Bears Know Best
Part 23 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 29: The Return of the Princess
FRIDAY MORNING CAME before I could possibly believe it. I woke up at the un-godly hour of four in the morning so I could shower and be rushed out the door by five. My bags were already packed and downstairs in the car so that all I had to do was grab my backpack with my iPad inside, a makeup bag, my purse, and I was downstairs buckled in next to a bleary-eyed Alyssa. She was more of a morning person though, so she was jumping up and down in excitement as soon as we started down the road.
By the time we had Danielle and Breanna in the car as well, Mom’s car transformed into a loud cacophony of teenage girls. I’m pretty certain Mom was glad to have us out of the car and onto the plane by the time all was said and done! She navigated the paperwork and I was relieved that on the airline we were flying I had finally passed the age so that I didn’t have to be registered as an unaccompanied minor. The lady did stare at me quite a bit and questioned me on my age, but when all was said and done ultimately believed the two of us.
Mom escorted us to the gate and waited until we were boarding the plane to say goodbye to me, “Be good Taylor,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“I’ll be back Monday Mom, don’t worry,” I told her with a hug and my own teary eyes.
“I love you,” she said with one last squeeze.
“I love you too,” I told her.
The four of us were traveling in first class, so we were able to board right away. I noticed a few passengers stare at us as they found their own first class seats and I shuddered.
“What’s wrong Taylor?”
“Did I tell you about my last trip?” I asked Alyssa, who was sitting next to me. Breanna and Danielle were in the same row of seats, but across the aisle.
She shook her head, “No,” she told me.
“Well, the last trip I took I sat down and was getting looks like we’ve been getting, from this guy that was sitting next to me… I was in the window seat and he said something like ‘stupid little girl’ at me when the stewardess wouldn’t give him another drink.”
“That sounds kind of bad…”
“Well, it was more than that though. He started getting agitated and yelling – eventually an FBI Agent that was traveling came up and told him to calm down… He wouldn’t, so he cuffed him, and in the meantime knocked my Sprite all over my lap!”
Alyssa was laughing at that point, “That’s funny!”
“Not at the time,” I said, starting to giggle a bit myself. “At least I got free tickets out of it…”
“You got free tickets out of it?” She asked, surprised.
“Well, they figured out who my dad was… and he was kind of on a tirade when he learned about what happened.”
She shook her head, “I’m not surprised. When he was up here it was obvious how much he loves you.”
“I know,” I said and found that I was soon after falling into a melancholic stupor. I really missed him, all of the time, but I had no solution of how to live with him and Rachel. ‘Maybe she’ll be better,’ I thought nervously as the plane flew onward. ‘No matter what though, I don’t think I can live away from Mom…’
I must have eventually fallen asleep, because Danielle poked me as we descended into Atlanta. “Ack!” I complained.
She just smiled at me though. “What are we doing when we get there?”
“Probably lunch?” I guessed.
I shrugged, “What does everyone want to eat?”
They all shrugged and no one seemed to have any good answers.
“What’s something that only Atlanta has?” Breanna asked.
I bit my lip and thought… “Southern food, or soul food?” I suggested.
None of my friends seemed to be for or against the idea, so I had a feeling it was going to be up to me to decide with Rachel. Dad was busy at a practice and was going to join us for dinner that night. I hadn’t been overly happy about that part when he told me the previous night, but I wasn’t that surprised either. You don’t become a professional football player and stay one by not practicing!
The four of us were soon gathering our bags and heading out the airplane. Rachel met us at the secure area exit, and surprised me by giving me a hug. “Hi Taylor!” She said with a smile that made me nervous.
“Umm… Hi Rachel,” I stammered, thoroughly thrown off my feet by her friendliness.
“How was your flight?”
“Good.” I said, while trying to regain my mental faculties. “Rachel, these are my friends, well, you already met Alyssa,” I said with a smile towards her, “and this is Danielle, and Breanna.”
