Janie tried very hard to think of a way out without humiliating herself.
"Look, Harrison-" she put her hands on his broad shoulders "You've got
to stop it."
Harrison looked down at her and the moonlight hit his face. He was
cute, no denying that. His blue eyes and bleached hair made lots of
girls swoon- once. Because in spite of being on of the cutest guys at
Crestmore High, Harrison was kind of a jerk. And Janie didn't take
well to jerks.
She had no idea why he had asked her out- most boys stayed as far away
from her as possible. They had seen the news reports, read the
newspapers, been told the whole grotesque, eye-catching story. Even
after eight years, it made an impression.
But Harrison Williamson had asked her out anyway, and more out of shock
than anything else, she had said yes. Her first real date, at
seventeen. And it had to turn out this way.
"Why?" he asked, his lips against her lower neck. His hand moved to
her waist under her shirt.
"It's our first date," she hissed, feeling the cold hardness of her
living room wall behind her as he pressed against her. And I know you
don't care anything about me.
"Don't act all innocent with me, Janie Davins. We both know you don't
come from a family of priests."
Janie lowered her eyes in shame and allowed him to continue for a few
more seconds, then she pushed at him again. He sighed angrily and
grabbed his keys. "Fine. But don't count on a second date."
"I wasn't," she snapped, and the door slammed.
"Evan, if you are not down here in about three seconds stuffing your
face, I'm going to ki-" Janie put a piece of brown hair behind her ear
and reviewed her choice of words. "Kiss you."
"I'm coming," Evan hopped down the stairs two at a time, X-Men book bag
already on his back. Janie scraped the rest of the fried eggs off the
frying pan and into her brother's plate with the spatula. She poured
both of their orange juice, then sat down.
"We're out of pickles, so you'll have to have a peanut butter and jelly
sandwich, like every other kid in America." She stabbed her eggs with
her fork. Sticky yellow blood flooded the plate.
"Yuck," said Evan, mouth full. "I'll throw it away."
"You'd better not throw it away. We're not exactly the Gates family
here, kid." She stuffed the rest of her egg in her mouth. "But I'm
going to the store today, so you can go back to good old pickles and
mayonnaise soon enough."
"Is Dad coming this weekend?" Evan gulped his juice.
"Your dad is coming on Saturday to take you bowling."
"Aren't you coming? You can be on my team." He grinned at her, and
Janie wondered how she was going to get braces on him, without going
"Even if I wanted to come, which I most certainly do not, I have a
project to do. Ohmigosh, it's eight thirty-five." She jumped up,
sopped up the last of the egg-juice with half a piece of toast and
crammed it in her mouth. She tossed him his bag lunch, fed the cat,
and put the dishes in the sink. Janie sneaked a look in the mirror
hanging in the living room.
She was thin, bony even, with brown hair that fell a few inches past her
shoulders, parted slightly on the right and curling in a bit at the
ends, with large blue eyes and freckles on her shoulders. "Ugh," she
said, and ran out the door to their small condominium. Evan was
already in the Jeep.
"I'm telling you, Nora," Janie slammed her locker door shut. "He's a
complete sicko." The girls walked slowly down the hall amid the other
Nora shrugged and snapped her gum. "So he had sex with your mom when
he was eighteen-"
"Seventeen, whatever. He doesn't seem so bad, despite what you've told
me about him. So he made a mistake. That doesn't make him a bad
person. You know?"
"Nor, he wrecked my life." Janie tucked her hair behind her ears and
squinted as they walked into the sunshine. "I gotta go. I'll call
"So. Kid. You've been kind of quiet." Janie stopped at a red light
and turned to her brother.
"Janie, do you remember what day it is?" Evan picked at his book bag
"Yeah," her voice was suddenly soft and hoarse. "I remember what day it
is. But lets not think about it, okay? We'll go crazy."
"Okay," he said, and she gunned the engine.
The phone rang as Janie was making dinner. "Evan, get that, will you?"
she yelled over Phil Vassar's voice.
