Bears Know Best
Part 14 of 28
Edited by Carla Ann
Thirteen year-old Taylor Landt’s step-mother believes that he should be the next great football player for the high school he’ll be attending in the fall. Having a dad who is an accomplished professional linebacker, and growing up surrounded by professional football coaches and players should all but guarantee his ability to dominate on the field. Unfortunately he hates playing football, and knows his height and build will never allow him to be successful at the sport. Faced with an obsessive step-mother who ignores his obvious talents in other areas but instead thinks he is a blight on his father’s reputation, Taylor does the unthinkable and moves to Ohio to live with his mother who abandoned their family and left him with his father eight years ago.
Soon after his arrival, Taylor discovers there’s more to his inability to follow in his fathers’ footsteps than just his height. Will it be possible for him to make friends in a new town in the middle of nowhere outside the shadow of his dad's fame? Will Taylor be able to finally make peace with his mother who abandoned them all those years ago? And how long can he keep his secrets to himself?
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The Legal Stuff: Bears Know Best © 2012 By Tiffany Shar
This is a work of fiction. Names, Characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 By Tiffany Shar. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.
Like the first three books I posted here on BigCloset, I will be posting a full copy here on BigCloset. I will be posting it up in 28 installments, but that may change if I feel like a posting needs more. The book has a total of 35 chapters and a short epilogue. The full version should be completely posted by September. For those that cannot wait however, I have an e-book version of the full book available from Lulu.com as of today. You may find it at My Store. My assumption is that the majority of my readers would be more interested in this edition of the book rather than a hardback or paperback. There are two types of eBooks available depending on how you wish to read it. One is the ePub format that you should be able to load on any e-reader (you may need an additional app, but I believe all will read it), and the other is a standard PDF formatted file. I believe the PDF is the best way to read it on a computer screen personally. If you enjoy this work perhaps you will consider supporting me by purchasing it ($8.95 for the eBook formatted files).
Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy reading Bears Know Best!
Chapter 18: Preludes
THE NEXT MORNING Mom woke me up and I dressed in a pair of short khaki shorts and a spaghetti strap tank top. I’d thought about wearing a sundress, but Alyssa was wearing shorts and it seemed like a better idea for a day that I didn’t know what our plans were for certain.
“Are you about ready?” Mom asked from behind me as I was using a mirror in the main room to do my makeup. It was kind of dark so it was taking me even longer than normal.
I glanced up again at my face, and replied, “I think so,” as I closed the lip gloss that I’d just put on.
“Alyssa?” Mom asked, knowing she was already.
“Yep!” she said cheerily.
“Well let’s go downstairs and meet Jake and Rachel,” she said.
Alyssa and I grabbed our purses, and Mom grabbed an additional tote that she’d brought along that was loaded with sunscreen and water. Dad was already sitting at a table in the hotel restaurant, sipping on a cup of coffee. “Morning!” He said to me and gave me a big hug. He greeted Mom and Alyssa too, while Rachel just smiled and said something that seemed to approximate a ‘hello.’
The five of us ordered breakfast and participated in some idle chit-chat. I decided to ask the question I was dying to know the answer to, “Daddy, what are we doing today?”
I watched him smile, calling him Daddy was something I hadn’t done for about three years – it just wasn’t cool as a boy. As a teenage girl though, it felt comfortable, and I knew I could do it in front of friends even without problems. Alyssa even called her mom ‘mommy’ frequently around me. Usually it was when she wanted something though… I smiled as I realized that.
“Well, I know you like animals… and won’t be able to walk around much for a week or so… so how about going to the zoo?” He suggested.
I smiled, “That sounds like fun!”
“I think so too,” he said with a smile.
“Honey, I think I’m going to stick around here today and maybe go do some shopping around some shops today. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a pass at the zoo,” Rachel said.
Inwardly I was jumping up and down saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you!’
Dad frowned a bit, “I thought we came up to see Taylor though, he… I mean she…” he was flustered for a second.
I smiled at him, “Trust me, I understand, I get just as confused!”
He smiled at me sadly, he felt bad. “She isn’t living around anymore, and it would be nice for you to spend some time with her.”
