One Word and One Year, by Karin Bishop
Chapter 17: At the Pool, One Year and An Hour Later
The sun continued to bake us at the pool. Sweat pooled and rolled down the sides of my tummy and tickled the side of my breasts.
Taylor said, “Oh, I ran into Amy and Brad yesterday. She says ‘hi’.”
“Yeah, Brad Grainger. They’ve been together since before school ended.”
“That isn’t Monica’s Brad?” I asked. Monica and her boyfriend had broken up in the fall and she was dating a track star—a college guy.
Taylor made a face and then it cleared up. “God, no! Oh, I see; Mon’s ex was Brad Greninger. Yeah, sorta sounds the same. Nope. Amy’s Brad is pretty nice actually. She deserves it after that clod she used to go out with.”
The dating woes of my girlfriends were a constant source of news, and to throw further craziness into the gossip mix, Taylor was now a cheerleader—of all things!—and had juicy stuff from the cheerleading squad. On another front, Amber had recently admitted she thought she might be gay. But Taylor and Amy remained good friends with her and didn’t become distant like some other girls had. Gay or straight, Amber was my friend, and we’d all hang out at the mall. But since I didn’t go to their school I wasn’t faced with the social pressure thing, and I was proud of my friends for staying with her. I sure sympathized with Amber; it was difficult knowing you were different from your friends and be afraid to be honest with them or to be honest with yourself.
“We’re gonna be lobsters; gotta get in,” Taylor said, standing and pulling her bikini bottoms down with her fingers.
I did the same, automatically, as we gathered our things and headed into the house. Mom was in the kitchen having some yogurt. “About time you girls came in. I was about to come get you,” she said.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said, and went up to her with my mouth open.
She playfully pulled her yogurt away. “Mine. All mine. Mine, mine, mine.”
“I’m not disputing it’s yours,” I grinned, and opened my mouth again.
She spooned some into my mouth. “You’re lucky I don’t give it to you like a mama bird.”
“Yuck! Thanks, Mom,” I said, savoring the blueberries and then leading Taylor up to my room.
My room was cool and refreshing, and cool, too. Mom had assisted very little—on purpose—when I completely painted my room, and everything just looked great. A year of a girl living in it had transformed it from a dull white cell to a comfy, feminine nest, with boas and scarves on my hat rack, makeup splayed all over the vanity, teen girl magazines on the nightstand, and the soft colors were still so pretty and soothing to me. It was worth all the work of painting it myself; Mom was right. As usual.
“Wanna do first shower, or me?” Taylor asked.
“You go ahead. I’ve got to check something I just thought of,” I said, sitting down at the newest addition, a desk with a pretty serious computer on it.
Taylor stripped off her bikini and stood naked, something I’d seen a thousand times already and ignored. She stretched and said, “God, you’re lucky to have such a killer computer. My stupid machine takes forever to do anything. See ya.” She went into my bathroom.
I was lucky to have such a killer computer, but then, it was my work, now. It was kind of funny how it all happened.
My routine had become to get ready for bed every night and come out in my nightie, my hair back and my face all clean and moisturized, to kiss Daddy goodnight. We hadn’t had that before, since I hadn’t had a little girlhood, and it had been so incredible that first night—a year ago—that I’d done it ever since. It made me miss him all the more when he was away at conferences.
In mid-October, I came into his den for our good-night kiss and he was at his desk, not at his chair. That particular night I wanted to show him something; I’d just gotten my first pair of dangling earrings. I was going to take them out before sleeping, of course, but he’d been out late and this was my first chance to show him. There was something else, too … It was about the time that my breasts first were becoming noticeable, and when I’d pulled the nightie on that night, the cold had made my nipples react and for the first time I could see my tiny breasts under my nightie and I was so excited and happy and scared. What would happen when Daddy’s Little Girl developed breasts? It was one thing to see me in my street clothes or school uniform with my breast forms in place; in fact, it would’ve looked strange if I’d had a flat chest. But now it was undeniable that I was becoming a woman, and would he hug me as closely? Would we have that odd distance that other girls said they had with their fathers, once they began developing?