"Hello?" She continued listening to the radio. "Yeah, it's two hearts,
one dream, I wouldn't trade it for anything, And I ask the Lord, every
night, for just another day in Paradise . . ."
"Hey! Janie, guess what?"
"Dad's coming for dinner tonight! His flight was early!"
Janie threw down the hot pads she'd been holding and half-ran into the
living room. "Where's the phone? Give me the phone."
"He hung up."
She put one hand on the side of her head. "Why didn't you tell him to
talk to me? Oh, gosh . . . I'm not sure if there's enough mac and
cheese for three. And besides . . . having to deal with him . ." She
looked up. Evan's bottom lip was getting bigger and bigger. "Well,
I'll work it out," she sighed. "Somehow."
The doorbell rang just as Janie had distributed the chopped-up hot dogs
in the macaroni and cheese. She set the salad bowl beside it. If only
they had some dressing, and something besides lettuce and tomatoes in
it . . . but they just didn't.
"I'll get it!"
"Oka-ay," said Janie, under her breath. She poured water in her glass
and gave the last of the coke to the other two.
"Hey, Ev," she heard Derek say.
"Hey dad," said Evan, but his voice was muffled, and Janie knew they
were hugging. She walked into the doorway of the kitchen and watched
"Hi, Janie." Derek said over Evan's head.
"Hey." She never knew quite what to say to Derek.
Derek was dark, like Evan, with brown hair that was always just a tad
too long, and brown eyes. His sideburns were a little longer than most
men's, and he was tall and athletic-looking. He wore jeans, a dark red
sweater, and a brown leather duffel bag on his shoulder.
He was only eight years older than Janie was, but she could never quite
relate to him. How could her little brother's father be so young? It
"How's it going?"
"Where's your mom? Evan said she was out- owwww!" Evan climbed him
like a tree, onto his shoulders.
"She had a business trip all of a sudden. We're paying for this cute
little car she bought on impulse." Janie never let Evan do the lying-
he wasn't good at it, and she wanted him to stay that way.
"Oh, yeah? Sheesh, I haven't seen her in like a year." He held onto
Evan's leg as he touched the ceiling, the overhead lamp, his father's
"Oh, I'm sure she's just dying to see you, and it's completely
accidental the way you keep missing each other." She let her eyes
roll, like kids at school did when they were yelled at.
"Yeah, well." He reached up and tickled Evan's armpits until he
"Come on. Dinner."
Derek dropped Evan into his chair, and Janie sat down.
"Looks good," said Derek, being polite.
"Evan, would you like to say the blessing?"
"Okay," before Janie could fold her hands, Evan grabbed hers and his
father's, so she was forced to take Derek's. "Rub a dub dub, thanks
for the grub, yay God." He opened his eyes and grinned at them.
"Did you teach him that?"
"Guilty." He grinned at Evan, who grinned back.
"Derek," she said, in a low voice "In this family we try to have a
little respect for the Almighty."
"I think He appreciates a little variety. Nobody was cursing Him, in
fact, I distinctly heard a 'yay' in there."
She rolled her eyes again, this time automatically. "Fine, whatever,"
she muttered, taking her napkin out of her lap and going to the sink to
refill her glass.
Derek stayed a few hours after dinner, playing Go Fish with Evan, who
persuaded her to join. "Pul-eeeeze, Janie, it's more fun with three."
At around nine-thirty, when Evan won the eighth game, Derek got up and
stretched. "Think it's time for me to get to a motel."
"Noo, don't go," said Evan, sounding so desperate something in Janie's
chest wrenched. "Janie, can't he stay in my room? There's two beds,
and it's a Friday. Oh, please?"
"Evan, I'm sure that Derek would much rather sleep in a motel than here.
Now tell him good-bye and then we'll get ready for bed, okay?"
"Dad, would you rather stay here, or go to a dumpy motel?"
He's practically begging, she thought. I was never like this with
either of my parents. Probably because my mom yelled at me for
wrinkling her clothes every time I tried to hug her and my dad was
always telling me to go do my homework while he was going out the door
to the bar.
