Separation

 

Chapter One: The Parting

Megan and Kelly were silent as they walked home from their Goodbye Party on Friday evening. The thirteen-year-old twins lived with their mother in a small town in Maryland; their father had died a year before in a car accident. Their mother, Morgan Bradley, was to go to Europe on business over the summer and was sending the twins, who had never spent a night apart from each other, to spend the entire summer with separate relatives. Kelly was to stay with her Uncle Marcus, in Eastern Tennessee, and Megan was to spend the summer in California with her Aunt Lizzy, her husband and baby.

Kelly broke the silence by saying, "Why couldn't Mom send us both to stay in the same place? I think it's cruel when we've been together all our life."

"I guess it's because Aunt Lizzy has a such a small apartment, and couldn't possibly fit both of us in there. And she didn't want to send us both to Uncle Marcus when he's already got two kids of his own," Megan replied. Kelly sighed.

"I'll miss you, Megan." Megan slipped her arm around Kelly, and the sisters walked home in silence.


The next morning...

"Kelly, hurry up!" Morgan Bradley called, as she climbed into her car. "We're going to miss our planes!"

Kelly opened the door, and walked out, carrying two duffel bags, a small backpack, a purse, and a Discman. She had her music on so loud that Megan could hear "I Want It That Way" coming from the headphones when she was standing five feet away.

"Turn that down!" Megan ordered. "It's a wonder you aren't deaf by now! Maybe you are, if you can stand to listen to 'The Backstreet Boys'."

Kelly tossed her head and retorted, "Get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?" But she turned her music down.

"Girls, don't fight." Morgan said. "Remember, this is your last day together for a while. Now, do both of you have your things? Let me make sure I've got the tickets, and we'll go. My plane leaves at 11:50."

Morgan dug around in her purse for several minutes, and finally came up with three envelopes containing the plane tickets. She started to hand two of them to the twins, but returned them to her purse. "I'll keep these for you. Just don't let me forget to give them to you."

"Okay, Mom," Megan said, and climbed into the back seat of the car where Kelly was already sitting, still contentedly listening to the Backstreet Boys.

"Mind if I sit next to you?" Megan asked, glancing at Kelly.

"Huh?" Kelly said, pulling one earphone away from her ear.

"I said, do you mind if I sit next to you?" Megan answered in a slightly irritated voice.

"No, go ahead," Kelly said, and resumed listening to her music.

Megan was really exasperated. "Will you please turn the stupid music off?" She shouted so loudly that Kelly could hear her over 'The Backstreet Boys'. "This is our last day together! We won't see each other all summer!" Kelly reluctantly turned her music off, and stuffed the Discman into her stuffed backpack.

"What do you have in there?" Megan asked.

"A couple of CD's, a magazine, some books, and makeup that wouldn't fit in my duffel bags."

"Good grief, you must have brought everything you own!"

"Not quite, but almost." Kelly smiled. "But I have this weird feeling that I'm forgetting something important."

"I doubt it," Megan replied. "If you've brought this much stuff, I'm sure you have everything you could possibly need, plus lots you don't."

"You are so lucky to be going to California," Kelly said to change the subject.

"Why? I'll have no one to talk to, no one to have fun with. I'll be so lonely!"

"You know Aunt Lizzy said she'd take you to the beach for a few days," Kelly said.

"Yes, but you're going to Kentucky Lake for an entire week," Megan replied.

"Yeah, I know. I guess that's as fun as the beach. Especially since we're going jet skiing."

"You'll have to take lots of pictures for me. I've always wanted to see the lake."

Kelly slapped her forehead. "Oh my gosh! That's what I forgot! My camera! I am so stupid!"

Morgan glanced back at her daughter. "Relax, Kelly. I'll give you some money to get one. I've been meaning to get a new one, anyway."

Kelly sighed. "Thanks, Mom."

"Mom, your exit!" Megan squealed and Morgan pulled off the highway just in time.

"Thanks, Megan." Morgan glanced at the clock. "Gosh, I am running late. I have got to hurry. Girls, do you think you could take the bags in, and get in line to check them? I've got to park, and that'll take thirty minutes."

"Sure, Mom," Megan answered. "We'll have to get a cart, though. We've got nine bags including our backpacks."

"Okay," Morgan fished some change out of her purse with one hand and handed it to Megan. "That should be enough. I'll let you off here. You know what to do. See you in about half an hour."

The girls unloaded the bags from the trunk and put them in a pile on the pavement, and Morgan drove off.

"Okay, you stay here with the bags, and I'll run and get a cart," Megan said.

"'K," Kelly answered, and Megan ran off into the crowd. A couple of minutes later she was back, without a cart.

"I'm short a quarter," she explained. "Got one?" Kelly dug into her pockets and finally came up with a quarter. "Thanks. Be right back," Megan said, and ran off again. A few minutes later Megan was back, wheeling an empty cart.

"Quick, let's get these bags loaded and find the Check-In counter."

Kelly nodded. "Make sure you get Mom's bags on top."

Soon the girls were at the end of the long line.

"I could take my bags over to the other counter. If the line's as long as this one we might never get through it." Megan suggested.

"No," Kelly said firmly. "We need to stay together. We may never find each other again in this crowd." Megan was about to protest when Morgan trotted up.

"Hey girls. Do me a favor and run over to that monitor and see if my flight's on time."

"Sure, Mom," Kelly said, and the girls walked off. Morgan's flight was on time, and Megan mouthed the words "on time" to her mother. Morgan nodded.

"I'm going over to the restroom for a sec to fix my hair," Kelly said. "Coming?"

"Okay," Megan answered.

Both girls wore their chestnut brown hair in ponytails, but Kelly took hers down and brushed it. Her dark hair framed her pale, freckled face. Because they were identical twins, Megan looked exactly the same. Both girls had deep blue eyes. Kelly was wearing jean shorts and a white tank top. Megan wore identical shorts and a dark blue T-shirt.

Megan pulled her own ponytail out and brushed it. Her hair was an inch or so below her shoulders and she decided to braid it quickly. She did a French braid and then waited as Kelly did and re-did her hair (which was an inch and a half above shoulder length).

"Hurry up, Kelly," Megan groaned, "Mom's probably checking our bags by now."

Kelly tucked her hairbrush back in her purse and nearly collided with her mother as she half ran out the door. The girl's backpacks were all that was left on the cart.

"Already check our bags?" Megan asked.

"Yes, Morgan answered. "The line there was short. But I've got to hurry. They'll start boarding my plane in fifteen minutes."

"What is your gate number?" Kelly asked.

"C-8," Morgan replied. "Which is this way."

Megan and Kelly grabbed their backpacks off the cart, and Megan ran to return the cart to a rack. When she got back, she handed the quarter she had received to Kelly.

"Thanks," Kelly said, as they walked through security. They hurried to C-8, where they were about to start boarding Morgan's flight. Morgan got her boarding pass and hugged each of the girls.

