adams would do. I wonder who he has enlisted to do his dirty work while Glenn and Gary are gone,” Connor mumbled as he looked over the sloppy note.
“He has tons of goons working for him. It could have been any one of them,” Andy returned.
“Yea I guess, but man, whoever it was moved quick. They did this right in between me coming over here and you arriving. They must have been hiding close by to time it so perfectly.” Connor and Andy both stared at each other.
“What do you want to bet they are still lurking around the building somewhere?” Andy looked to the end of the hall where the emergency exit was located.
Connor went to the Greene’s door and peeked in. He saw Daisy on the floor washing feet just like she’d planned to be doing for the party. She was talking with the ladies as she worked without a care in the world. Connor smiled then quietly shut the door again. “Daisy is fine. There are about a million ladies inside with her so I’m thinking she is safe enough. Let’s do a goon check.”
Andy grabbed a trash bag and they slipped down the stairwell to the dumpster as quietly as possible.
Andy tossed the trash in the dumpster first then they walked silently through the parking lot and around the building twice. Other than the fact that there were a lot of extra cars in the parking lot, nothing seemed out of place.
“We’re having a party upstairs. Extra cars is normal,” Connor grumbled, disappointed that the extra cars were the only thing they’d found.
“Do ya think they went down the street to the boardwalk?”
“That’s possible…” Connor looked off in that direction.
With observant eyes, they jogged slowly down the road. The sky was blue. Gulls chased each other overhead. Every now and then a single car would drive by but nothing out of the ordinary.
They hit the center hub of the boardwalk and quit running. The place was full of kids hanging out. Most of them however, were too young to be who Connor or Andy were looking for.
Andy took a random turn to the left and Connor followed. They strolled silently down the wooden platform observing the different clusters of kids that were about.
“There, by the bathroom lockers,” Andy said under his breath.
Connor looked. There were two teens leaning against the wall smoking and laughing uncontrollably.
“Haven’t we seen them with Glenn before?” Andy narrowed his eyes and looked them over.
“I don’t recognize them.”
“Well, let’s walk by. If they did it, they will respond when we get near.”
Andy and Connor strolled by and looked directly at the teens just to see if they made any kind of response.
The teens stopped laughing immediately and eyed Andy and Connor suspiciously.
“You two have been busy today. Haven’t you?” Andy stirred the fire a bit.
“It depends on what you mean by busy,” one of them answered back. “I’m sell ’in if your buy ’in.” He slowly pulled a handful of joints from his pocket.
Andy watched them for a moment then continued, “I’m talk ‘in about your gardening services. Is that how you got your refer?” Andy queried.
“Yep, a man came by and asked us to make a flower delivery for him. He paid us in refer. Are you buy ’in or not?”
“Not,” is all Andy said.
“It was a grown man who asked you to do it?” Connor fished for more information.
“Yea, he was a grown man. All dressed up in a fancy suit and everything.” The teens laughed again at their stroke of good luck.
“Is he still around?” Connor hoped so.
“Naw man, he took off as soon as we were done. He’s long gone by now. But his stuff is good. You sure you aren’t buy ’in?”
“No, not buying,” Connor mumbled disappointed. He and Andy turned and went back the way they came. “No point fighting with them about it. They don’t care. To them it was just a prank for some refer, nothing more.”
“Yea but we know Mr. Adams is behind it, and we know he is here. Those are two very important things to remember,” Andy concluded. “When you saw him down here in blue jeans we weren’t sure it was him, but now… now we’re sure.”
As they jogged back down the wooden platform, they passed different groups of kids hanging out. It bothered them that none of the kids had a clue how close they’d been to such a hateful man as Mr. Adams. But what could they do about it? They were kids themselves.
Connor and Andy shook out their limbs and let the fresh breeze clear their minds. Home was just a short distance away and they were getting hungry.
“We can grab something to eat at Daisy’s. The party food Rose made was really good. I tested everything out for her before I left.” This thought cheered Connor up a bit.