“Nice to meet you both,” she said with a warm smile that just didn’t seem right with her.
“Nice to meet you too,” they both replied.
“Well, where to?” She asked. “I’m guessing you’re hungry?”
We all nodded.
“Any ideas where you want to eat Taylor?”
I shook my head, “I mentioned the idea of southern food or soul food,” I said.
She thought for a moment, “Chicken and waffles?”
“What?” Breanna asked. “Chicken and waffles? That sounds weird.” She added.
“It’s pretty good actually,” I told her.
“The place I’m thinking of has other things too,” Rachel said and told me the name of the restaurant she was thinking.
I nodded, “It’s a good place to eat,” I said.
Everyone shrugged and agreed to it. I was surprised to see her driving the X5 when we got out there. Rachel normally drove her little sports car… I guessed they’d thought about the fact that the four of us wouldn’t fit in there with our luggage! It was a little bit of a drive to the restaurant, but Rachel managed to get us there without wrecking. She was always a bit of crazy driver, but for whatever reason it seemed she was being more careful.
“So did you think of anything else you want to do?”
I shrugged, “I thought we could go shopping or something after we drop off our stuff?”
“Sounds like fun!” she told me.
Rachel continued to smile as we entered the restaurant and we were led to our seats. I was getting more than slightly creeped out by it. As we sat down for late lunch she asked the girls questions and seemed to be a really cool mom. I bit my tongue though and played just as friendly with her. ‘Maybe she has turned over a new leaf?’ I thought.
“What can I get you ladies?” The waiter came and asked a bit later.
“Umm… the chicken and waffles?” Alyssa asked timidly when he came around to her.
“And you?” He asked me.
“Same thing, but the kids portion please,” I said with a smile.
“Sure thing,” he said.
Breanna had given me a strange look when I said it was a good combination, but everyone ordered the same thing. The plate came out with pieces of fried chicken and two gigantic waffles on them. Well, theirs came out with multiple, my kid’s portion only had one of each! It was still too much!
“This is really good!” Danielle said.
“Really weird… but yeah, this is good,” Breanna said with her own smile.
“See,” I said with a smile.
The four of us seemed to talk about nothing, with occasionally an interjection from Rachel. She was acting amazingly cool still as we walked out of the restaurant and got back into her car. “So we’re going home now?” I said, almost spitting out the word home in my mind. I knew I no long thought of home as being here, my home was with Mom.
“Yes, let’s get everyone settled in there and then maybe we’ll go do some shopping. Tomorrow is going to be the game, and then I thought we could have a girl’s night in tomorrow night?” She suggested.
“Umm… sure,” I said, “Sounds good.”
It seemed like no time and we were pulling into the driveway to the expensive house. Dad and I had been living in a three bedroom, single story house before he started dating Rachel. When they got married she insisted that they ‘upgrade’ to a house that befitted his wealth and star status. Her idea of an appropriate house was an eight bedroom, three-story mansion with a grand dining room, and more space than three people ever needed. I didn’t know what her plans were for sleeping, but I figured that each girl would have their own bedroom for the stay.
As we pulled into the garage I noticed the other three cars were in there too. ‘Dad must be home!’ I thought excitedly.
Sure enough, as soon as we had opened our doors the garage door opened and he came and enveloped me in his arms and picked me up off the ground. “Hi Taylor,” he said, “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too,” I told him. I felt tears in my eyes and felt overly emotional at that point.
He set me down and I reintroduced him to my friends. I think he remembered all of them from my birthday party and their visit to me at the hospital. He gave each of them a friendly smile, and said, “I’m really glad you all came down with Taylor.”
“It sounded like fun,” Breanna said.
“We appreciate you having us down here,” Danielle added while Alyssa nodded.
“Well, hopefully it’ll be a fun weekend and you won’t all be too bored at the game tomorrow!” He said with a smile.