"Bye Megs. Bye Kelly. Here are your tickets and some money for lunch or anything else you might need. I hate to leave you, but you're both mature and responsible and can handle this. Oh, and here's a goodbye present for each of you." Morgan handed her daughters two calling cards.

"You can't use this for international calls, but at least you can call each other without giving your aunt and uncle a long phone bill. I'll call you when I get to England."

"Boarding group four, now boarding," an attendant called, and Morgan glanced at her boarding pass.

"That's me," she said. "Love you both." Morgan gave each of the girls a last hug, with tears in her eyes. After she had begun walking down the ramp to the plane, she turned and called, "Don't miss your planes!" Megan smiled and blew a kiss, but Kelly was crying.

"Come on, Kel," Megan said, and led her over to the window. "Let's watch the plane take off, and then we'll get lunch."

A few minutes later the plane was in the air. Kelly was still crying silently, and Megan tried to think of a way to cheer her up.

"Hey Kel, there's a photo booth over there. Want to take our picture?" Kelly nodded and dried her tears.

She and Megan got four pictures for three dollars. They each got two, and tucked them into her purse. Kelly made Megan take the one where Megan had put rabbit ears on her. Megan had whisked her hand up just as Kelly had pressed the button. Aside from the bunny ears picture, the rest had turned out good.

Megan suddenly looked at her watch. "My plane is leaving in ten minutes! I've got to run!" she grabbed her backpack and purse.

"I'll go with you!" Kelly cried.

"No, your plane will be leaving soon too, and your gate is on a different floor. I love you Kelly, Good bye!" Megan said as she quickly hugged her sister and ran towards her gate.

Kelly's eyes filled up with tears again and she waved as her sister boarded before heading for her own gate.


Megan buckled into her seat, which was by a window and looked out as the plane started moving. She took off her shoes and stuck them under the seat as she pulled out her backpack and opened it to find a magazine. She took out a copy of 'Girl's Life' and tried to read for a little while.

The plane began to run quickly and soon made a steady take off. Megan put down her magazine and looked out the window, resting her head against the pane. She wanted to cry very badly but found that she couldn't. She knew she would cry later on that night, but she couldn't now. All that she could feel now was the dull ache of loneliness. She desperately wished that Kelly was there!

After five and a half hours, the plane finally landed. Megan got off the plane and waited for her Aunt and Uncle to get her. She heard her name called softly behind her and she turned to face a man in his early thirties.

"Uncle Mat?" she asked, uncertain of herself.

"That's right. And you're Megan?"

"That's me! Where is Aunt Lizzy?" Megan asked, searching with her eyes around the area.

"She's at home with Johnny. Where do you go to get your bags?" Megan told him to follow her, and they got her two suitcases. She carried her backpack and purse and her uncle took care of the suitcases until they reached the car.

"I hardly recognized you! You've changed a lot since I saw you last."

"How is Aunt Lizzy? When were we here last? Four years ago?" her uncle nodded.

"She's doing the same as always. She's been talking non-stop of you for the past week." Megan made no comment and thought of her aunt's constant talking.

"How are you handling the baby?" Mat sighed loudly.

"Oh all right, I guess," he said, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand.

"Keep both hands on the wheel." Megan ordered sternly, suddenly seeming to be afraid. He threw a glance at her and obeyed.

Everyone knew about Mark Taylor's car accident. He had been driving his daughters Megan and Kelly home from a piano lesson. It was just after a snowstorm and the roads were extremely icy. No one knows exactly what caused him to crash into the car in front of him, but everyone knew that he had had no seat belts on, thus crashing through the windshield and breaking his neck. The family had only recently returned to a somewhat normal life.

"Sure, Megan. Don't worry." He said, and she relaxed.

"What did you mean by: Oh all right, I guess?" Megan asked.

"Things are a lot different," he said and wouldn't talk about it further.

It took three hours from San Francisco for them to reach the small town they lived in. He drove up an old road to a tiny cabin and parked the car. He hopped out but Megan remained seated.

"This is it?"

"What?" he asked.

"The apartment," she replied.

"We moved out of the apartment a few weeks ago! This is our home now!" Uncle Mat said and unloaded her bags. She unbuckled and opened the car door to gaze at the tiny house with the giant trees surrounding it.

"This is like a cabin people use in old camps. It's tiny and ancient!" she cried.

"Yup, it is pretty old. I think some of the first settlers used it. Of course, it's more modern now. It has a bathroom and stove and fridge. And wooden floors of course." He headed towards the house.

Megan stood for a few minutes more, thinking that she had come to live in the middle of nowhere when a voice could be heard calling her name. Her Aunt Lizzy came out, waving her hand wildly until she hugged her.

"How are you doing, Megs?" she asked.

"I'm fine, Aunt Lizzy." Lizzy began to talk about how much she missed her. They then walked into the house.

The house had one sort of large room and one little room. The furniture fit the house perfectly; old and ragged. Megan stared around herself, disappointed.

"You'll have the bedroom all to yourself. We'll be sleeping in the big room on the couch. But you'll have to be a little ‘un-private' for a little while because your room leads to the bathroom door. So ... don't leave underwear out or anything. We'll knock of course, before coming in." Lizzy explained, opening the door to her room.

"Thank you, Aunt Lizzy," Megan said as Mat brought in her bags and sat them down. They left the room and Megan shut the door.

The room had a bed covered with an old quilt. From the one window light shone dimly into the room and Megan looked at the bookshelf and small table beside the bed with a lamp on it. An old chest stood in one corner, and that was all the furniture in the room.

Megan sank down on the bed, still gripping her purse and backpack. She felt like crying but instead, wiped her eyes and went out of the room.

"I need a broom and mop, Aunt Lizzy," she said.

'I'm going to clean up my room at least!' she thought, as she took the cleaning things into her room and looked at the dust covering everything and the dirt on the bare floor. As she was mopping, she thought about Kelly and wondered if her situation was as unhappy as Megan felt hers was.


Kelly boarded her plane about half an hour after Megan's flight left. She had cried for most of the two-hour flight, but cheered up during the last half-hour. She was going to get to see her relatives, who she hadn't seen since her father's funeral. Kelly's Uncle Marshall, and Aunt Susie, and their kids, Kelly's cousins Leah, who was thirteen, a little older than Kelly, and Marshall Jr., who was eleven. Leah and Kelly did not always get along well. They didn't fight, but they weren't the best of friends. They were just different.

Kelly was relieved when the plane landed. She hated flying! When she was off the plane, she looked around for her aunt and uncle. Then they came running up to her, Uncle Marshall and Aunt Mary smiling, Leah looking as dignified as ever, but also seeming happy to see Kelly, and Marshall Jr. grinning, as usual. Kelly was greeted by everyone, and they were all happy to see her. As they walked to the baggage claim, Leah took her arm.

"We're going to stay here in Nashville for a couple days," Leah said. "A sort of mini vacation. We'll be going to Kentucky Lake later in the summer."

"Cool," Kelly answered. "What else are we going to do this summer."

"We're going to have to go to the pool A LOT. And we'll go shopping, and stay up late every night. You'll be sleeping with me. I've really missed ya'll so much. This summer, I'll have a sister. I've always wanted a sister."

