“Can you drive me over to the Langley’s after school? Mrs. Langley wants me to try on my bridesmaid dress again,” Daisy asked as she navigated the wrong way, down the hall to her class.
Connor pulled on the shoulder of her shirt so she’d walk closer to his side. “Can do, babe. Now would you walk on the correct side of the hallway please.” He chuckled lightly at how she was blocking the traffic flow without even noticing it.
“Oh and Mark needs to go in our car. Maria is running errands. She doesn’t want him in her car,” she added then bumped into somebody. “Excuse me.”
“Watch it,” the somebody returned.
“I said excuse me… jeez.”
“Here Day, walk on this side.” Connor pulled her to his other side and hung his arm across her shoulder so he could guide her better through the bustling students. “Just meet me in the parking lot after school. Does Mark know he’s riding with us?”
“Yep, he knows.” She stopped at her classroom door.
Connor leaned over and gave her a light kiss. “Are you okay? You seem a little distracted.”
“Of course.” She crinkled her eyebrows together, pretending to be confused by his question.
He knew she was up to something but he couldn’t quite place what it was. He touched her cheek with his finger and let it run softly down the side of her face, causing her expression to relax.
“That tickles,” she whispered.
“Does it?” He slowly smiled when she did. “I’ll be looking for you at the car… and Mark… and anyone else you wanna bring.”
“Kay.” She smiled at the sweet way he’d spoken to her then reluctantly walked into class, bumping Eric as she went. “Excuse me.”
“Watch out Dumbo!” Eric held his hands up real high and edged into the wall like an elephant was passing by.
“Oh pleeeeaaaase.” She rolled her eyes and moved on to her desk. “What’s with everybody today?”
Connor smiled again and left for his class, amused by her odd behavior.
Once he had cleared the hallway, Susan appeared in Daisy’s room. “Did you do it? Does he know anything?”
“He thinks I’m a ding-dong, but other than that we’re good.” Daisy pulled her language book out of her bag and opened it. “I didn’t even have to lie to get him to go. I have both Connor and Mark with me. I’ll try to delay them but I don’t know how long I can hold ’em off so you better be fast.”
“Good job ding-dong.” Susan ran off, to get to her class before the bell rang.
After school Daisy found Connor and Mark waiting in the parking lot just as planned. They piled into the car and left for the Langley house.
“I need to go to Shop Smart first,” Daisy announced.
“Sure, babe.” Connor turned in the direction of Shop Smart.
When they arrived, the boys followed Daisy into the store. They wandered aimlessly up and down the aisles, looking for what? Neither boy had any clue. Daisy appeared to be looking for something real important but she never picked anything up. The boys followed her blankly from aisle to aisle wondering why she was taking so long.
“She’s been like this all day long,” Connor whispered to Mark.
“Probably PMSing. Gives ’em headaches ya know.” Mark analyzed the situation confidently. He had a girlfriend and a sister so he figured he understood female behavior pretty well.
“I know Daisy,” Connor whispered back. “It’s not that.”
Finally, at the end of all her aisle searching she went to the register and picked out a peach tea. “Can you get this for me?” She handed her drink to Connor.
“Sure babe, uh, is that it?”
“Yea, we can go now.” She smiled sweetly.
As they walked back to the car Connor asked, “Come on Day. What was that all about?”
“I just wanted to look around.” She brushed off his question, hoping he would not push it any further and got in the car. She stared out the window as they drove off, trying to avoid eye contact.
Mark chuckled in the back seat. “Don’t sweat it, Connor. You should see Susan trying to shop. It’s maddening, man! I’d say you’re getting off pretty easily with Daisy.”
Connor looked at Mark from his rear view mirror. “Really, why is that?”
“Because if Daisy can’t decide what she wants she just buys a peach tea and quits. But Susan is not that easy. If she can’t decide, she buys everything she likes and decides at home. Then she makes me drive her back to the store and return all the stuff she changed her mind about.”
Mark and Connor both laughed at that. Even Daisy cracked a smile as she looked out the window. It had never occurred to her to shop that way. Maybe she would try it in the future.
Connor pulled up in the Langley driveway. “Uh Mark, why are there so many cars in your driveway?”
“How the heck should I know? Mom never tells me anything.” He leaned over the front seat to take a better look. It was a normal thing for him to come home and find his mother’s friends at his house but, “Isn’t that Jeremiah’s hot rod?”
“I’m supposed to be trying on my bridesmaid dress.” Daisy tried her best to cover up the full driveway mistake. “These people are here about wedding stuff.”