“I’m sure it’ll be fun!” Danielle said with a smile. I knew as a cheerleader she probably would enjoy the game more than anyone. Well, that and I think the three of them were looking forward to seeing all of the hot football players in person. I still couldn’t think of them like that though… a lot of them were like uncles to me.
“Let’s get you girls settled in upstairs,” Rachel said with a smile.
I sensed something odd underneath her tone, but I couldn’t quite figure out what she was up to. This felt different than her sudden cordial behavior. Rachel led us upstairs and I could feel my friends mouths drop as they looked around the gorgeous house. It was more than slightly overwhelming at first… I had gotten used to it quickly enough when we moved in so I hadn’t thought beforehand how overwhelming it looked to my friends. The girls and I headed upstairs and my room was one of the first off the landing on the second floor.
I opened the door while talking to them and just about died from shock.
“What…?” I asked dumbly.
“Do you like it?” Rachel asked.
I looked around the room and felt like I was in a sea of little girlness. While we had made my room back home at Mom’s house into a room that was appropriate for a teen girl going into high school, this felt like the room of a girl who was my height, but certainly not my age. The walls were a pale pink that looked like they should be in a nursery, and the four poster bed, complete with ruffled bedding made me just not quite know what to make of it. Adding to all of that were Barbie Dolls, baby dolls, several doll houses, and other girl toys that just didn’t belong in the room I had grown up in.
“Umm… I guess,” I said politely. “It’s a little umm… juvenile for me,” I told her.
“Oh, I know that sweetie, but I thought this way people can see that you were a little girl here in this house.” She said self-assuredly like it was the most obvious fact in the world.
“Oh.” I said, grimacing, “thanks.”
I looked around and wondered what my friends were thinking. Alyssa had a smirk on her face, and I felt like I must have turned the reddest color of all time.
“Taylor, let’s show the other girls to their rooms and you can look around yours for a bit. I bought you some pretty dresses that are in your closet.”
Alyssa had the room next door to me, while Danielle and Breanna were given rooms on the other side. Rachel and Dad left us alone to talk and get settled in. We all wandered back into my room. “Oh my God!!!!” Breanna said giggling. “My sister would kill for this bedroom!”
Danielle shook her head and giggled as she held up a Barbie Doll, “I had this one as a little girl.”
“I knew you were a girly girl!” Alyssa said with a grin.
“I swear none of this was here when I left…” I complained as I looked at a set of Disney Princess dolls that I actually did think were cute. “These are cute though,” I admitted pointing to them.
“So shall we see these dresses?” Danielle suggested.
I grimaced, “This could be bad.”
Sure enough, as I opened the closet I was assailed by dresses that were easily my size, but looked like a six year old might be embarrassed to wear them. Let alone a fourteen-year-old teenage girl! Alyssa picked one of them up that was particularly juvenile. “It even has an actual petticoat!” She squealed with glee.
Soon we were going through and laughing at the dresses… well, I was laughing until they suggested I try one of them on. They didn’t let up either, until I had put it on and the cell phones came out for pictures. “I look like I’m younger than your Kaylie!” I complained as I looked at the picture on Alyssa’s phone after changing back into my clothes.
“I told you my sister would love your room!” Breanna said. I just stuck my tongue out at her.
I sat down on the very frilly bedspread and picked up a teddy bear sitting on the pillow and sighed. “It’s cute, and probably everything I’d ever want if I was in elementary school.”
“Yep!” Alyssa said. “You know, you’re short enough I bet they would let you do it again.” She suggested.
“Ha, ha, ha,” I said, before adding, “I have breasts, I don’t think they’d believe me!”
“They would, remember Anna Beth?” she asked the girls who smiled. “She had bigger breasts than you when she was in third grade.”
“That’s weird,” I said.
They nodded, “We were all sooo completely jealous though.”
“I could see that,” I admitted.
“So what are we doing next?” Breanna asked, changing the subject.
I shrugged, “Shopping I guess.” I looked around the room, “Maybe I can find some posters or something to put up in this room and make it look like it’s not a five-year old’s room.”