Kelly smiled, and paused to look at a sign. "Flight 314, Baggage Claim 3," she read aloud. "That's right over there."

The luggage was just starting to come onto the baggage carousel, and Kelly quickly spotted her two yellow duffel bags. She pulled them off, and her uncle and Brad quickly took them from her.

"So, where do we go from here?" Kelly asked.

"The hotel," Leah answered. "There's a pool there, so we can go swimming shortly after we get there, if you want."

Kelly started to answer, but Brad interrupted. "What I want to know about is-"

"Lunch!" Leah finished for him, and Brad grinned.

Uncle Marshall, who was walking a little ahead of the young people with his wife, looked back and said, "We'll drive through McDonalds on the way to the hotel and get some food, Brad."

Brad grinned and said "Cool. I'll take five cheeseburgers."

Leah groaned. "He'd eat them all, too, if Dad would buy them. But his limit is three. I've given up trying to figure out how he stays so thin after all eating he does."

The group proceeded to the van and Leah motioned for Kelly to sit near her in the middle.

"So, you didn't get around to answering my question since a certain person interrupted," Leah said, glancing at Brad.

"Do you want to go to the pool?"

"Yeah, sure," Kelly answered.

"I'm glad," Leah answered. "Too bad it's not outdoors, or we could do some serious tanning."

"Yeah," Kelly agreed.

"Hey ya'll, what do you want to eat," Uncle Marshall asked as he pulled up to the drive through at McDonalds.

"I'll take-" Brad began, but his Leah interrupted.

"Three cheeseburgers, a large fry, and a super-size coke." Leah put in.

"Right," Brad said.

"I want a chicken sandwich and some fries, with a Sprite, and Kelly wants - what do you want?"

"A small hamburger is fine," Kelly answered. "And a coke."

"Sure you don't want some fries?" Brad asked.

"Well, Okay," Kelly answered.

"Kelly wants a small hamburger and a coke, and we can share a large fry," Leah reported.

They got their food and soon they were at the hotel. It was huge!

"We're on the tenth floor," Brad said.

"Cool," Kelly answered.

"You and I get our own room, too," Leah said.

"Even more cool!"

Marshall handed Leah a few dollar bills. "Ya'll can buy some candy from the vending machines. We're going on up."

"Thanks," Leah answered. "Don't you want anything?" Marshall shook his head.

The kids bought their candy, and stepped into the elevator. Brad stood in the corner with his face to the wall.

"He is too weird," Leah frowned.

The elevator stopped at the third floor, and a man got on. He took one look at Brad and asked, "Is he alright?"

"Yeah," Leah answered. "He's just a little weird."

The man got off at the fifth floor, and a woman with a little boy, that looked about four years old got on. The child walked over to Brad and said,

"Hey! Hey you! Did your mommy put you in timeout?"

Brad turned around, and looked at the little boy. "Yeah. I was bad."

Then he turned back around as the woman and the little boy got off the elevator.

They reached the tenth floor, and Brad walked backwards to room 325. A maid walked by, staring at Brad.

"We don't know him," Leah said, looking as dignified as she possibly could.

 

Chapter Two: Observation of Surroundings

Megan washed her hands thoroughly after she finished cleaning her room. She walked back into the room and inspected it. Spotless. Even the windows sparkled as the sun shone through. She smiled to herself, feeling more comfortable and definitely ready to unpack and get out some clean clothes! She unzipped one of the suitcases and pulled out some jeans and a white T-shirt and some new socks. She quickly changed and then opened up the chest in her room. It as very large and had enough room for all of her clothes and the few toys that she still had and brought with her.

She placed the carefully folded clothes in the chest and closed her eyes as she remembered her mother. She was a beautiful woman with golden brown hair and greenish-gray eyes. She was always so careful about folding their clothes whenever they were going on a trip. Megan sighed as she thought about how those eyes were now filled with sadness and loneliness.

There had been a time when Megan and Kelly had both thought that their mother had gotten over her terrible grief after their father's death, but lately she had seemed to slip back into her melancholy state. Neither of the girls wondered why, they knew the reason; but they had begun to worry about her again and both hoped that the European experience would be good for her and maybe lessen her unhappiness.

Megan shook her head, trying to push the unhappy thought away from her head. She already had enough to worry about. Setting the outfits that needed to be hung up on the bed, she started the task of putting her personal belonging that se had brought beside clothes in order to make the room more home-like.

The first thing the Megan's hand reached as she pulled things out of the bottom of one suitcase was a painted wooden horse from Sweden. She held it for a few minutes, tracing the beautiful designs painted onto it. The horse was red with a decorative saddle and other artistic things on it. The horse was usually something they used as a decoration for Christmas, but Megan had had it with her for so long that she couldn't bear to part with it. It was old now and rather beaten up. She placed it on the floor beside her and then took out the two stuffed animals and doll that she had brought along with her.

She felt childish bringing along toys, but each one had a special meaning to her. She never played with them now, but she couldn't stand the idea of anything bad happening to the two stuffed animals that she was given after she was born or the doll that her parents had given her on her fifth birthday. She set them on top of the bookshelf as a decoration and then turned to the rest of her things.

She had brought many books -- enough to fill almost two shelves! She also had brought along her journal, organizer, a small photo album, and CD's of her favorite music. The bookshelf became the place for many other things beside books including her box full of hair things her makeup. Megan set her Bible beside the horse on the table beside her bed and stepped back to survey her work again.

The room was the ideal room for a young girl such as Megan and she felt very pleased with the day's work. She was just beginning to think that her home for the summer wasn't going to be as horrible as she had thought when the door opened and bumped her hard on her elbows.

"Ow!" Megan cried, rubbing her arms and turning to face her aunt.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Meggy dear! I hope you're not hurt! I just opened the door and there you were! Oh look at this room! It's so wonderful! You've really changed it into something nice! I never thought this plain room would look as homey until you fixed it up! And look at all the books you brought! Real classics! Oh it's been ages since I've read a real classic! And CD's! Oh, Meggy, you have so many nice things!" Lizzy prattled.

"My things are nice I guess. But Aunt Lizzy, you came into the room without knocking. That was really rude and you promised me that you'd knock before coming in!"

"Now, now. No need to get all fussy, Meggy! I just wanted to let you know that dinner's ready and to come on out and eat if you're hungry." Lizzy said and left the room, leaving the door wide open.

Megan, still rubbing her elbows walked slowly into the big room. She for the first time that night heard the seven month old baby screaming and saw Lizzy pick him up out of his cradle and bring him over to the table where Matt was already sitting, piling some green beans onto his plate. Megan slowly sat down and watched as her relatives ate the food. She watched for a few minutes before she decided that they were not going to say a prayer before meals and said one silently to herself.