I approached him cautiously; I could tell from his body language that he was frustrated. Suddenly he reared back from the desk and half-threw his pen at the papers on his desk and went ‘Argh!’. The pen bounced and flew backwards to my feet. I picked it up and stood holding it as he turned.
“Oh! Sorry, princess,” he said, which had become his pet name for me.
“Is there anything … anything I can do?” I asked timidly.
He stretched and then stood and stretched again. “Ah … no, but thanks,” he said, coming and taking the pen from me and giving me a hug. It was rare that I got a standing hug, and I wrapped my arms all the way around him and squeezed, rocking back and forth.
He kissed the top of my head. “How was school today?”
We both drifted to his big red leather chair and he sat and I sat on his lap. I wasn’t ashamed of it, and I was aware that I wouldn’t be able to do it much longer—it’d just be creepy—but I was making up for lost time.
“It was okay. History was fun, though; we did some ‘What If’ scenarios.”
“Oh, yeah? Like what?”
“Well,” I began, tucking some loose hair behind one ear, “Mr. Reynolds asked, ‘What if Archduke Ferdinand hadn’t been killed at Sarajevo in 1914?’ and some others like that.”
“Well, that’s easy. The war … well, why don’t you tell me what you said?”
“I kind of blew it. I said that a fundamental problem with any ‘What If’ scenario with a past event, where we already know the outcome, is that we also know other events that happened after the one we’re playing with. And some of them occurred because of the event, but others may have had no connection to the event. Really, using ‘But For’ works better than ‘What If’.” I shrugged.
I knew that Daddy liked and used the phrase ‘But For’. It was also known as ‘proximate cause’—I was learning so much from him!—as in ‘but for (the action), (the result) would not have occurred’. It was similar to ‘What If’, but I really thought that ‘What If’ worked better for future events and ‘But For’ for past events. Like how the assassination of one man led to the death of over ten million people.
“I’m curious; what did you tell your teacher about the Archduke’s assassination?”
I had been playing with the hem of my nightie. I dropped it and took a breath. “Well, with Sarajevo, for instance, the Great Powers reacted to the assassination and it led to war. They wouldn’t have necessarily been dragged into war by their interlocking treaties but for the assassination as a flashpoint. And if they hadn’t killed Ferdinand, there’s a chance he would have given them their independence peacefully. He had a reputation as a modernist reformer.”
Daddy was big on that word, ‘flashpoint’, too, because it figured in his security work. Part of his job was analyzing possible flashpoints—using many, many ‘What If’ scenarios on each—to predict trouble areas.
He’d nodded at my answer but asked, “How do you know so much about the Balkans in 1914?”
“I kind of got interested in it after seeing Titanic. Just that era, and how they thought they had the modern world taken care of, all safe and secure, and in a few short years it all came crashing down. Anyway, the Balkans wanted independence but nobody else was looking for a war.”
“Well, it could be argued that there was so much saber-rattling going on that it was bound to happen.”
“But think about this, then. What if the assassination hadn’t happened, and Ferdinand gave independence to the nationalists, and delayed any hostilities for about four or five years?”
“So, four or five years later you’ve got the influenza epidemic, which might have seriously altered the balance of power.”
“But the epidemic—the pandemic—spread largely through troop movement.”
“That helped it, sure, but it also wiped out Eskimo villages above the Arctic Circle and killed hundreds of thousands in countries where there were no hostilities, no foreign soldiers.”
He gave me that strange look again. “At the risk of sounding condescending—or outright sexist—how does a pretty thirteen-year-old girl know so much about the influenza pandemic of 1918, and how it would factor into ‘What If’ scenarios?”
I played the Little Girl card. “Because my Daddy reared me on ‘What Ifs’ and I love history.” I grinned.
He grinned right back.