They laughed at me, and Breanna said, “I don’t think your dad is going to let you hang pictures of naked men up!”
I blushed, and Alyssa said, “That’s about the only thing that might work!”
They continued quietly heckling me as we walked downstairs and found Dad sitting in the living room with the TV on. He was watching something on the comedy channel and laughing a lot. He turned it off and stood up as we walked in. “So what do you girls want to do now?”
I shrugged, “We thought about maybe going to the mall?”
I looked at him and wondered if I had just called a bad play in a big game for him or something. He looked almost… terrified… the idea of shopping with four teenage girls seemed to be more than he could take. “I’ll take them Honey,” I heard from behind us.
I wasn’t sure that I really wanted Rachel to go shopping with us, but I was sure I wanted to spend time with Dad. ‘He’s going to take that easy road out…’ I thought annoyed.
“You wouldn’t mind, Rachel?” he asked.
“No, it would be fun!” She said with a smile that seemed genuine, but had me genuinely unnerved still. “You can meet up with us for dinner and a movie afterwards?” she suggested.
I hated the idea of not spending time with him, but the amount his body language relaxed told me I should probably just agree with it. ‘Who knew going shopping with four girls was enough to scare my dad? Getting tackled by a three-hundred plus pound man doesn’t bother him, but send him to shop with four girls?’ I grinned a bit at the thought.
“Is that okay with you Taylor?” he asked me. I could tell he would probably take one for the team if he had to, but I didn’t see any reason to make him.
“Umm… sure Daddy,” I said.
“Okay then,” he said, clearly relieved. We talked about the details for getting together for dinner, and I learned it was pretty much already arranged. Tonight was going to be a casual dinner at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants, while tomorrow was supposed to be a more formal, late dinner, after the game. Dad would be done with the game by five, but we wouldn’t be necessarily able to leave right away. As it was an ‘exhibition’ game he probably wouldn’t even be played more than a quarter or so. The coaches wouldn’t want to risk him having an injury from a game that didn’t matter. Of course occasionally that could change, but it didn’t usually!
“Are you ready to go then girls?” Rachel asked.
“Let me get my purse,” I heard Alyssa, Danielle, and Breanna say in unison with me. That set us all off giggling as we ran upstairs to get our purses.
The car ride to the mall was surprisingly pleasant. We were going to a more upscale mall that I knew Rachel went to a lot. I had mostly avoided malls before moving to Conneaut so I’d only been in there once. We walked in and found the kiosk with the mall directory on it.
“Oh my God! They have an American Girl store here!?!” Danielle exclaimed.
“Really?” Alyssa asked, almost as excitedly.
“We should go there!” Breanna said.
I stood there with a blank look on my face. Apparently I was running into that whole, ‘I didn’t grow up as a girl and you are all speaking a different language’ moment again. Alyssa knew me well enough she said, “It’s like the only doll type that the three of us ever could agree on liking when we were little.”
“Oh,” I said dispassionately.
“They are adorable,” Rachel said with just as much enthusiasm.
“We have to go there,” Alyssa said excitedly looking at the map. So it was that the four of us walked into little girl heaven together as a group and began looking through all of the shelves of pretty dolls dressed in an amazing assortment of outfits.
I found myself drawn to one that had the same light brown hair color as I did and green eyes. It was called a ‘My American Girl’ doll, and looked sort of like me. Her hair was too long to be a perfect replica of me though. “You should get her,” I heard Rachel say behind me and I jumped.
“I don’t know…” I started to say.
“I’ll tell you what, all of you pick out a doll and I’ll buy one for each of you, and an extra outfit to go along with it,” she said as my friends had gathered around me.
“We can’t impose like that…” Breanna started to say.
“No, I can,” she said with a smile that seemed so genuine it made me even more nervous. There were a few more arguments, but in the end it was decided. The other girls all picked dolls that were from older time periods. Alyssa explained to me that they all had been given dolls like the one I had in my hand for Christmas years ago. We all had fun picking out another outfit for each doll. I had gone with a shorts and t-shirt pajama set. I liked pajamas enough that it seemed appropriate to have my doll have a set!