“If Jeremiah is trying on a dress, I wanna see it.” Connor turned off the engine with a chuckle.
“I don’t.” Mark wagged his head as he got out of the car and walked up the front steps of his house with Daisy and Connor on his tail.
When Mark opened the front door, a million people lunged at him, screaming with all their might. “Surprise! Happy 18th birthday Mark and Connor!”
The two boys stood shocked in the entrance of the house as cameras flashed around the room. They had not foreseen a surprise party coming. Connor’s birthday was March 20 and Mark’s birthday was March 25. Very close dates indeed, but no one had ever thrown them a surprise party at the same time before.
“Awesome!” They hollered to the noisy, picture taking bunch of family and friends.
Daisy stood quietly behind Connor, waiting for him to move farther into the house and let her in. Once he overcame his shock, he turned around and gave her a big bear hug. “So this is why you were wandering around the Shop Smart looking for absolutely nothing!”
“Yea, people needed time to get here before you did.” She came into the house and plopped down on the couch to enjoy the festivities while the boys moved around the room greeting everyone.
Matt Langley, Joe and Davis knocked the birthday boys around a bit then went back outside to the grill to watch the chicken. Rose and Coach Peggy set the table with all kinds of side dishes while Vanessa Langley poured glasses of sweet tea. “I hope we can fit around the table,” she worried out loud.
“Sure we can Mrs. Langley.” Daisy came to her side to help with the tea. “We can squish.”
Vanessa wrapped her arms around her. “That’s what families do. They just squish, don’t they.” She patted Daisy’s back in a motherly fashion.
After some time, Matt Langley, Joe and Davis brought the chicken to the table. “This chicken is absolutely perfect!” the men declared proudly.
Everyone gathered in a huge circle around the table and Matt stepped forward to pray, “Dear Heavenly Father, I just want to thank you for Mark and Connor. It has truly been an honor to watch them grow up. May you continue to bless them with Your love and with Your wisdom. May they continue to learn more about You every day. Thank you for all our friends who have come here to celebrate the 18 years that these boys have lived. Bless this food and our conversation tonight.”
“Amen,” the group hollered in unison.
“Just squeeze in somewhere and help yourself,” Vanessa yelled.
Everyone scrambled for a place at the table and began passing the food around. They laughed and laughed as the older generation told funny stories about the birthday boys. Mark and Connor didn’t mind though. They had heard the stories told numerous times already. Parents had a way of picking a memory and repeating it every time they had an audience. It was funny how more detail and more drama was added every time a story was repeated. They talked and ate until the food was gone and the storytellers were exhausted.
When things died down, Rose brought out her pies. Candles were on two of them. Vanessa turned the lights down real low and everyone made a heartfelt attempt at the happy birthday song. It was cut short, however, because Jeremiah and Jason were having trouble with the melody.
“Are you guys tone deaf or what man?” Andy hollered out with laughter.
“Naw man, that’s how it goes!” Jeremiah and Jason defended their song then finished it with joyous off-key vigor!
“That’s great man!” Mark and Connor gave their buddies the thumbs up for effort.
“Please don’t give either one of them the mic at my wedding!” Coach Peggy pitched in and everyone laughed.
“Here ya go.” Davis passed Connor a birthday card with a check inside. It brought a huge grin to Connor’s already happy face. “Awesome!”
“Don’t spend it all at once,” Davis teased.
Matt slipped Mark a small box. “Happy Birthday.”
Mark opened it and found a key inside. He looked up at his Dad in shock. “What’s it to?”
“Go in the back yard and take a look.”
Everyone followed Mark outside. Tucked away behind the lawn mower, to the side of the shed, was something covered by a blue tarp. Mark looked at his Dad again to make sure he was going in the correct direction.
“That’s it. Go ahead. Pull the tarp off and see,” his Dad encouraged.
Mark yanked off the tarp to find a motorcycle and two helmets. “Alright! This is great Dad! Thanks!” He grabbed Susan and swung her around in a carefree circle. “Can we try it out now?” He looked back at his Dad for the answer.
“Sure, go ahead, but be careful. We’ve spent enough time at the hospital this year.” Matt Langley laughed half-lightly, half-seriously.
Mark pushed the bike out to the front road. He got on and turned the engine over. “Aw man, that sounds soooooooo nice.” He grinned with excitement. Susan got on behind him and they roared off.
The party crowd cheered the noisy exit then returned to the house to enjoy the rest of the evening chatting with close friends.