I got serious. “I told Mr. Reynolds that ‘What If’ scenarios should really only apply on future possibilities. I appreciated that doing them in History made us think and showed him how much we’d studied.” I realized I was lecturing. “I’m sorry I interrupted you, Daddy. It looked like you were having a rough time with your work.” I got off his lap and stood there, holding my fingers in front of me, as he got off the chair.
Standing staring at the papers on his desk, he said slowly, “Maybe you can help me. But it’s a pretty grim ‘What If’.”
“I’ve seen some grim movies and read some grim stuff. All part of being a teenager today.”
“Hmm,” he mused, sifting through papers. “Okay. We’ve got an armed bank robbery. Perp pulls a gun on teller and says he’ll kill her if she sounds the alarm. The grim part is that in several robberies, he did just that; killed the teller and ran.”
“I thought they had toe alarms, you know, on the floor?”
He nodded. “And knee alarms and under the cash drawer and so on. But this guy’s smart; he asks for an operation, like coin counting, that takes her away from her station, away from her alarms.”
“So you’re working on a sort of ‘distant warning system’?”
He nodded. “Somehow to trigger an alarm from anywhere in the bank.”
“Shouldn’t be carried.”
“What?” he spun around.
“Shouldn’t be carried. Like if all tellers had remotes, like car remotes, on their key chains. They might leave the keys in their purse, or back at their station when they were robbed. And the perps would know what to look for. So it can’t be something a teller can pick up and put down, or forget where they put it. Instead, it should be something on them but not so obvious; maybe something built into the name tag …”
He grinned. “That’s brilliant, Allie! I hadn’t thought of that. I was going round and round about a hand-held gadget. Got myself in a cul-de-sac. Of course the name tag!”
“Like on Star Trek; they tap their emblem to connect them with Communications.”
“Star Trek, huh?” He chuckled. “I wonder if they’d demand royalties! Well, thanks, honey, you gave me something to work with … which was a darned sight more than I had when you came in. Good night, sweetie!”
“G’night, Daddy,” I said. I turned to leave and stopped in the doorway. “Riff-ud.”
“Those RFID chips, they use them for tracking everywhere. I’m thinking that maybe …” I walked back into the room and sat in his chair; he’d already sat behind his desk and looked at me. My knees were together, of course, the toes of one foot over the other, and my arms wrapped around me. “I’m thinking that every teller has a routine, you know?”
“Well, of course, duties they perform for the bank and for the customer …” He looked interested. “Go on.”
“I’m not thinking of a list of duties, I’m thinking vertically. Three-D. Overhead, looking down. Like a diagram of the floor of the bank, right? And each teller, let’s just use three, red, blue, green … okay. So, sort of like bees—don’t let the tellers hear you call them that!—you could see their movements. Red moves from the red window to the vault, to the fax machine, to the manager’s desk for approval, for instance. Blue never goes to the vault, yes to the fax, yes to the manager. Green is the manager, doesn’t go to the teller windows …” I shrugged. “I’m just making this up.”
“I know. Go on,” Dad said, making notes.
“Anyway, by knowing the normal routines, the spots visited over the course of a teller’s day, you could monitor where they were all the time. Privacy advocates will hate it, but we’re talking about on-the-job safety. You could write a software program that would recognize any deviation to the vault from the accepted routine, and trigger the alarm.” I grinned. “Or maybe … Part of the tellers’ training? Each of them is taught a special route that is the triggering route. They only have to remember to get to the vault or the cash drawer that way for the alarm to sound.”
My father stared at me.
“Of course, it doesn’t account for a ‘smash-and-grab’ directly reaching over into the teller’s cash drawer, only from the big vault-type of robberies.”
He continued to stare at me. He looked back at his papers, then back to me. “How would you like to work for me?”
“For you? Around the house?” I wasn’t sure what he meant. “Sure. I help Mom.”
He smiled. “I know you do, sweetheart. No, I meant, how would you like to work for me as part of Chambers & Associates?” That was his new company name. “I’m serious. You just did professional-level brainstorming on a problem that’s been bugging me for quite awhile. It wouldn’t be a father paying his daughter, either. You’d be paid as an associate and at full rate.”