We were standing in line though, when Alyssa said, “Taylor, come here!”
She led me over to where they had clothing for girls and pointed, “They have your doll’s pajamas in your size!” she said with a smile.
Unfortunately, Rachel saw them too and said, “Ooh, you have to get them!”
“But…” I tried to say.
“You’re a ten or a twelve, right?” she asked.
‘Of course you know my sizes… you bought all of those embarrassingly juvenile clothes at home…’ I thought annoyed, but nodded, “Yes.”
We ended up getting a set of them, complete with a matching pair of knitted slippers, and I felt like I was about beet red as we pulled up to the counter. The worst part of it was that I was only a medium in the clothing sizes, and they went all the way up to extra-large! I felt especially little at that moment.
I was looking at the doll as we went up to the counter though, and couldn’t help but see how cute she was. I must have been pretty enthralled by looking at her face, because I was slightly startled as I heard “What a lucky set of girls,” the lady said as she rang the dolls up at the counter. “Is this your youngest daughter’s birthday?”
I just about died from embarrassment, “No, just a special occasion for her and her friends,” Rachel said smiling. I wanted to correct the ‘daughter’ part at that moment.
“Would you like to get your dolls ears pierced?” she asked.
“They pierce them?” I asked in shock. They seemed to have everything else under the sun there, so I guess that shouldn’t have surprised me.
“Sure do sweetie, shall I go ahead and ring that up and you can go over to the salon and get it done?”
“Please,” Rachel answered for the four of us.
I decided as we waited for the workers to get free that I could either think of this as the most embarrassing moment of my life… or enjoy it as much as my friends were. The lady at the counter had helped us unbox the dolls, and kept the boxes in bags for us to take home with us. Rachel in the meantime went over to the clothing racks and I had a bad feeling when she went up to the counter again.
I wasn’t able to watch her too much though because they made it almost a role playing experience as we had each doll’s ears pierced. “Yours is so pretty,” I said to Alyssa as we walked back into the main area of the store where Rachel waited with our bags. It was a character called ‘Marie-Grace’ I learned and she was supposed to be from 1853. There had been a book inside her doll box that I figured I’d have to read at some point on the trip home.
We looked cute as Rachel used her phone, and then my phone to take a group picture of the four of us in front of the store entrance. She then insisted one of the girls take a picture of the two of us, and I found myself not faking the smile as I held my doll. I’d named her Julie. Alyssa had named her doll Elena, Breanna named hers Lilly, and Danielle named hers Isabella. We all gave Danielle a hard time for the obvious Twilight reference. She was totally addicted to the books and movies!
The five of us continued to shop, but stopped by the car first to leave the bags. Alyssa insisted we take our dolls shopping with us, and I couldn’t help but notice the stares. Most of them were from little girls who were really jealous of our dolls though. Several ladies and girls asked to see them as we waited in line for the bathroom just before leaving to go to dinner. All during our time shopping Rachel seemed to be buying clothes for me, but she at least seemed to get the knack of buying more age appropriate outfits. One particular set was cute enough the other girls wanted to borrow it.
“Sorry girls, but you’re all just too tall!” I told them with a smile as we paid for it.
“Okay little girl,” Breanna had joked with me. “Nap time!”
I stuck my tongue out at her and we all continued down the hallway to the exit. In the car the four of us joked around and played with the dolls in a way they had done since they were little, and I hadn’t ever done except the previous weekend. “So why are these dolls so popular, anyway?” I asked. I could tell by how excited they had been, and how many jealous looks I’d seen as we’d shopped through the mall.
“They’re dolls, but they’re not baby dolls. Most of the dolls out there this size are made for three year olds to change their diapers and pretend they’re the baby,” Breanna told me. Obviously the expert with a little sister, “and so no one over the age of seven really wants to play with those. American Girl came out with these dolls that look like they’re about twelve and either looks like you, or a doll with a time period and a story behind them. There’s also an annual doll they have each year,” she held up the one she had gotten, “that they make movies and books about.”