Connor plopped down on the couch next to Daisy. “Hey-Day, hold onto this for me.” He handed her his birthday check. She put it in her wallet for safe keeping.
“Connor!” Mr. Langley waved him into the kitchen for a moment.
“Be back in a sec.” He went off to the kitchen to find out what Mr. Langley wanted.
Matt Langley was setting up the coffee maker to make coffee when Connor entered the kitchen.
“Do you need some help with that?” Connor asked.
“No no, I got it. There was something else I want to ask you about.” Once he got the coffee machine running properly, Matt leaned against the counter and looked at him seriously.
“What’s this about?” Connor felt suddenly uneasy.
“Well, I, and my family of course, have been visiting with a certain person. This person… doesn’t have permission to see Daisy, but she wants to. She wants me, to ask you, if she can give Daisy a birthday present.”
Connor’s eyebrows moved up slightly in surprise. “You are visiting with Alison?”
“I’m not really interested in seeing her. I’m sure Daisy isn’t either.”
“That is understandable.” Matt nodded. He’d expected Connor to say something like that, but he pushed forward anyway. “Alison says she is very sorry for all that she did. She asked to see Maria a while back. I said she could visit Maria if I was present. She has visited a time or two and apologized to our whole family in person.”
“Why are you asking me? Why not ask Grandpa Joe?” Connor crossed his arms defensively. “Are you Alison’s spokesman now?” The way Connor spit out Alison’s name showed his bitter dislike for her. Matt caught it right away.
“I spoke to Joe,” Matt paused a minute. “Ummm… he didn’t like the idea any more than you seem to.” Matt put his finger to his lips briefly then continued. “I told him, for forgiveness sake, it might be a healthy move to let you and Daisy hear Alison’s apology and receive the gift. Joe said that he’d give his permission for Daisy to see her if… you would also see her.”
“I don’t trust Alison. I’d have to talk to Daisy but I can tell you right now, I don’t like it.”
“Well, whenever you get around to talking to Daisy let me know. Perhaps she feels differently. If so, maybe we can work out some kind of meeting time together.”
“I’ll talk to her and get back with you.”
He went back out to the living room to sit with Daisy but she was not there. He found Andy sitting in her spot. “Where’s Day?”
“The girls have been disappearing one at a time, trying on bridesmaid dresses. It must be Daisy’s turn,” Andy explained.
Connor just stood there, thinking. The things that Mr. Langley said disturbed him. Maybe he would skip talking to her about it. He could just “accidentally” forget about the conversation. The thought of Daisy in the same room with Alison…
“Snap out of it man,” Andy chuckled at his friend’s blank look. “If it bothers you, just go down the hall and check on her.” Andy pointed to the hallway.
Connor walked to the end of the hallway and tapped on the door. “Day, are you in there?”
“I’m trying on my dress. Mrs. Langley wants to hem it,” Daisy said through the door. “You can come in.”
Connor pushed the door open just enough to see her standing in front of a full size mirror, wearing a lavender chiffon dress with spaghetti string straps.
Mrs. Langley was on her hands and knees pinning the bottom to the correct length. “She’s so tiny, Connor. I don’t think they make grown-up dresses in her itty-bitty size.”
“Maybe not.” He leaned against the door frame, admiring his itty-bitty darling.
Daisy glanced up at him through the mirror. She saw his eyes turn dreamy. She smiled shyly. “Do you like the dress?”
He continued to admire her silently. Eventually he managed to say, “Yea.”
“Well now, that just about does it.” Mrs. Langley took hold of the side of the bed as she stood up. “My knees aren’t what they used to be.” She gave a little sigh at the signs of old age when her knees made a popping sound. “I’ll take the dresses back to the tailor’s tomorrow.”
“I’ll just wait out here for you.” Connor shut the door and leaned against the wall. When he shut his eyes he could still see her. It was an okay dress but there was something about the way she looked in it. He couldn’t help but smile. Then Alison entered his dreamy thought.
“Crap,” his heart moaned silently.
Daisy suddenly opened the door and was standing at his side. “I’m all finished. We can go back out to the living room now.” She grabbed his hand as she passed by him and happily pulled him down the hallway. He forgot about Alison and smiled again.
They plopped down on the couch together to listen to their friends’ conversation. The girls were talking about their dresses and bridesmaid duties. They were planning to have their hair done with Peggy on the morning of the wedding. All of them were going with Peggy, but Daisy and Grace that is. Daisy convinced Connor that she needed to go with Willie and Grace to a different salon that specialized in dreads and braids.