"Meggy," Lizzy said with her mouth full, "tomorrow we'll take you into the town when we go buy some supplies for the house. We're going to improve it, you know and we were hoping you'd help us! We'll be getting carpets and curtains and paint." She stopped because she swallowed her food and then continued, " And you know, Meggy --"

"Aunt Lizzy!" Megan interrupted, "You know I hate that nick-name! I've told you before. Please, call me Meg or Megs, but don't call me Meggy!" she cried. Her aunt stared at her food and it was uncomfortably quiet for the rest of the time that they ate.

Megan stepped out of the cabin and took a deep breath. The food hadn't been too good. The house was becoming stuffy and the cool evening breeze was refreshing. She walked out into the ward and look at the redwoods surrounding the cabin. She saw a path leading towards the back of the house and followed it. The back yard consisted of a large tree stump and grass. It wasn't really even a yard though. The trees created a circle around the house, making a sort of yard.

Towards the front of the house, if you walked past a few trees, you could see the not very busy road that was a little distance from them. But at the back of the house the trees seemed to go on a little ways. Megan approached the stump and sat down on it. She noticed that at the foot of it there was an old beat up tin plate and small plastic bowl.

"What's behind those trees, Uncle Matt?" Megan asked as he came around the house.

"The sea is a fifteen minute walk away from here. The trees aren't very thickly planted and it only takes a few minutes to get past them and then there is a hill and then a small cliff. Then the sea," he said.

"Wow." Megan said, staring at the trees.

Suddenly, a dirty dog appeared at the edge of the ring and seemed to be expecting something. It paced back and forth for a few minutes until if crept a few paces out of the shelter of the redwoods and bushes.

"What is that?" Megan cried, pointing at the dog.

"A dog."

"I know it's a dog, Uncle Matt. But is it yours?"

"Nope. He kinda thinks I'm his helper or something. He's certainly never come up anywhere near me. This is about as close as he gets. But I feed him whenever he comes by." Matt started towards the house.

"How often does he come by?" Megan called.

"I'd say everyday or so. I guess you could say I feed him all the time." He walked around the house Megan heard the slam of the screen door.

Megan watched the dog pace around a few more times. "He's bringing the food in a minute, old boy." She explained. "I guess I'm in your way. These are your food dishes, aren't they?" the dog headed back towards the trees. Megan rose and headed back towards the house, called as she went, "I'm leaving, don't worry!" she then went inside, wondering about the stray dog; hoping that he'd come by again so that she could name him.

"Here's our room," Leah said, as she pulled a key out of her pocket and unlocked the door. "My parents and Brad are sleeping in the next room. You can leave your stuff in here, and then we'll go have lunch in the other room."

Kelly tossed her bags onto one of the beds and followed Leah to her parent's room.

Lunch was not a quiet meal. Kelly was interrogated about every thing going on at home, and was glad when she and Leah returned to their own room.

"So, do you want to go to the pool?" Leah asked.

"Maybe later," Kelly answered as she flopped down on the bed.

Leah was sitting on her own bed and reached over for Kelly's backpack. She unzipped it and took out her make-up kit.

"Hey, you've got some really cool lip stick in here! And the nail colors are very interesting ... I have brought some with me too. Do you want to paint each others nails?"

"Later, I guess. I'm tired Leah."

"Why? It's the middle of the afternoon!" Leah asked.

"Because I got up really early this morning and then endured a plane flight. I'm tired. Let's do something relaxing." Leah shrugged her shoulder.

"Like what? Do you want to watch television?" she asked, and picked up the remote control.

"Okay." Kelly sighed. She had wanted to read a book. Kelly started flipping through channels until she found a soap opera. She leaned back against her pillows and stared at the TV contentedly. Kelly watched her for a few minutes.

"You like this show?" Kelly said, as Leah watched a man and a woman kissing each other passionately.

"Yeah. There aren't too many scenes like this."

"Let's change channels." Kelly said and grabbed the remote before Leah could do anything.

"Hey! I wanted to watch that!" Leah pouted as Kelly switched to a national geographic shows. "This is boring!" Leah said very loudly.

"I like it. Look at the beautiful birds!" Kelly said.

"I see birds every day. I don't want to watch this show."

"Fine, we won't watch TV" Kelly said and turned it off. Leah sat on the bed and was quiet for a few minutes. Kelly opened her purse and got out a magazine.

"Can I read one of those?" Leah asked nicely, pointed the other ‘Girls Life' magazines.

Kelly tossed her one and thought of the difference it was between Megan and Leah. Her eyes filled up with tears again but she held them back so that Leah wouldn't say anything. She glanced over at her once she's gained control of her emotions. Leah was listening to some of Kelly's music with her portable CD player! Kelly was a little annoyed, but then decided that she'd have to share if she wanted them to be friends. And they had to be friends!

Kelly and Leah each read for a while, and then Kelly dozed off. An hour later Kelly woke up, and Leah was watching another soap opera on TV.

Anxious to get away from the TV, Kelly asked, "Want to go to the pool now?"

"Sure!" Leah answered. "Dad brought your bags in. They're over there." Leah pointed to a table in a corner of the room.

Kelly changed into her black and white tankini, and then slipped on some shorts. Leah handed Kelly a clean, white hotel towel as she came out of the bathroom. "Here's a towel. Want to ask Brad to come?"

"Yeah, sure," Kelly answered, and Leah knocked on the door between their room and her parents.

Brad opened it, dressed in swimming trunks.

"Hey, I was just coming' to ask you if you wanted to go swimming," he said.

"We do," Leah answered, and led the way to the pool.

The pool was huge! It even had a diving board! And the three young people had the whole pool to themselves.

Kelly cautiously dipped one toe into the water.

"It's cold!"

Leah stuck her foot in, too. "It is! Want to get in the hot tub first?"

"Yeah," Kelly answered, and she followed Leah to the spa. Brad stayed in the pool.

The two cousins had just gotten into the hot tub when they heard a tremendous splash, coming from the pool. Brad had just gone of the diving board. Now that he had the girls' attention, he started clowning around, pretending to slip off the board, or doing funny dives. Kelly and Leah both doubled over, laughing.

They stayed at the pool for two hours. Leah stayed in the spa the whole time, but Kelly dove off the diving board a couple times before they left. Then she and Leah went back to their room and took showers.

Kelly was drying her hair when Leah got out of the shower. She turned the hairdryer off, and asked Leah, "Where are you parents, anyway?"

"Oh, dad said they were going out. They'll probably be back in a couple of hours. Hey, what do you want to do tomorrow?"

"I don't care," Kelly said, rather apathetically.

"Well, I say we drop Brad somewhere far away and hit the mall," Leah said.

"OK," Kelly answered. "Fine with me."

 

Chapter Three: Homesick

Megan went to bed early that night, but was awakened at about 1 A.M. by a dog howling just outside her window. Megan slid her slippers on, and tiptoed over to the window. It was the dog she had seen earlier. Megan opened her door, and slowly tiptoed out into the other room. She opened the front door, and it creaked loudly. Megan winced, thinking that her aunt and uncle would wake up. Much to her relief, they didn't.