“Dad, it’s okay,” I said, “I can completely understand Rachel wanting to go shopping!”
“Would you rather…?” He started.
“No, I’d like to go to the zoo, it sounds like fun!” I assured him. “But, I can understand if Rachel just wants to do some shopping today.” I added.
Rachel gave me a fake smile, “I’ll meet up with you guys for dinner tonight?” She suggested.
“Sounds good!” I told her.
Dad looked at me a little bit weird, looked at my mom, and shrugged, “Whatever floats your boat sweetheart.”
We finished eating our food and went out to pick-up Mom’s car from the valet. We were leaving Dad’s rental car with Rachel so she could go shopping, ‘That was the best break I’ve caught in months!’ I thought to myself. I hadn’t been looking forward to spending time with her! Dad climbed into the front passenger seat and I saw Alyssa giggle a bit as she watched him have to duck his head to sit in the seat. At least he’d been smart enough to push the seat back before he sat down. Given that I was its last occupant, there was no way he was going to fit otherwise!
“So Alyssa, have you been to the zoo here before?” Dad asked her.
“A lot of times… Mom and Dad like to come about once a year as a family thing, and we used to come for school once a year or so,” she added.
We asked her for some details about the park since none of us had been there before, and I think Alyssa enjoyed the attention. She and Dad seemed to be hitting it off pretty well; I think he thought she was a good friend for me. ‘Given she’s the only real friend I’ve ever really had…’ I thought to myself, ‘he’s probably just ecstatic I have a friend!’
We drove about twenty minutes from the downtown area to the zoo. It was nestled against one of the freeways and I could see a bridge standing in the distance beyond the park gates as we climbed out of the car. “Okay girls, sunscreen!” Mom said, being motherly.
I was slightly annoyed, but smiled anyway. “Okay,” and began putting it on my arms and legs.
“Your makeup works as a sunscreen, so we don’t have to do your face” Mom told me quietly. She was rubbing it on my back while I held my hair up.
“Really?” I asked.
“It’ll work pretty well. We may need to put some on later, but it should be okay,” she told me.
“Cool,” I said.
The four of us walked up to the entrance and I thought for a moment that we looked like a normal family going to the zoo… except my parents were divorced, and one of the girls wasn’t a member of the family. “Four please,” Dad told the lady at the booth. She looked up at us and told him what he owed.
“She charged for one kid’s ticket, didn’t she,” Alyssa said with a giggle as we entered.
I sighed, “Of course!”
Mom laughed at me, “It’s a good thing Taylor, just think about when everyone else is being thought of as forty, you’ll always be ten years younger.” I looked up at her, which wasn’t that hard since she only had four inches on me.
“I guess you know all about that?” I asked her.
“I still get mistaken for being in my twenties sometimes,” she smiled. “Come on, where are we going first?” She asked me as Dad rejoined us from the ticket booth.
I opened up the visitor’s map the ticket booth lady had given us and began looking to see where would be the best start. I finally looked at Alyssa, “Which way is more fun to go first?”
“We usually go this way and start with the monkeys and giraffes, before going back to the bears and wolves and coming back on the loop,” she suggested with a smile. I think she was looking forward to it too.
I shrugged, “That works for me,” I said and looked at my mom who nodded. I walked next to Dad with Alyssa on my left as we strolled between the different animal cages and exhibits.
It was a fun walk through the exhibits, with Dad spending time talking pretty much exclusively to Alyssa and myself. Mom walked with us, and talked with the two of us, but neither Dad, nor Mom, really engaged the other in conversation as we walked along. I could only imagine the awkwardness that both of them must have felt about the whole day. They might have had it a bit easier with Rachel present, or Mom staying back or something. The giraffes and zebras were cool, but I really was looking forward most to seeing the tigers back in the back of the zoo. It took us about thirty minutes of slowly walking to get back there, and we arrived to a huge crowd in front of the cage with the Siberian Tigers.
“What’s going on?” I asked Dad, seeing no way to push my way through the crowd.