“Yes. It wouldn’t be an everyday kind of thing, just as these projects come up. But you think clearly, concisely, and outside the usual box, or envelope, or whatever they call it in boardrooms these days,” he chuckled. “Seriously, it’s because you’re not from a boardroom, or the industry, and trained to seeing things in predictable ways. Tell you what. I’ve got another project coming up next week, a new client. If I can use you in developing a security strategy, would you be interested?”
“Heck, yeah!” I grinned. “It’s a great idea, if you think I can really help.”
I didn’t tell him the thought that occurred just then: I might be outside more than just a box or envelope. I had been raised as a male but was never of the male world, and I was a female that—up until recently—had not been able to be of the female world. In some ways I was the ultimate outsider, neither fish nor fowl, certainly not goose or gander—and that was just enough of those thoughts! I was a girl now, and determined to live my life that way, but I shouldn’t dismiss the odd life I’d lived—not if I could help Daddy.
Daddy was nodding as the idea took root. “Based on tonight—I could be premature, but I’m pretty confident—based on tonight, you’ve got what it takes. And that’s more important than what business school you went to, or what military unit you served in,” he grinned. “Or how old you are! Okay, deal.”
“Almost,” I said. “Almost a deal.”
“Here it comes. What do you want? Company car?” he teased.
“No, Daddy, but soon! Anyway, you say that I’ll be paid by the client; this isn’t just an allowance from you masquerading as payment?”
“Nope. The client pays my company, my company forwards the amount to you as an associate. It’ll mean taxes and things.”
“Taxes? Is it going to be that much?”
“It can be.”
“Well, that’s part of my deal. Every penny I earn from … consulting with Chambers & Associates? I want it to go right back into paying my expenses.”
“Your expenses? You mean like hotel, airfare … what expenses?” He was teasing but shrugged.
“No, silly. The expenses of me becoming Allison. Medical bills, Mom’s shopping sprees … my shopping sprees, my new furniture.”
“Honey, that’s … you don’t have to do that. It’s all part of our raising you.”
“Still, it’s what I want. And maybe start a car fund, college fund, whatever, if I ever get caught up. But I know how hard you and Mom work to pay for us, and especially me, and I’m glad if I can help. And when I’m old enough, I want to get a job, a regular teen job like at the mall or something.”
“Sweetheart, you’ll be making way more working for me.”
“I know, and that’s great, but I’d like the normal teen experience of … a job at the mall. But I’m not old enough yet.”
“No, you’re not. But you are old enough to work at high-level security!” he chuckled. Then he looked at me fondly. “I love you so much, sweetie. I never knew … well, I never knew how much I could love you.”
“I love you, too, Daddy,” I said, coming and kissing the top of his head for a change. “And goodnight.”
And only when I was back in my bedroom did I realize that nothing had been mentioned about my pretty earrings—or my pretty breasts!
Taylor came out of the shower. “Your turn,” she said, muffled, under the towel drying her hair. “Whatcha lookin’ at?”
Standing up from my computer desk and pulling my bikini bottoms snug again, I said, “Oh, just an idea I had for an old problem of my father’s. Voice-recognition software; I had the idea that you could code a key phrase … or key a code phrase,” I grinned. “Anyway, you know I told you about the RFID chips in bank teller’s name tags?”
“Uh-huh,” she said, distracted by a tangle in her hair. Her breasts hung loose and shook as she tried to undo the snarl.
“Taylor, the RFID tags, like in everything you buy at the mall now.”
“Oh, yeah, those things. Tracker things.”
“Right. I thought that we could encode a phrase, like ’bad Disney movie’ or something that could be worked in a line, like ‘stick ‘em up!’ and the teller says, ‘I can’t believe this—it’s like a bad Disney movie’ and that phrase triggers the alarm. Silent or otherwise.”