“You really want to go there?” he asked quizzically.
“Yes, drive us,” she smiled sweetly, “Pleeeaaase.”
“Dang she’s cute! I’ll take her!” Jason hollered.
“What the…” Connor raised his voice to a remarkable level, then remembered that parents were in the same room with them. He lowered his volume and continued his objection more quietly. “No you won’t.”
“Gotcha!” Jason pointed and laughed at Connor’s defensive response.
“Yes!” Willie and Grace jumped in. “We got a ride.”
“What am I suppose to wear? Do I need to rent a tux?” Andy changed the subject.
“Just wear a white dress shirt and black pants. That’ll be fine,” Peggy answered.
“How about my hair?” He teased. “Is it okay?” He ran his fingers through his painfully short hair and everyone laughed.
“You’ve got no hair to do anything with, Andrew Victor,” Peggy huffed and rolled her eyes. “I’ll get you a flower to put behind your ear. How’s that?”
“Thank you, Coach Peggy. That would be really nice.” Andy batted his eyes playfully.
Maria suddenly pounced on Andy, “No boyfriend of mine is wearing flowers in his hair.”
“Why not Care bears? I want to be pretty too.” Andy caught his girl when she jumped on him and held her in his lap, tickling her until she was blue with laughter.
“Do any of you know what happened to Davis?” Peggy looked around the room.
“I saw him cleaning the grill earlier.” Willie tilted his head in the direction of the sliding glass doors.
Peggy left the silly bunch of kids and aimed for the backyard. When she found Davis, she brought him back into the living room and plopped him down on the love seat across the room from Connor and the gang.
“I have been meaning to talk to you about something. This moment is not really the best time, but if I wait any longer, there might be a problem,” Peggy stated in a worried tone.
Davis stretched out placing his arm along the back of the couch around her shoulder. “Sure, let’s talk. What is on your mind?” he wondered seriously.
“Well I….I just want to share something about my past that I probably should have told you a long, long time ago but,” she looked at him apologetically, “I honestly didn’t think of it until the bridal shower. So I guess, I should say that I’m sorry for not mentioning it sooner. I hope it doesn’t turn into a big deal with you.” Peggy looked down at her hands now.
It was obvious to Davis that she was nervous about whatever was on her mind. He wanted to comfort her but he was a little lost as to what she was talking about. He touched her hair admiring the golden color. He scooped up a big handful of it in his hand and pulled it out from behind her back and laid it on her shoulder. Flashing his grey eyes back up into hers he softly said, “I’m listening.”
“Well, as you already know, I’m divorced. You’ve never once asked me why, which is very polite, but I thought maybe I should tell you anyway.” Peggy looked at Davis for encouragement to go on.
He smiled. “You are welcome to tell me if you want, but don’t think I’m changing my mind about marrying you.”
“Thank you. That’s sweet, but I should tell you beforehand, just in case. It not right otherwise.” Peggy took a deep breath then continued, “Well… when I was in college I met a boy who was studying to be a teacher like myself. We fell in love and married. I believe that’s about all I’ve ever said to you on the subject.”
“Yea, you mentioned a college guy once before.”
“Hum well…. we both just loved kids and wanted to have a big family. But after being married for a while, we discovered that I couldn’t get pregnant.” Peggy paused to see if her health issue upset Davis. He appeared unbothered so she continued, “My deformity, as Frank called it, meant we couldn’t make a family of our own.”
“Hold up,” Davis interrupted her. “Your deformity? He said that about you?”
“Uh yea, well he called the condition that. He was very disappointed about it. To make a long story short, he had an affair and made someone else pregnant instead. He left me for her. That is how I ended up divorced.”
“Your deformity,” Davis muttered the unkind words with distaste. “Does this idiot live around here?”
Peggy cracked a small smile of appreciation at his support then continued, “You’ve never really mentioned children. I don’t know if, if that’s an important issue with you or not but I’m 39 plus I can’t have kids. I just thought… I should tell you… you know… before we married. Just in case you had some expectations along that line.” Peggy nervously searched Davis’s face for his response.
Davis combed his fingers through her hair again, enjoying the feel of it in his hands. “That must have been very difficult for you to go through.” He flashed his thoughtful grey eyes across her face, loving the soft lines he saw there.
“Um, how do you feel about it? Or do you need to have time to think it over?” she asked nervously.