He smiled, “They have two babies out there playing with each other,” he said. Without warning I felt his arms grab me, and he put me up on his shoulders like a little kid.
“Cute!” I said as I could suddenly see as well as him over the crowds.
I watched Alyssa manage to snake her way towards the front, while I stayed in my comfortable position on top of Dad for a few minutes to watch. The tiger cubs were cute and jumping around chasing each other. The adult tigers just lazily watched the two of them, and the scene amused me for several long moments. Given our size difference, and how light I was, it was nothing to Dad to keep me up there. “You can put me down now,” I said to him.
He laughed, “Okay,” but not before I noticed Alyssa and Mom both had their phones out to take a picture of the two of us like that.
As he put me down I stuck my tongue out at both of them. It backfired though, as a strand of hair had gotten loose from my head and I could taste it on my tongue. Mom and Alyssa just howled with laughter at me as I pulled it out of my mouth. “Humph!” I said.
The four of us walked down the sidewalk through the zoo until about noon when we neared the park exit. “Can we go by the gift store?” I asked as we passed it.
“Sure,” Dad said with a smile.
There was a white stuffed tiger that I couldn’t take my eyes off as soon as we entered. She was cute, and more importantly large and fluffy! As I stroked the soft fur I felt dad put his hand on my shoulder, “Do you want it?”
I nodded and smiled, “Please?”
“Okay,” he said. A couple pairs of earrings and a wooden toggle necklace got added to the pile, along with matching shirts for Alyssa and me.
“What now?” He asked.
“I don’t know…” I said, turning to Alyssa as we walked through the parking lot towards the car, “What else is there to do in Cleveland?”
Alyssa laughed, “Well, we could go to the science museum, or The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” she said. “Honestly the second one’s kind of boring, the first one’s fun.” She bit her lip for a moment, “I suppose we could go to the art museum, but you went there already,” she said.
“We didn’t stay long there,” I told her.
“The first two she mentioned are next door to each other,” Mom said, “We could go do both of those and see what to do after that?”
I shrugged, “What do you think Dad?” I asked.
“As long as I’m spending time with you, I don’t care Taylor,” he said.
I smiled, “same here,” I told him. I noticed a sad look in Mom’s eyes and felt bad. I just didn’t know of any way to make this situation less awkward for her… I heard his stomach grumble, “Lunch first though?”
He smiled, “That sounds like a plan!”
We located a deli Mom had heard of, where each of us ordered a sandwich that was filled with meats, and tasted incredible. The science museum was right next to the pyramid looking Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next door. We decided on Alyssa’s advice to go into the science center first.
“Dad, don’t get lost in here!” I told him with a smile. I don’t think Alyssa expected a professional football player to be as much of a nerd as my dad was that day. There were times when we were looking at an experiment or a display and he explained what was going on better than the diagram on the front of the exhibit. We had a lot of fun exploring all of the different parts and pieces that were present in the large museum. Our museum experience concluded in an IMAX film, when we noticed that it was already getting close to four in the afternoon.
“Do you want to go to the Rock and Roll Museum too?” Dad asked.
I shrugged my shoulders, “If Alyssa says it isn’t that great, it’s probably not.” I bit my lip for thinking what I was about to say, “Should we maybe call Rachel and see if she wants to meet us for dinner somewhere?”
Dad gave me a look that made me think he was of the belief that was going to be painful too. He sighed, “We probably should, but it’s been such a quiet day though without her…” he said, as if we weren’t there. He pulled his iPhone out of his pocket and called her, while Mom and I talked with Alyssa about what we wanted to do for dinner.
“Have you guys ever done one of the Brazilian Steakhouses?” Alyssa suggested.
“Huh?” I said.
“Well the three of us, and Rachel, probably won’t be able to eat that much, but if you like meat – and I’m guessing your dad does,” she said looking at him talking on the phone, “he’d probably love this place I’m thinking of.”
“That could be fun, and he would like that. What else is there?”
“Well, there are a couple more steakhouses, Hard Rock Café at the mall,” she thought for a moment, “I think that’s it down here.”