“Gee, and all this time I thought you were messing around with Facebook,” she teased. She was adjusting her boobs in her bra, leaning forward, and was looking at my vanity mirror. “I always liked that photo,” she nodded to one in the top left of the mirror.
“Yeah, that was a great time,” I smiled, remembering.
Last August, just before school, we took the first family vacation in years, and my first as a girl. It was a much-needed bonding time for all of us, out of our daily ruts, and everybody had to get used to ‘the new girl in town’—including the new girl herself. I’d just recovered from my castration and felt free and female and wonderful and it was a wonderfully close time for all of us.
The picture Taylor liked showed Jake and me leaning against the railing at the Grand Canyon. He was wearing a University of Chicago sweatshirt with the sleeves ripped off—a sweatshirt, in August!—and jeans. I wore a tight teal camisole and those khaki shorts from Taylor’s pillowcase offerings. I wondered if she recognized them? My hair was up in a kicky ponytail, and I remembered it moving in the breeze. Jake’s arm was around me, casually draped, but not the typical thing where the parents say, ‘put your arm around your sister, pretend you like each other’. By this point, on the way back from Los Angeles, we had bonded. He was my beloved big brother and I was his little sister and it was like we’d always been brother and sister.
“I don’t care about the great time,” Taylor teased. “I like it because your brother looks hot!”
“I assume you mean because of the sweatshirt?” I teased back in an innocent voice.
I loved that picture because of the closeness with my brother, but my own personal favorite picture was one in Disneyland. We’d been at one of those outdoor cafés where the Disney characters come around for photo ops. So I was sitting at a table and suddenly surrounded by Disney heroines; by Belle, Jasmine, Cinderella, and Snow White. After we saw the picture, Daddy pointed out that they were all princesses, either starting out as one or because they married a prince. From that point on, his nickname for me became ‘princess’.
It was time for my shower, and I thought nothing of stripping in front of Taylor—no more than she thought about it in front of me. I massaged my boobs—that ritual that all girls do after removing a bra or bikini top—and went to shower. Later, dried and powdered, I started getting ready.
Taylor’s boyfriend Steve’s father was getting some community award at the country club. It was a dinner-dance type thing and I knew that several of my Briarwood classmates belonged to that club. Steve invited Taylor, who, bless her heart, said ‘not without Allie’. So I was going, too. But there was another reason I was invited—
“You’re sure you can dance in those? They’re kinda high,” Taylor snapped me out of my thoughts as she nodded to my heels in the closet.
“Think so. I learned in them.”
I still had some nerves about this dance, but nothing like the nerves I had when Taylor first told me. I had asked permission from my parents and then wailed, “But I don’t know how to dance!”
Mom had said, “Nonsense, Allie, you can dance; I’ve seen you and Taylor go at it. And you’re pretty good.”
“Thanks, Mom, but that’s not what I mean. Not that kind of dancing. I mean, really, really dance, you know, like the formal way?” I held up my arms and did a little waltz step—about all I could do.
Mom just said, “Ask your father.”
I thought she didn’t want to be involved for some reason. I was sure she’d teach me to dance. So when Daddy came home, I went through the motions of asking him, not expecting much in the way of a response … and to my surprise, he said he would, and to come back to the den in five minutes.
Mom reminded me to get the heels I was going to dance in, and some flats. “Start with the flats, learn the steps, and then learn them in your heels,” she advised.
Reluctantly I came back to the den and was surprised that my father had moved all of the furniture flush to the wall, leaving a bare wood floor. He looked ready to go.
“Really?” I asked. “You want to try to teach me to dance?”
Mom said, “Honey, your father is a terrific dancer.”
He chuckled and said, “In my day all officers had to dance, and dance well, to not embarrass the service. Now, the Box Step. Here’s the music.” He triggered his iPod speaker and gentle Big Band filled the den. He described the dance and I thought I had it, but then he paused the music.
“Tell you what, honey, take your shoes off, that’s a girl. Now, come close. Here’s how we hold each other,” he demonstrated, “but right now I want you to put your feet on mine.”