“I don’t need time to think it over. I am quite capable of answering you now. I am just wondering how far back in my life should I start, that’s all.” He played with her hair some more then looked back up at her thoughtfully. “When Connor hit high school, I went to one of those teacher/parent night things. I walked around the gym meeting his teachers like I was suppose to but I didn’t enjoy it.” He sighed at the memory. “I was looking for a way out actually, when you caught my arm. You explained every sports opportunity the school offered. You wanted Connor for everything it seemed. Do you remember what I said to you that first time we talked?” Davis stopped a moment to see if she remembered.
“You said that the only sport you were interested in was bowling.” Peggy smiled at that memory.
“That’s right. Then you started talking about bowling. I was shocked. You talked like a pro about every kind of sport the school offered then you talked about bowling with just as much understanding. I felt someone cracked my shell that night. All you did was talk about sports, but you broke into my world that night.” Davis passed Peggy a look of amazement.
“Did I?” she responded equally amazed.
Davis chuckled at the fact that she did not know what she’d done that night.
“I don’t know if you ever noticed it but… after that night…. whenever the school had a parent night, I never spoke to any of Connor’s other teachers. I only talked to you. Did you ever notice that?” he asked curiously.
“I never noticed that, no.” She smiled.
“Well, you were the only one I talked too. Then later on, when the bowling alley you bowled at closed down and your bowling team moved to my bowling alley… wow, I was in heaven. I really enjoyed those nights your team and my team bowled together. Every time you went for a drink or anything I followed you.”
“I did notice that.” She laughed lightly. “You always offered to pay for whatever I picked out.” She loved remembering the small beginnings of their relationship.
“Then there was Thanksgiving. You helped me so much then.” Davis looked softly into her eyes unable to continue.. “I don’t know if I can express how much you helped me. You helped me to, uh, to let go of my anger at God over Debbie’s death. To release the past and move forward. You were so willing to help me go back to church. I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate you for that.” Davis stopped to smile at her and catch his breath. “Then, my God, when Christmas came around,” he pulled her to sit a little closer, “You got-a-hold-of Daisy’s mistletoe headband.” Davis’s smile got bigger. “Peg you haven’t got a clue what you have done for me. I feel like my life is moving forward again. I’m not stuck in the past anymore.” He wagged his head in wonder. “What can I say? I have fallen in love with you. I want to marry again.” Davis had to stop there for a moment as his heart was beginning to swell with love and appreciation. He leaned over and kissed her tenderly. Looking into her eyes he said, “I honestly had not thought about kids. I have only been thinking about you. It’s you I’m interested in. It’s you I want to marry.” The passion in Davis’ voice was growing as he spoke. He squeezed her tight and whispered in her ear, “Marry me, Peggy Sims.”
Peggy’s eyes teared up. “Oh, well…” She tried to clear her throat. “If that is the way you feel about it. I’d love to marry you Davis Bailey,” she managed to say through her tears. Her long time, locked away passion rose with every word he spoke.
Davis held her face in his hands. “That’s how I feel about it,” he whispered. “Thank you for asking me though. That means a lot to me.”
She laid her head on his shoulder and absorbed his comfort, never wanting to leave his embrace. “I’m so glad that’s how you feel about it,” she whispered back.
Davis smiled. “That guy Frankfurter, was it? He’s a complete idiot! I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
Peggy started laughing. “His name wasn’t Frankfurter it was just plain Frank.”
“Well, he’s a wiener just the same,” Davis declared.
With tears running down her face, Coach Peggy roared laughing. Davis laughed with her. He was so glad she felt better. They laughed together so loudly there on the couch that everyone in the room turned around to see what happened.
“It’s just the lovebirds everybody. You can go back to your conversations!” Mrs. Langley announced over the laughing couple.
Towards the end of the evening, Connor stood up in the middle of the room, hitting an empty pie pan with a fork. “Listen up everyone I have an announcement to make!”
Everyone turned around and gave Connor their attention.
“As you all know my Dad is having a bachelor party tomorrow night at the bowling alley. He wants all of us to come. Allen from the bowling team has rented the whole building. There will be plenty of lanes to bowl on. We want the ladies to come too! Come to the bowling alley tomorrow night at six p.m.!”
“Alright! Awesome! Cool! Another party!” Various cheers rose from around the room.
Mrs. Langley stood up. “Thank you all for coming and celebrating Mark and Connor’s birthday with us. I guess we will be seeing each other again tomorrow. Now you kids have school in the morning so you better get on home.” She hugged them all and shooed them to the front door. “See you tomorrow night!”