Megan stepped out onto the porch and called for the dog. She watched him pacing around in the shadows by the trees in the front yard. After watching him for a few minutes she decided to get him something to eat. She went back inside, brought out a big piece of ham and placed it about twenty feet away from the house. Returning to the house she watched him through the screen door.

He crept up stealthily. Megan could hardly see him and she remembered that he was a dark color. An idea for a name came to her mind: Shadow. The dog's name was be Shadow since he seemed to be no more than one. She smiled, and felt very pleased for having found such an appropriate name. He did indeed seem to melt into the shadows as he trotted back towards the woods and disappeared into the night. Megan, suddenly feeling very afraid of the darkness, hurried back into her own room and jumped into the bed, falling asleep after a little tossing and turning.

Megan slept until ten the next morning. Aunt Lizzy woke her up.

"Megan! Megan, your Mom is on the phone! Hurry up, I'll try to see if I can get the phone to reach in here so you can talk privately." Lizzy disappeared and reentered the room with the phone. "Here." she handed the phone to Megan and left the room. Megan rubbed her eyes and put the phone up to her ear.

"Hello?" she said groggily.

"Hi Megan," her mother's voice sounded exhausted.

"How are you, Mom?"

"I'm okay. I'm really tired and am feeling depressed...lonely."

"I feel the same way. Everything is worse without you and Kelly. And Dad. I miss him so much," Megan said, her eyes feeling watery.

"I know, sweetie. But it's only for the summer. Is everything okay over there?"

"Uncle Matt and Aunt Lizzy moved."

"I know, it took me forever to reach you or I would have called earlier. I had to call Matt's sister first and then finally reached you. I'm glad everything is going okay."

Megan was silent.

"I'm sure you'll make some friends there."

"Maybe."

"Well, I've got to call Kelly now. I'll try to call once a week, maybe more if I can. I love you Megan. Bye."

"I love you too, Mom," Megan said, and Morgan hung up. Megan sighed and dressed, then went into the kitchen, and put the phone back in place and sat down at the table for breakfast.

"Is it all right if I walk to the beach today?" she asked Aunt Lizzy.

"Well, I guess so, as long as you're back before lunch time. Then you and I are going to go into town," Lizzy said.

"Okay," Megan said. "When is lunch?"

"Oh, around one," Lizzy answered, and Megan took her plate to the sink. Then she went to her room and got out her diary and some notebook paper.

"Bye Aunt Lizzy," Megan said, as she went out the door.

"Bye."

It was a rather long walk to the beach, but when Megan got there, she knew that it was worth it. The beach was beautiful! The sand was almost white, and the bluish green water made small waves before crashing down onto the sand. Megan stood still for a moment, watching the waves, hating to mar the sand with her footprints. Then she slipped off her sandals and walked over to the ocean.

The waves reached her feet and she jumped and laughed as the water reached up to her ankles before subsiding. She began to run across to beach, always staying close to the water so that by the time she was through running, her shorts were wet at the ends. She looked back at the area where she had left her diary and paper. Her foot prints were quickly disappearing as the waves washed them away. She headed back towards the dry sand and picked up her diary and notebook, sat down on the sand and began writing a letter to Kelly.

When Megan had finished writing, she folded the letter neatly and put it aside. Then she began a letter to Leah. Megan tucked the letters into her diary and decided she would write in it later that night. Then she began the long walk home.

"Megan! Where have you been? It's time to go into the town and buy things for the house! I want your help selecting them! Your father used to tell me about your artistic tastes!" Aunt Lizzy was calling as Megan came up to the house.

"Alright, I'm coming," Megan said, running into the house and putting her letters and journal in her room.

She sat on the bed for a minute before going out. Aunt Lizzy had mentioned her father. He had praised her about having artistic taste. Her eyes welled up with tears remembering him. She quickly wiped them away. She hadn't cried over his death in two weeks now and hadn't even thought about it for days. She wiped her eyes again, and telling herself not to be a baby, headed outside.

Matt and Lizzy were waiting outside for her when Megan came out of the house. She jumped into the car beside Johnny in his car-seat, while Matt locked up the house. Then they got in the car and drove toward the town called Gualala. It was a twenty minute drive away from their house. Megan was surprised to see that there were other houses not too far away from them. She had considered them being in the middle of nowhere.

They drove up to a hardware store and Uncle Mat went inside. "Pick me up in an hour," he said and Lizzy took his place at the wheel, driving off to a store where they were selling curtains, carpets and rugs.

"This will be very fun!" she said, getting out Johnny's stroller and buckling him in. Then they walked into the store.

"What do you think of these curtains, Megan?" she asked, pointed to an orange color. Megan dropped the white lace curtains that she'd been looking at to see what her aunt was looking at.

"I would suggest these white ones the room I'm staying in. Uncle Mat was going to paint it a really light color blue and I think it would look pretty. Either that or these darker colored blue curtains," she said, gesturing with her hand at the colors she had been admiring.

"I think the dark blue would look nice. And wouldn't the lace be pretty in the big room?" Lizzy said.

"Sure it would!" Megan said. "Do you mind if I pick out a couple rugs for my room? I think that would be better on the nice wooden floors than a big carpet."

"No, go ahead, I don't mind." Lizzy said and Megan turned towards the rugs.

She was examining a braided rug when an elderly lady came up and started to look at rug next to her. She seemed intent upon the rug for a little while, but then began throwing Megan glances. Megan decided on two pretty braided rugs and was picking them up when the woman asked her: "Do you like them?"

"Oh, yes, I like them." Megan answered quickly, turning away and reminding herself that she wasn't supposed to talk to strangers.

"I made them." Megan turned back towards the woman, curiosity overcoming her cautiousness. The woman smiled at her kindly. "My name is Elsie Johnson. I know the woman who owns this store. She likes my rugs and so I make them for her to sell and profit a little off of it. I was just wondering if you liked them."

Megan smiled but remembering that the woman was someone she didn't know she answered sharply. "Of course I like them. I wouldn't buy them if I didn't like them."

Elsie was silent and Megan, feeling uncomfortable said, "Well it was nice meeting you. I love your rugs! Goodbye!" she said and hurried off to the cash register where her aunt was standing.

"Megan," Lizzy said as they walked back towards the car, "That was Mrs. Johnson you were talking to!"

"Yes, I know. She told me her name. Is something the matter with her?"

"Oh no! She's a very nice lady. She's rather quite though. I don't believe she's spoken more then two words to me in all the time that we've been her and we're practically neighbors!" Megan raised her eyebrows, hoping that she'd go on.

Her Aunt Lizzy did talk more, but not about Elsie Johnson. They picked up Matt and then went home. He had picked out the paint that he wanted and went right to work on the house. He moved everything out of Megan's room and started painting.

Megan sat in the crowded living room for a little while before she went outside. She sat on the porch and tried to relax. She was feeling tense, and lonely. She missed her sister, her mother and father. She had no one in California who was really close to her. She hardly knew her Aunt and Uncle. Their baby mostly cried and slept. She had no one to talk to, no one to share her feelings with. Kelly wasn't there to help her feel better about her grief.