I noticed Dad was getting off of the phone and rejoining us, “She says she’ll meet us wherever, just get her directions – nothing too fancy she suggested so she doesn’t have to change.”
“And the three of us wouldn’t have to?” I asked slightly annoyed. “Alyssa said there’s a Hard Rock Café at the mall,” I told him. “Everything else she named sounds more upscale.” I watched Alyssa nod next to me.
“That sounds alright to me,” Dad said, “then maybe you can get some of your need to shop out of the way?” He said jokingly.
“Might as well, while I have your wallet here,” I fired back and made Alyssa giggle. As we walked towards the car and he pulled his phone out. With the downtown parking situation we decided it might be easier just to go park back at the hotel and then take a taxi over there. We weren’t sure what Rachel was doing, but I got the feeling Dad cared nearly as little as I did. ‘I really wish he would leave her…’ I thought. That thought actually startled me since I had been pretty much placing the blame for our problems on myself the whole time, not on her.
About a half-hour later we were in line for a table with a pager in hand for dinner. “Have you heard anything from Rachel?” Mom asked my dad.
“She just texted me, she said she should be here in a few minutes,” he told her. “How long of a wait did they say?”
“Probably another fifteen minutes,” Mom told him.
The four of us sat outside the restaurant staring down at the lower levels and people watching. I pulled out my iPhone and spent some time looking online at a couple of sites I followed while talking to Alyssa, “Thanks for hanging out with us,” I told her.
“Of course Taylor!” She told me with a smile. “Your family really is great, and it’s just nice to hang out with you.”
I gave her a friendly hug and looked up in time to see Rachel walking over. “Hi,” she said tersely to us all as the pager in Mom’s hand started flashing and buzzing.
“Hi Dear,” Dad told her and moved to hold her hand. Something in their body language just didn’t say loving couple though.
Mom handed the hostess our pager who said, “Please follow Joe here,” and had a waiter lead us through the memorabilia covered walls.
“Here you go,” he told us, “Mark will be your waiter, and will be with you shortly.”
“Thanks,” Mom told him with a smile.
I looked through the menu and wasn’t sure that I was hungry enough to eat a full plate. “Alyssa, you want to split something?” I suggested.
She looked up from the menu and smiled, “I was kind of thinking about that idea too,” she said. “What sounds good?”
The two of us talked back and forth before deciding on a pasta dish. When our order was in I just about choked on my water when Rachel actually spoke to me, “So Taylor, what did you guys think of the zoo?”
Her voice was hesitant, and I wasn’t sure she was being genuine, but in the interests of peace, “It was fun,” I started, “there were a lot of neat animals,” I continued on for about five minutes without realizing how excited I must have sounded. Alyssa and Dad put a few words in here and there, but I continued to mainly tell the story.
“I’m sorry I missed it,” she said almost genuinely.
I just nodded. ‘She’s trying, but I don’t think she’s being honest,’ I thought to myself. Thankfully the food came about that time and we were able to absorb ourselves in our meal. All of us passed on dessert, and I found us all walking out into the mall area beyond again.
“Do you want to go see another movie or something?” Dad asked.
I shrugged and looked at Mom and Alyssa. They had the same shrug and nod look on their own faces, “Sure?” I suggested.
“Let’s go see what’s playing then,” he said. The five of us walked down an escalator to the mall’s movie theater. All the while I was amazed at all the pretty fountains and marble that made the mall unique in my experience. We walked through the mall food court and back to the box office area for the movie theater.
“What sounds good?” Dad asked with an arm wrapped around my right shoulder.
I stared at the board and found myself saying “Oooh!” simultaneously with Alyssa next to me. I looked at her and we both started giggling.
“You two may be spending too much time together,” my mom said while laughing a bit herself. I swear I even saw Rachel crack a smile next to Dad.
“So what are we watching?” Dad asked. I felt like I must have had him wrapped around my finger or something!
“That new Pixar movie!” I said, pointing to the poster.
“I heard that it’s good,” Rachel said on the other side of him. I found myself surprised to hear five words from her.