“Um … what?” I asked.
“Put the middle of your foot, your arch, over my instep, that’s it,” he said when I did it right. “Now …”
And he started the music and we did the Box Step, but then he grinned, “Hold on!” and away we went, dancing around with some snappy moves. I realized that I’d seen this before; it’s what daddies did with their daughters when they were little, like five or six. I got choked up and looked at Mom, who stood with both hands in a prayer position against her lips, her eyes sparkling with tears. It was the most precious moment I’d ever experienced, dancing with my Daddy.
Even he got a little choked up when he paused the music and said, “I always wanted to do that with my little girl.” He sighed deeply and said, “Okay, grown-up time. Put your shoes on and we’ll have a go.”
We danced and I learned the Box Step, Foxtrot, and Waltz that night and it was such a special night, but nothing could compare to the bliss of riding my father’s feet around the den.
I snapped out of my memory when Mom’s voice called. “Girls? Ready for your hair?”
“I’ll go; you finish up. God, you look killer,” Taylor grinned and went downstairs.
And why shouldn’t I look killer? When she said that, I was standing in just my lingerie, but special lingerie. A delicate black lace strapless Wonderbra made me have actual cleavage, and I was wearing an actual garter belt and panties that matched, with a pair of the lightest, most feminine stockings I’d ever seen, in gorgeous white lace. So I was standing there like a pin-up when she left; I chuckled and sat down to do my makeup.
I’d gotten pretty good, thanks to tips from Anna, the first makeup lady I’d met—and we bought from her several times!—and lots of magazine articles and lots of makeovers with my girlfriends. Quickly but surely I applied it all, dusted, spritzed myself with ‘nanette’, my cologne-of-the-moment, and then added jewelry; I was wearing silver tonight and thinking fondly of Ashley. I always felt like I was putting on a suit of armor when I put on my assorted rings, bracelets, necklace, and dangling earrings. Then I slid my feet into my heels. I loved the feel of nylon-clad feet sliding into heels, and I knew it was much more common to go without hose and just have a shine or shimmer on smooth bare legs, but there was that special feeling with stockings.
Finally, my dress. God, how Taylor and I had scoured the malls for it, and then found heels that Mom had dyed to match! The dress was purple with cap sleeves and a ruched bodice with sequins, but it was the shade of purple, almost bordering on lilac, that perfectly complemented my hair and coloring. And was kind of shimmery, too! And tight, and short—a point of contention with Mom. She felt the dress was too mature for me, meaning that it made me look available, Taylor said with sexual innuendo and wiggling eyebrows.
We worked out a compromise. That same purple dress that showed a lot of bare leg wasn’t quite as sexy when combined with white lace stockings. Mom showed me that the addition of white lace stockings could be ‘pure and demure’ with one dress, while with another, the same stockings could be downright sexy.
“All in the eyes of the beholder,” Mom had said. Then she grinned and leaned close to say, “And in his dirty little mind!”
I giggled with her; it was another of those wonderful mother-and-daughter moments and I was so proud to be one half of the females in my family!
I slid the dress onto me, using the special hook-and-chain Mom had given me to zip up, and smoothed the dress over my curves. And I was so happy to have curves! Then came the awkward part that we really don’t like guys to see—pushing and fluffing my boobs into place. But once they were in place—watch out! I felt ready for a fancy dinner-dance or a gallery opening or whatever—not that I’d been to any, but that was changing tonight. I sighed with happiness at the sexy babe in the mirror and went downstairs.
Mom had worked as a beautician way back in the day, and was pretty darned good putting up our hair. She was just finishing with Taylor’s updo which made her look older and actually sophisticated. Mine was simpler; I was going to have some sort of braided wings. She’d explained it but I hadn’t learned enough of female hair talk to quite get what she meant.
I found out when I got in the chair; by the time she was done my hair reminded me of … well, of a princess. There was something sort of Celtic about what she’d done, and used a silver clasp to match my silver jewelry, showed me in the mirror, and we hugged.