Kelly had always helped her when she was feeling upset over their fathers death. Although no one blamed Megan, she felt horrible when she thought that her father had died when coming to pick her up from a piano lesson. She hadn't gone near a piano since then. Her father had been a violinist and a pianist. Music had been an extremely important thing in his life. Megan felt horrible sometimes when she remembered that she had stopped playing, because it was something her father had wanted her and Kelly to do.

She had tried once, a few months after his death, to play but had ended up sobbing and feeling horrible for weeks. She hadn't tried since then. It was too hard for her to control the tears and unhappiness that followed. Kelly still played. It made her feel closer to their dad when she played the piano, and Megan loved it when she did.

Her eyes filled with tears and she brought her knees, and leaning her head against them, she cried silently.


Kelly and Leah arrived back at the hotel the next afternoon loaded with shopping bags. They had spent the day at the mall, and Kelly had used up almost half of her spending money for the summer. Kelly tossed her bags onto the bed, and flopped down on it. Leah dropped her bags on the floor and sat down of the edge of her bed, staring at Kelly.

"What do you want to do now?" Leah asked, looking as if she was going to drop dead from being bored to death.

"Take a nap," Kelly groaned. "I am so tired."

"I am too. But I'm not going to sleep. Do you want me to do your nails?"

Kelly sat up and stretched. "Oh, okay."

Leah reached for her duffel bag and pulled out a small bag full of nail polish. Kelly pulled hers off the nightstand between the beds. Both girls emptied their polish onto Leah's bed.

"Oh, this is pretty," Kelly said, picking up a silvery blue color.

"Want me to put it on your nails?" Leah asked.

"Sure," Kelly answered. "What color do you want?"

"How about this?" Leah held up a light purple color.

"Yeah, use that one. It'll look good with the purple shirt you got today."

The girls walked over to the table and chatted while they did each other's nails. Then Leah's mom poked her head in the door. "Hey girls, we're getting ready to go out for dinner. Both of you'd better put on some nice clothes."

"Okay, Mom," Leah answered.

Kelly pulled a pair of khaki cargo pants out of her duffel and dug around in one of her shopping bags for a pale blue shirt she had bought earlier. She finally found it, and dressed. Kelly slid her sandals on and headed to the bathroom to do her hair and makeup. Ten minutes later, she was ready, and so was Leah. Kelly had pulled her hair back into a ponytail, and Leah had her dark, shoulder length hair held back by a headband. She also wore khaki pants, and had put on the lavender shirt that matched her nails.

"Ready?" Leah asked, and Kelly nodded. Brad was waiting in the hall outside their door.

"Mom says to go on down to the lobby and wait," he announced, and led the way to the elevator.

This time he didn't do anything goofy, but he told a joke that had both Kelly and Leah cracking up. Just as they stepped off the elevator, Kelly realized she had forgotten her purse.

"Oh, great," she moaned.

"What?" Leah and Brad asked at the exact same time.

"I forgot my purse."

"I'll get it," Brad offered. "Got a key?"

Leah handed him the key to their room, and Brad disappeared.

"Your brother is nice," Kelly said.

"If you ask me, he's weird," Leah snorted.

"He's so polite, though," Kelly insisted.

"Polite? Brad? You should see some of the things he does to me."

"He's your brother. Brothers are paid to annoy their sisters."

"Too bad he isn't an exception to the rule. And you don't have a brother so you don't know what they're really like."

"I still think he's nice," Kelly said. "I wish I had a brother."

"No you don't!" Leah retorted, sniffing, as Brad ran up to them and handed Kelly her purse and the key.

"Thanks Brad," Kelly said gratefully.

"No problem!" he said as they entered the lobby from the hallway they had been standing in.

Reaching the lobby, they met Marcus and Mary were waiting for them. They all got into the car and drove off to an Italian restaurant. Leah groaned as they approached it.

"Why can't we eat someplace nice?" she grumbled.

"This restaurant is a lot nicer then McDonalds or Pizza Hut if that's where you want to go!" Mary said sternly, annoyed by her daughter's rude tone of voice.

"I love Italian food!" Kelly said quickly, glancing at her cousin who was slouching in the seat with her arms crossed, sulking.

"I don't know how anyone could like Italian food, Kelly." Leah said hotly.

"That's enough, Leah! We're eating here and you are going to act like the young lady that you are and behave yourself. Is that clear?" Marcus said.

"Huh? Did you say something?"

"Is that clear?" Marcus almost shouted.

"Yes, Dad."

"Good," he said and parked the car. Leah rolled her eyes. Kelly and smiled weakly.

 

Chapter Four: Unwanted Experiences

Megan walked along the beach alone, watching the waves crash against the beach. The waves were larger now then they had been the last time she had been there. She picked up a piece of kelp and swung it around as she walked farther down the beach. It was getting rockier. The sand had more rocks in it and the ground was more firm. She looked over at the forest to her right and saw a house almost completely hidden by the trees. She started towards it, curious to see if anyone lived there.

As she walked up the small slope leading to the forest, an old woman started walking towards her. A wide brimmed straw hat was on her head and a small white cat was lying on her shoulder. As she came nearer, Megan saw that it was the woman she had met the day they had gone to the store that sold carpets and other accessories. Elsie Johnson was smiling as she came up to her.

"Hello, Megan. I've been hoping to meet you again."

"Hi Mrs. Johnson. How did you know my name?" Megan asked, staring at the white cat purring on her shoulder.

"My friend at the shop told me your name. Your Aunt Lizzy was talking to her about you while you were picking out rugs."

"Oh. Is this your cat?" Megan asked, not knowing what else to say and feeling guilty for having been so rude to her before.

"Of course! She goes everywhere with me. Naturally her name is Snow Flake."

"Naturally." Megan answered quickly.

"But everyone who knows her calls her Snowy. You can do the same if you like," Elsie said, her eyes twinkling as Megan stroked the soft fur of the rather small sized cat.

"She is very beautiful," Megan smiled. "Is that where you live?"

"Yes. I saw you walking on the beach and came out the meet you. I wanted to ask you in for a cup of tea." Megan consented to the invitation and Elise led her towards the house.

Two young people were already there. They were both bending over, working in a beautiful garden at the front of the house. One person, a girl, stood up and stretched, pushing the straw hat she was wearing off her head and it dangled down her back by a string, revealing blond hair pulled up in a bun that was now falling out.

"Anna! Anna come and meet this young lady!" Elsie called to the girl, who turned at the sound of her voice, wiping her brow with the back of her hand.

"There you are, Grandma Elise! We were hoping you'd get back soon! You see Anders here has trampled on some of your daisies." Anna motioned with her hand towards the boy, who was still working hard.

"Oh Anders, I told you to be so careful with my daisies!" Elise said, leaving Megan's side and rushing over to him as he also stood up.

"I'm really sorry, Grandma Elise. I didn't mean to but Anna was trying to water me instead of the plants! I just --"

"None of your excuses, either of you! I bring over a guest and here you are in the middle of a fight! And my beautiful daisies all ruined." She shook her head sadly.