We walked up to the ticket booth and Dad bought the tickets. Everyone bought a drink at the snack bar, and we went inside to our theater. “Well, it’s not as nice as some of the other theaters in town,” Mom said aloud as we sat down. Rachel was once again on the far side of Dad, I sat to the inside of him with Alyssa next to me, and Mom on the other side of her.
“No, I like some of the other theaters a lot better,” Alyssa agreed.
“At least it was like right here…” I commented.
“True,” Alyssa said.
Dad put his arm around me. The armrest hadn’t been down when we sat down, and without it in the way I found myself fairly comfortable. “I’ve missed you,” I whispered just loud enough to be over the movie previews.
He squeezed his grip over my shoulder, “I’ve missed you too,” he added.
The movie began not long after we sat down. It was really entertaining, and left us all feeling happy and in a good mood as we left. I glanced at my iPhone and saw that it was closing on ten already. “Dessert?” was suggested by Dad as we walked out.
“Where?” I asked.
We found a Taxi that took us to a nearby restaurant that did dessert. I didn’t feel like I could turn it down with the surgery coming up. Mom seemed to notice my slightly increased appetite, “Taylor, they will feed you in the hospital sweetheart.”
I sighed, “It’s what they’ll feed me that I’m afraid of!”
Dad and Alyssa laughed.
“It’ll be okay Taylor,” Rachel said, saying the most motherly sounding line since a week after she’d moved in with us.
“I wish I was as sure as all of you are,” I acknowledged before putting a spoonful of brownie, ice cream, and chocolate sauce into my mouth. “I’ve heard enough horror stories about the food… and I don’t even know if I’ll even want to eat!”
I was worried, really worried about it all.
As we went to the hotel that night I think Dad and Rachel were half expecting me to go into their room that night, but I just felt more comfortable with Mom. Especially since Alyssa was with us I decided to stay in her room again. “Goodnight Daddy,” I told him outside of his room.
“Goodnight sweetheart,” he said, returning the hug. “I love you and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Alyssa and I climbed into the bed and we giggled at each other briefly for no reason. It took us about fifteen minutes to get past the giggles.
“What’s all of this about?” Mom had come in.
I just shook my head and continued laughing, unable to stop. Alyssa stopped much sooner than me, and I found myself laughing at nothing and beginning to cry because I couldn’t stop. The tears continued as both Mom and Alyssa gave me a comforting, group hug.
After a while that seemed to help, “Thanks,” I told them.
Mom hugged me one more time and said, “I love you Taylor, I promise it’ll be alright!”
Alyssa just smiled at me and we climbed underneath the sheets, finding opposite sides of the bed to sleep on. As I lay there though, I didn’t sleep. I was beyond scared of going into the hospital tomorrow. ‘Will I even make it out?’ I asked myself over and over before sleep must have eventually taken me.
SUNDAY MORNING WAS a day I’d been dreading since it had been mentioned. It seemed like the hours till I was supposed to check-in at four would not slow down. We’d all slept in till ten or so before getting breakfast, doing some shopping at a mall on the west side of town, before making our way to the hospital. Mom had prepared my sleepover bag to be used for the hospital and I felt myself shaking upon our return there. My trip there the previous Wednesday didn’t seem to be enough to shake my nerves like this. I felt way more nervous upon my return to the lobby this time.
‘Of course this is a much worse surgery,’ I thought to myself.
Alyssa’s parents had come and picked her up in the parking lot area of the hospital as we unloaded, so I didn’t even have her by my side as we were brought up an elevator and led to a room by a nurse. The room was a single room to my surprise, and had a closet, a TV, DVD/Blue-Ray player, a PlayStation 3, and it didn’t seem too bad on first glance.
“Hi, I’m Francis, and I’ll be one of your main nurses,” an older grandmotherly lady told me as she came in behind my family.
“I’m Taylor,” I said softly.
“It’s nice to meet you Taylor,” she said with a smile.
“Did you bring a pair of pajamas?” she asked me.
I nodded, “Why don’t you go into the bathroom and put them on then,” she suggested.
“Okay,” I said noncommittally. “I don’t need to put on a hospital gown?”