“Cool,” was all I had to respond to it.
The restaurant where we were meeting Dad was a casual Chinese restaurant that we liked and frequented often before Rachel came into the picture. I was a little concerned about our normal waitress recognizing me, and what she would say, but I liked the food there. Everything was made from scratch, and their food was better than just about anything we’d had elsewhere for higher prices! “Don’t forget to bring Julie!” Breanna told me as we started clambering out.
The four of us were holding our dolls and waiting for a table when Alyssa spied something on the wall. It was a picture of Dad in his uniform at one of the games a few years ago that he had signed for the owners of the restaurant. Actually, the whole wall was given over to Atlanta memorabilia quickly there, because he’d also been nice enough to bring other things like game balls, signed team pictures, old jerseys, etc. to thank the owners for always being so nice to us. One of the signed pictures was actually of Dad and me at our favorite booth; thankfully I had already started growing my hair long in that picture!
“That is so cool,” Danielle breathed.
I shrugged, “He’s my dad.”
She just shook her head at me, but let it go.
I was a little startled when Dad walked up and I was cradling Julie. He gave me a hug and a curious glance. “Dolls?”
I was about to respond, but Rachel beat me, “We hit the American Girl store, they have such cute dolls, and all of the girls wanted to go.” For some reason I suspected Rachel still didn’t count me in that number by the way she said the word ‘girls…’
‘Maybe I’m just being over sensitive,’ I thought.
“Anyway, Taylor never had one, and I thought I’d just get a doll for each of the girls,” she told him with that sweet smile that had him wrapped around her finger.
“This is Julie,” I said with a smile that I knew was far better than hers. He took her carefully, like I guessed he had taken me as a baby, and looked at her before handing her back to me. It had been a funny picture to see my dad holding her!
“Jake, how are you doing tonight?” The heavily accented voice of our normal waitress asked.
“I’m doing well Ming, yourself?” Dad asked politely.
“Great!” she led us to a large round table and I sat to dad’s right, while Rachel sat to his left. Alyssa sat next to me, and poor Danielle got stuck next to Rachel. “I like your hair Taylor!” She told me with a smile.
“Thanks!” I said, while returning the smile.
“I’m glad to see you got out of that tomboy phase!” She said with her heavily accented English.
I laughed, “I think I have.”
It was a fun dinner that night and Ming brought us all some extras for free as the night wore on. Dad and I had come here a lot when Mom left us. Ming was almost like a favored aunt to me. Dad answered questions throughout dinner from the girls about the game the next day, as they were curious to be with a star. He was as cool about it as he always was, and didn’t let them get the wrong impression about him.
I found I was leaning into his side as he paid the bill, and he asked, “So did you all decide on a movie to see?”
“Oh, we forgot to look,” I said while digging into my purse for my iPhone. The six of us talked for several minutes before deciding on a romantic comedy that we wanted to see. It was about some guy who had writers block and somehow was willing his character to come to life. It sounded almost stupid, but the cast was really great.
“The next showing is in half-an-hour, better get going!” Dad suggested.
I gave Ming a hug on the way out, and then we piled into the vehicles we’d come in, but with different drivers. Dad was driving his SUV again, and Rachel was driving her sports car. The four of us were buckled in and I was grateful that he drove much safer than Rachel. The theater took almost no time to get to, and we left the dolls in the car this time. As we walked up I looked at the ticket prices and waited to see if I’d been charged the kids price again. Sure enough I was, and the sign said kids ‘under 11.’
‘If I wore the dresses in the closet at home I’d probably be called younger than that!’ I thought. The four of us were getting tired, so we remained a loud giggling quartet as the previews began rolling. That quickly faded into the movie and we stayed quiet to avoid being rude. Laughter rolled out of all of us, but I found my mind wandering from the movie.