"A guest?" Anna asked and looked over in Megan's direction as Elise began walking towards her.

"This is Megan Taylor. We met a few days ago when she bought some of my rugs. I saw her walking along the beach and decided to invite her over for a cup of tea."

Anna smiled at Megan. "Hi, my name is Anna, although you must have already noticed that. This is Andrew." She said, sweeping her hand in the boy's direction who was coming up towards them. We were very tall and had very light brown hair that was almost a blonde color. Both Anna and Andrew had sky blue eyes like their grandmother's.

"I thought his name was Anders?" Megan said, feeling confused and awkward.

"We call him that as a nickname really. You see, we're all Swedish. We've lived in America all our lives of course but are Swedes. Anders is what his family calls him."

"I see. Do you two live with your Grandmother?"

"We're staying with her for a few days." Anna explained.

"Shall you all come in?" Elsie said and they followed her into the wooden house, surrounded by a garden.

They were led into the living room. Elsie went into the kitchen and began heating up water for tea. Megan sat in a comfy armchair and looked around the room. Pictures of people were hanging around the room. It was also decorated with many glass figures, wooden figures and things from the sea such as shells or a sand dollar. It was a very pretty room.

"You're staying with the Walkers, aren't you?" Anders asked. Megan turned her attention towards Anna and Anders, who were sitting on the couch across from her.

"Yes. They're my aunt and uncle."

"They bought the place only a few weeks ago. I was going to see if I could help them with any of the painting tomorrow. Maybe when you go I'll walk you down and ask you're uncle about it," Anders said and Megan forced herself to smile. She was beginning to feel uncomfortable since the brother and sister were being too friendly.

"How long have you been here?" Anna asked.

"Only four days now." Megan answered, squirming under Anna's steady gaze.

"Your aunt and uncle go to our church. I hope you'll be coming with them tomorrow." Anna continued.

"Oh yes. Is today Saturday?" Megan asked. She had used to be a very strong believer in God. But since her father's death she had become unsteady in her faith. Why would God let her father die if he was so powerful and good?

"Didn't you know that?" Anders asked.

"It's summer and I've lost track of the dates." Megan quickly explained as Elsie came into the room, bearing a tray with two steaming cups of tea and two glasses of iced tea.

"Here you are, Megan. Will you take sugar with that?" Megan nodded and Elsie plopped two sugar cubs into her cup. "Here you are Anders and Anna, iced tea! You should feel cooler and refreshed. And yes, I put lots of sugar in your, Anders."

Megan took her tea and blew on it. She wanted to drink it quickly and then leave. She had to sip it slowly though, it was very hot. She listened to the three talking about things, the ocean, hoping to see her again, and other things. Megan was glad when she could finally say that she really had to go. Anna and Anders walked her back to the house since they both wanted to know if they could be hired to help work a little on the house. Mat and Lizzy gladly excepted their offer.

"We'll see you tomorrow then, at church, Megan!" Anna called as they headed back towards their grandmother's house.

Megan sat on the porch for a while. She felt like she was being pushed into a relationship with the Johnsons before she was ready! She hardly knew them at all. They had been very nice and everything, but for some reason they made her feel even lonelier. She remembered her father too vividly when she listened to the way they had talked, using the Swedish ‘yah' instead of yes as her father had often done. No, it would be best if she avoided seeing them as much as possible but how could she if she'd be seeing them every day?

Kelly and Leah arrived back at the hotel the next afternoon loaded with shopping bags. They had spent the day at the mall, and Kelly had used up almost half of her spending money for the summer. Kelly tossed her bags onto the bed, and flopped down on it. Leah dropped her bags on the floor and sat down of the edge of her bed, staring at Kelly.

"What do you want to do now?" Leah asked, looking as if she was going to drop dead from being bored to death.

"Take a nap," Kelly groaned. "I am so tired."

"I am too. But I'm not going to sleep. Do you want me to do your nails?"

Kelly sat up and stretched. "Okay."

Leah reached for her duffel bag and pulled out a small bag full of nail polish. Kelly pulled her make-up kit off the nightstand between the beds. Both girls emptied their polish onto Leah's bed.

"Oh, this is pretty," Kelly said, picking up a silvery blue color.

"Want me to put it on your nails?" Leah asked.

"Sure," Kelly answered. "What color do you want?"

"How about this?" Leah held up a light purple color.

"Yeah, use that one. It'll look good with the purple shirt you got today."

The girls walked over to the table and chatted while they did each other's nails. Then Leah's mom poked her head in the door. "Hey girls, we're getting ready to go out for dinner. Both of you'd better put on some nice clothes."

"Okay, Mom," Leah answered.

Kelly pulled a pair of khaki cargo pants out of her duffel and dug around in one of her shopping bags for a pale blue shirt she had bought earlier. Finally, she found it, and dressed. Kelly slid her sandals on and headed to the bathroom to do her hair and makeup. Ten minutes later, she was ready, and so was Leah. Kelly had pulled her hair back into a ponytail, and Leah had her dark, shoulder length hair held back by a headband. She also wore khaki pants, and had put on the lavender shirt that matched her nails.

"Ready?" Leah asked, and Kelly nodded. Brad was waiting in the hall outside their door.

"Mom says to go on down to the lobby and wait," he announced, and led the way to the elevator. This time he didn't do anything goofy, but he told a joke that had both Kelly and Leah cracking up. Just as they stepped off the elevator, Kelly realized she had forgotten her purse.

"Oh, great," she groaned.

"What?" Leah and Brad asked at the exact same time.

"I forgot my purse."

"I'll get it," Brad offered. "Got a key?"

Leah handed him the key to their room, and Brad disappeared.

"Your brother is nice," Kelly said.

"If you ask me, he's weird," Leah snorted.

"He's so polite, though," Kelly insisted.

"Polite? Brad? You should see some of the things he does to me."

"He's your brother. All brothers annoy their older sisters."

"Too bad he isn't an exception to the rule. And you don't have a brother so you don't know what they're really like."

"I still think he's nice," Kelly said. "I wish I had a brother."

"No you don't!" Leah retorted, sniffing as Brad ran up to them and handed Kelly her purse and the keys.

"Thanks, Brad," Kelly said gratefully.

"No problem!" he said as they got into the elevator. Leah looked away.

Reaching the lobby, they met Marcus and Mary were waiting for them. They all got into the car and drove off to an Italian Restaurant. Leah groaned as they approached it.

"Why can't we eat someplace nice?" she grumbled.

"This restaurant is a lot nicer then McDonalds or Pizza Hut if that's where you want to go!" Mary said sternly, annoyed by her daughter's rude tone of voice.

"I love Italian food!" Kelly said quickly, glancing at her cousin who was slouching in the seat with her arms crossed sulking.

"I don't know how you could like Italian food, Kelly." Leah said hotly.

"That's enough, Leah! We're eating here and you are going to act like the young lady that you are and behave yourself. Is that clear?" Marcus said.

"Huh? Did you say something, dad?"

"Is that clear?" Marcus almost shouted.