“We’ll do that tomorrow morning Taylor, no reason to wear one of those before you have to!” she said with a smile.
“Okay,” I said with a shrug.
When I returned from the bathroom she was busy talking to Mom and Dad. Rachel sat off to the side looking a bit awkward. “Any known allergies?” Francis asked as she went through a form that must have been the sixth of its type we’d filled out in the last week.
“None,” Dad said.
“Why don’t you go ahead and hop up onto the bed?” the nurse suggested.
I sighed and did that. I was ignored for a few more moments while my entire medical history was triple checked. ‘I guess killing me with an allergy or a past problem would look bad…’ I thought to myself.
“Okay Taylor, let’s take your blood pressure, temperature, all of that good stuff.” She said to me. Francis wrote down all of that information, and pulled off a wrist band that was on her clipboard. She snapped it onto my wrist and I could see my name, age, room number, and a barcode. I also saw an ‘F’ written down there, one of the first official times I’d seen my sex marked female.
“Okay,” Francis said with a smile, “they will bring by a meal here in a few minutes and that’ll be the last time that you’ll be able to eat before the surgery. The doctor is okay with clear fluids after that till ten when we do lights out, but nothing after that.”
“What if I get thirsty?” I asked suddenly more nervous.
“If it’s really bad I’ll see what I can do,” she told me with a smile, “but with your surgery they want you to be clear of fluids as much as possible.”
I grimaced, “Okay.”
“Do you have any other questions Taylor?” she asked me.
“What about my parents?”
“I’ll stay with her tonight,” Dad said, “assuming you have a blanket that I can use while in this chair?”
She smiled, “The chair over there actually folds into a bed, but I’ll bring a blanket for you. Whatever you all and Taylor need to make this experience as painless as possible let us know, and we’ll try and help.”
“Thanks,” I found myself, my parents, and Rachel all breathe at the same time. I almost felt bad for her as the third wheel then.
The rest of the night passed with a fairly bland meal of baked chicken nuggets and fries. I drank every three seconds or so it seemed to try and make up for the lack of drinks I’d have later. When Mom was sure that I was settled in, she and Rachel headed to the new hotel rooms they had gotten closer to the hospital. Mom promised she’d stay the night with me tomorrow night. I had cried a bit as she left me there, but I knew she would be coming back.
Dad and I spent the rest of the night watching TV quietly. I’d laughed as we ended up seeing a clip of his last game being replayed on ESPN as we channel surfed. Dad had a grin on his face, he was proud of that sack on that quarterback!
At nine-forty-five another nurse came by and introduced herself as the late shift nurse. She had me use the restroom one last time and said it was time to go to bed. I think Dad was a little unnerved by the idea of the early bedtime too, but he was kind enough to go to bed. I had to laugh though, with his height his feet hung far off the bottom of the bed contraption.
Before he lay down though, he came over and tucked me in, much like Mom had the last week. “I love you Taylor, and I promise you I’ll be by your side every moment they let me.”
“I love you too Daddy,” I told him while hugging Allie that much more. I was glad I had brought her with me.
“I’m glad that you never let Rachel throw that bear away,” he told me with a smile.
“Me too!” I said. I sat quietly for a moment before saying, “I must have somehow known then.”
“I think you probably did Taylor, and none of us were smart enough to figure it out. I’m sorry I let Rachel push you as much as she did.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” I told him with a forced smile. I hoped it looked real.
“Well, it still shouldn’t have happened…” he seemed to be speaking to the air as much as me.
Dad paused for a second thinking about something, before giving me a kiss on the forehead, “Sweet dreams Princess!”
I smiled at him, and admitted to myself that I liked being my parents’ princess, even if they weren’t still together. That didn’t last long though, as I tossed and turned in the unfamiliar bed for thirty minutes. I ended up getting up and going to the bathroom once, before returning and attempting sleep some more. In the end, between the fears and anticipation, I did manage to go to sleep, hoping that the next week wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it would be.
I hope you all are enjoying this tale. I’ve passed the half-way mark now of the chapters! As always I love to know what my readers are thinking, please leave a comment if you have a moment! Thanks for reading! :-)
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