‘Why is Rachel being so nice to me?’ I wondered. ‘And why in the world would she buy me clothes and toys more appropriate for an eight-year old than a fourteen-year old?’ Something about the whole day was really bothering me, and I couldn’t figure it out. Since about a month of living with us, she had never given me any indication of thinking of me as anything other than a problem to be solved. When my medical issues surfaced she had been an absolute monster to Dad about me. I knew she despised me and thought I was a freak… The time she spent in Cleveland with me hadn’t made me feel like she’d changed her mind.
I was still deep in thought as the last scene of the movie rolled across the screen and we headed to the car. As I sleepily sat in the car holding Julie in my arms, I knew that the others were doing the same next to me. It had been a long day and all of us were pretty worn out. We pulled up to the house and into the garage right at eleven, and I felt like I could either get really hyper, or end up in bed.
“Since tomorrow’s a big day, why don’t you all go ahead and go to bed early tonight, and then you can stay up as late as you want tomorrow?” Rachel suggested.
“Well…” I said, trying to hedge for my friends.
“That sounds good to me,” Alyssa said.
“Maybe a cup of hot chocolate first?” I suggested while looking at Dad. It was a tradition the two of us had long held since Mom left. It didn’t matter that it was still ridiculously hot, muggy, and sticky feeling outside; I knew he would be up for it.
“After you put your pajamas on,” he amended.
“Okay!” I said with a smile. I grabbed the bag Rachel said was my American Girl store bag and walked upstairs. I was just getting ready to go into my bathroom to go pee and change when she knocked on my door.
“What’s the chance I can convince you to wear the new pajamas?” she said with a smile.
I grimaced, “Do I have to?”
“You’d look soooo cute!” she said with a smile.
“Cute like the dresses in here?” I asked slightly terse in my tone.
“They are cute, aren’t they?” She said, “I wish you would have worn one today. Tomorrow?”
I didn’t feel like she got it, something was wrong here, “I figured I’d wear a jersey and shorts like I usually do,” I said with a smile.
“Going with the tomboy look?” She asked a little bit put out.
I shook my head, “No, I’m going to be girly still, but he’s my Dad, and I want to wear his number to support him.” I said with a smile. I felt like things were right back to sparring before I left, but the game felt like it had changed. I didn’t know what was going on.
“Oh, okay, I guess that makes sense.” She said. “The pajamas though? Please?” She begged.
I sighed, “Okay.”
“I’ll even take Julie’s out for you,” she said with a smile as she used my doll’s name. I felt a little bit like it was dirty for her to call her by name. It was definitely just easier to give in though.
“Okay,” I said with unease going into the bathroom and changing into my new pajamas. As I walked downstairs a few minutes later holding an identically dressed doll I felt like crawling under a rock.
The only thing that saved me was that Danielle was also in matching clothes with her doll. “Rachel bought them for me when she figured out that they would fit me.” She said with a smile. She was actually enjoying it.
“You two look so cute!” Alyssa said as she used her phone to take pictures.
“I wish I could still fit into those clothes,” Breanna sadly mused.
“I’ll trade heights with you!” I offered.
“No thanks,” she smiled back at me.
Dad had already boiled the water, and we all enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate together before going to bed. He kept us from boiling up into energetic little girls again somehow, and even followed me up to my room and tucked me in. “Good night Princess,” he said when he kissed my forehead, “Thank you for making an effort to get along with Rachel. I know this room is a bit over the top.”
“A bit?” I asked.
“Well, I guess ‘a bit’ would have been if you were eight years old. It made her happy to do this for you though, so think we should just play along nicely for the weekend. When you come back next time I’ll try and have it decorated a bit more appropriate for your age!”
“Thank you Dad!” I said with a giggle and a smile. He walked to the door and closed it before I realized I was still cuddling Julie, my miniature twin.
Thank you to all who have left comments and faithfully followed this series so far, I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read my tale!
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