"Yes Dad."

"Good." He said and parked the car. Leah rolled her eyes at Kelly and smiled weakly.

 

Chapter Five (part a): New Acquaintances

Leah woke Kelly early the next morning. "What do you want?" Kelly grumbled as she opened her eyes.

"Get up!" Leah ordered. Kelly sat up, rubbing her eyes.

"What did you say?" she asked, stretching her arms.

"We're going down to breakfast now."

"Well, I'm not," Kelly said. "I'm not even dressed. You woke me up for breakfast? At home, I usually skip breakfast." Kelly glanced at the clock, it was seven-thirty. "Gosh, Leah, it's only seven-thirty, and you-"

"Shush! Hurry up I'm really hungry."

Kelly groaned, but she took her shower and dressed quickly. She was going to fix her hair but Leah was standing by the door with an irritated expression on her face so Kelly left her hair down.

"What is the big hurry about breakfast anyway?" Kelly grumbled, on the way downstairs.

Leah didn't answer her question. Instead, she said, "You know, we were supposed to leave today."

"Yes, and I'm all packed if that's what you want to know." Kelly said, still grouchy about Leah waking her up.

"Well, we aren't leaving today."

"Why not?" Kelly asked, becoming curious.

"Well, Dad has some more business stuff, so we're staying until tomorrow.

I want to try to do something fun today."

"Like what?"

"Oh, I don't know. Let's eat breakfast and then decide."

There was a continental breakfast being served downstairs. Brad was already eating a helping of everything, and Kelly and Leah each had a bagel. Kelly helped herself to another bagel and ate, hungrier then she had thought. She watched Leah picking at her first bagel after eating half of it. Kelly was about to point out that Leah had said she was starving when Aunt Mary came down.

"Hi ya'll. Do you guys mind hanging around the hotel today? I just called an old classmate of mine, and I'm going over to visit with her for the day."

"Mom! You said you would take us somewhere today. You promised!"

"I know, honey. Where did you want to go? Maybe I could work it out."

Leah thought fast. "Ummm, the amusement park?"

"Sorry. Why don't you guys just stay here, maybe swim in the pool."

"Mom, we've done that already! We could take a taxi."

"No, sorry. I already told you I couldn't work that out."

"You promised!" Leah said, and stormed off before her mother had a chance to suggest coming with her to visit her friend. Kelly followed Leah and found her sitting on her bed watching TV.

"Leah, why did you yell at your mom like that?"

"She promised that we would do something! Now we're stuck at this stupid hotel all day."

"We can find something to do. Now turn off the TV and let's go find Brad. Your mom and dad have probably already left."

"Okay, boss," Leah muttered under her breath.

"I heard that!" Kelly snapped back.

"Come on," Leah said, taking Kelly's arm.

Brad was downstairs still eating. "Watcha want to do?" he asked.

"We don't know," Kelly answered. "Got any ideas?" She glanced over at Leah, who was standing over to the side with her arms crossed, sulking.

"Well, we could play hide and go seek."

"Brad! In a hotel? I don't think so!"

"Why not? It would be fun! We could go all over all the floors."

"All twenty of them?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Because it isn't the proper thing to do in a hotel," Kelly said. "Let's go swimming." Both Brad and Leah groaned, and Kelly had to admit that she didn't really want to go to the pool either.

"Oh all right, we'll go," Leah decided. "Besides, we might see some cute guys there."

"I'm a cute guy-"

"You are my brother," Leah interrupted Brad and pulled Kelly away, turning to say something to Brad. "And you are not cute." Brad put on a sad face for Kelly's entertainment and went to his room to change.

There were no cute guys at the pool. Actually, there wasn't anybody at the pool. Kelly and Brad took turns diving off the board and racing each other, but Leah stayed in the spa the whole time.

After three hours of swimming, Brad announced he was hungry. Kelly was too.

"Come on," she said. "I'm hungry. Let's go have lunch in the restaurant. Brad, your mom gave you the money. I hope you still have it."

Brad reached into his pocket and gasped. "Oh no! It's gone!"

"Really, Brad, you're a terrible actor. Let's go." Leah led the way to the restaurant with Brad laughing at his own joke.

They ate quickly because Leah was impatient to back up to her room. Kelly again noticed that she didn't eat much and felt funny as she helped herself to a generous plateful of food. As if she was eating too much, Leah practically dragged her up to their room after they finished, ordering Brad to stay in his room and watch TV until they were ready to do something with him.

"We're rid of him! Finally!" Leah said as she closed the door firmly behind her. Kelly was sitting on her bed.

"What do you want to do without Brad? You said you didn't have anything to do here!"

"I'm going to call a friend of mine who lives near here. Maybe she can drive over and take us to her place."

"I don't think that --"

"Be quiet, I'm dialing!" Leah interrupted and waited. Kelly sighed and opened up a book to read. She glanced over at Leah when she started talking.

"Hey Michelle! Yes, we're in Nashville. I'm sorry for not calling you sooner." Leah laughed at something the girl had said. "Listen, Michelle, can we come over? Great!" Kelly's eyebrows shot up and she put down her book. "Great! You'll pick us up in twenty minutes? Gosh, I didn't know you lived so near to here! That's, like, so cool! See ya then!" Leah put down the receiver with a click. "That's settled," she said firmly and Kelly decided not to reply. Maybe it wouldn't be too bad if they left the hotel for a little while. After all, Aunt Mary hadn't told them to stay there all day...

"Come on!" Leah said. "I'm going down to the lobby to wait for Michelle." Kelly reluctantly followed Leah down to the lobby, and sat waiting until Leah got up and ran over to a tall girl with long dark hair who had just come in the door.

"Michelle! Hi!"

"Hey, Leah! Gosh, I haven't seen you in over a year!"

"I know! Hey, this is my cousin, Kelly, who's staying with us for the summer." Leah motioned with her hand towards Kelly.

Michelle looked Kelly over for a few minutes. "Hello," she said, seeming to think that Kelly was an okay girl.

"Hi!" Kelly said, determined not to be shy.

"How old are you?" Michelle asked, looking up and down Kelly again.

"I'm thirteen, about a year younger than Leah," Kelly said.

"Oh. I'm fifteen," the girl said, as if the fact that she was older than Kelly made her better.

"Then how can you drive?" Kelly asked.

"Oh, I've got my learner's permit. My parents don't really care about me driving. They know I'm a careful driver, and I'm very mature." Michelle said. "Are you guys ready to go?"

"Yeah," Leah answered, but Kelly wasn't so sure.

"Got your swimsuits? We have a pool, you know."

"You have a pool?" Leah squealed. "Kelly, run up and get our suits." Kelly did as she was told, and quickly returned to the lobby.

"Ready?" Michelle asked.

"Yes," Leah answered again.

"Okay, let's go!"

"What about Brad?" Kelly asked.

"Why do you always wonder about Brad?" Leah snapped and they headed out the lobby and got into Michelle's car. Kelly was silent the whole drive to her house.

 

© 2000 Copyright held by the author.

 

 

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