“Oh, honey; you’re so beautiful, and you, too, Taylor. Your guys are going to be speechless!”
That was the other reason I’d been invited—my guy. Steve and I were pretty friendly at Briarwood; I’d even done a science project with him, so I knew him pretty well and knew he’d be great for Taylor. It took some doing to get them together without being too obvious about it, but they’d just hit it off immediately. About a month later, the three of us were at the movies—I’d gotten used to being the Odd Man Out (funny phrase, in my case!)—and Steve waved to a buddy of his, who came over and they chatted. Or whatever guys did … I’d never done it since I’d never fit in with ‘the guys’, and they truly were the opposite sex to me.
And I have to admit that sex was on my mind, watching the two guys talk. This guy was cute! Dark curly and wavy hair, blue eyes, a great build, and most of all, he moved with an easy confidence. Taylor nudged me and grinned wickedly. “I think Allison has her eye on something,” she whispered.
“And the rest of him, too!” I whispered back, in her own teasing-sexy style.
“Let me see what I can do, okay?” she asked. “Don’t get pissed if I play matchmaker, because he’s definitely interested in you!”
And that’s how I met my first boyfriend. And, in a bit of supreme cosmic irony, he was named … Mark. Taylor and I both slapped our foreheads when we found out. On our first date—a double, of course, required by my parents—I asked him how he’d got his name. His last name was Summerfield, and he said his parents figured with four syllables in the last name, they wanted a good, strong first name with a single syllable. He had a brother named Paul, so he was named Mark.
And he was wonderful! We hit it off, not just because we were interested in each other, but because we were interested in each other. His body turned me on, there was no doubt of that. That long-ago ‘warm and squishy’ feeling was amped way up with Mark. And I think I turned him on, too. But we liked each other, too. We talked about all sorts of things, on and on, and there were times when people thought we were off somewhere making out but we were actually talking.
But the making out … Oh, God! His first kiss was as close to heaven as I could imagine. We’d been at Barnes & Noble, and left, talking about a book we’d both read and loved, and he turned to me and I turned to him and we just … flowed together. I melted into his arms and got a hug almost as nice as Daddy’s—but in a different way … way different!—and then I tilted my head up and his came down and we kissed and I seriously almost passed out. I got dizzy. That was the first kiss, but there had been so many more. And not just him kissing me; there were times I’d pulled him to me and kissed him just for the sheer joy of it.
Mark went to a public high school and was a sports star there, football and track. He and Steve had grown up together and were still buddies even though they went to different schools. Mark also knew Steve’s dad, so for this special event where he was getting this award, Steve’s dad had invited Mark and his girlfriend Allison—and how I loved that phrase! Making things neatly tied up was the fact that Mark’s girlfriend was also Steve’s girlfriend’s best friend. Complicated, but it meant the four of us were going, and in a limo, too. One of Steve’s dad’s businesses was a limo service, so we got one on the house. So that’s why we were dressed so nicely. I loved this dress and was looking forward to Mark seeing my legs, putting his hand on my stockings, maybe putting his hand on my breast for the first time …
Mom brought me back to earth. “I said, Taylor’s right. We should plan something for the anniversary.”
Mom chuckled. “It’s hard to get through to you when you get that look on your face—that Mark look!”
“Girl’s a goner,” Taylor commented with a shrug and then a wink.
Mom went on. “I was talking about Taylor’s suggestion that we do something special for the one-year anniversary of our family conference. We can’t do it tonight, of course, because you’ve got your,” she switched to a posh accent, “dinnah and dawnce at the cahntry club,” then chuckled and spoke normally. “And because your father and brother aren’t here. But maybe next Wednesday or Thursday, when they get back?”
“Sure, Mom. I hadn’t thought of a celebration, but … why not?” I smiled. “I’ve got so much to celebrate and be thankful for.”
She gave me one of those knowing-mother looks. “Yes, you do. But we all do. Ever since we all met Allison.”
And to think that it was all because of one word!
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