“Sounds good to me, man.” Andy chased Connor all the way back to Daisy’s congested front door.
They arrived at the exact moment that the party ladies were hugging Coach Peggy goodbye. Of course, every hug was coupled with a speech about the happiness and joy of the upcoming wedding. Coach Peggy thanked them hundreds of times before the giggling bunch finally disappeared downstairs to the parking lot to go home.
Connor and Andy slipped through when the crowd thinned and aimed for the dining room table covered with leftovers.
“Rose doesn’t like leftovers. We should help her with that problem.” Connor chuckled as he mowed through the last of the sandwiches.
“Yea, it’s such a pain to find a place for leftovers in the refrigerator,” Andy agreed while he ate the last bite of cake.
Rose smiled at the two starving boys. “Once you two bottomless pits finish off all this food, you and the girls can wash the dishes.” Rose patted Connor on the back.
“Sure thing, Grandma.”
Maria, Susan, and Grace cleared the table, Connor and Andy washed and dried while Daisy took up the rear by putting things away.
When they were all done, Maria stuck her arm up in the air and hollered, “Everybody going in my car, it’s time to go. I’m leaving!”
“See you at the County Fair tomorrow, man.” Andy knocked knuckles with Connor and followed Maria, Susan, and Grace out the door.
Rose turned to Daisy and Connor. “Now, why don’t you take a walk on the beach? I have to bake some prize-winning pies for the fair tomorrow. I need a quiet kitchen all to myself.”
Connor took hold of Daisy’s hand. “Thanks Grandma, even though I skipped out on your party, your food was excellent-o.” And out the door they went.
Once downstairs, Connor stretched his arms dramatically, letting a gigantic monster yawn escape his mouth for Daisy’s amusement.
She smiled sweetly at the lighthearted play he made for her attention.
“Come here girl.” He placed his hand gently on her neck and pulled her close as they strolled lazily down the quiet street.
His hand felt warm against her tired neck. She rolled her head around releasing the stiffness she was feeling from leaning over and washing feet during the party. “Thanks, that feels nice,” she murmured softly.
“Does it?” He lightly squeezed her tired muscles again.
Once they hit the boardwalk, they crossed the wooden platform onto the soft sand. Connor tossed their flip-flops to the side. Sinking their feet into the warm sand they continued their lazy stroll to the water’s edge. The tranquil ocean scene had a relaxing affect on them. They stood still, just watching the sun sink slowly beneath the waves.
“When Dad has his bachelor party, I want you to come with me. Okay?”
“Do you need a chaperon?” She laughed a little.
“Yea…” He smiled down at her. He could feel the tight, invisible bond between them growing stronger and deeper as they moved through life together. Even now, as they stood at the edge of youth, looking at an unknown horizon, it warmed his heart that she wanted to be with him. So the thought of leaving her at home while he went out just didn’t sit well with him at all. Cut up flowers and dirt flashed through his brain a time or two as he moved his hand from her neck to her shoulders. He sighed lightly while thinking on these things.
“I’ve been to parties without you before. I’m not interested in doing it anymore,” he whispered into her hair.
They watched the ocean moving in and out to a steady beat. The evening starlight jumping lightly from place to place across the water. They stood quietly, taking in the peaceful scene.
“We are supposed to run tomorrow at the County Fair. Remember?”
“That’s right. I better get you home, babe.”
They watched the ocean for a little longer, not really wanting to let go of the moment, then reluctantly turned and strolled home, hand in hand.
Inside Daisy’s apartment, Rose was baking for the fair. Every year she baked pies for the pie table. She had several different types that she loved to make. She was planning to stay up all night and make each one of them.
“Don’t stay up with Grandma Rose. Go to bed so you can run well in the morning.” Connor nudged Daisy away from the kitchen and towards her room instead. When they reached her bedroom door, he touched her face gently. Looking in her eyes he leaned over and gave her a single kiss. “Come to my place as soon as you’re up,” he whispered.