"I'd rather stay here- with Janie's permission." He gave her a smile,
but Janie's facial muscles were frozen, and she couldn't return it.
"Sure, okay," she gathered the cards into a stack and tapped them on the
"Well, goodnight," he said, grinning at his father "You're coming up
"Soon," Derek promised.
"And you'll tuck me in, in a few minutes?" he asked Janie
No, stay up! Part of Janie cried out, but she just nodded, hugged him
and reminded him to floss. They watched him walk up the stairs.
"Weird how your mom's never here," Derek said as soon as they heard the
water in the bathroom running. He leaned back in his chair.
"Well, she has to work a lot. She got demoted, you know, when the
business changed hands. Besides, she has a social life." She fiddled
with the cards.
"What about you? Do you have a social life?"
"I'm not head cheerleader or anything, but I have friends." she
answered, relieved that the topic had changed from her mother.
Her indigo eyes snapped upward to meet his. "No. I don't really have
time for dates."
"Or makeup, either, from the look of that neck."
Her hands froze. Apparently Harrison was quite the Dirt Devil. If only
she had looked in the mirror for more than two seconds that morning!
"That . . . that was a mistake." She muttered. "Not that it's any of
your business." She rose and began doing the dishes.
"No, of course it's not," he said, and he said, and his voice was
softer, gentler. "Sorry." She felt his eyes on her, judging her.
"We'd better go tuck Evan in," she said "Or else he'll come back down
here to get us and get all wound up again." She put the dish towel she
had been using down.
"Right," he said and followed her up the stairs.
Evan was still awake, holding a Hardy Boys book, when they came in.
"Hey, Ev, didn't know you were into that 150-page stufff." Derek turned
Evan's desk chair around backwards and sat down on it.
"I like it. I want to know what happens. We read it every night." He
handed the blue book to Janie, and she sat down on the edge of his bed
and began reading, until the brothers encountered a dark figure coming
through the bushes. "And that's the end of the chapter," she said,
snapping the book shut.
"Oh, please, a little more?" he asked, a sleepy lilt in his voice.
"Nope. Gotta wait till tomorrow night." She tucked him in tighter.
"Gonna be warm enough?"
"Hey, where's Elvis the Bear?" She looked for Evan's usual bedmate for
a moment before realizing she'd said the wrong thing.
"I don't sleep with stuffed animals anymore, Janie," he snapped, looking
at Derek, his face red.
"Why not?" Derek asked "Elvis the Bear was an okay guy."
"Oh. Well, maybe he can come back. Just this once. He's under the
Janie retrieved the bear from where he had been shoved, gave him to
Evan, and kissed her brother's hair very quickly.
"Elvis too." She kissed the bear between his ears. "Night, Kiddo," she
said, getting up.
Derek kissed both the boy and the bear. "Night," he said "I'll be back
here in a few, so whatever you do, don't go to sleep."
"Not for anything. All I want you to think is, Not gonna go to sleep,
not gonna go to sleep, over and over. Got it?"
They walked out of the room and shut the door. "That's a good trick,"
Janie said as they walked down the hall.
"Yeah, well." She watched a lock of Derek's brown hair fall in front of
one of his eyes. "Look, Janie, there's something I wanted to talk to
"Yeah? What?" They walked into the kitchen. Janie started making
coffee. "Want a cup?"
"Sure." He leaned on the counter and watched her make the drink. "I
want you to tell me about your mom."
"What about her?" Janie tried to make her voice sound annoyed.
"Why she's never here. It's been almost a year since I've seen her,
Janie. I'd be stupid not to think something's up."
"Well, there is. She's embarrassed. She's avoiding you, that's all."
"She never picks up the phone when I call Evan. She's never here when I
stop in for like two minutes to pick him up for something. She's not
at any school plays or teacher's meetings, though sometimes you are. I
never even see any of her stuff lying around. Now tell me, Janie,
where is your mother?"
Janie pressed her fingers against her temples, trying not to remember.
But it did no good.
'Mom? I'm ho-ome.' Janie put her purse down. Perhaps her mother was
at yet another therapy session. But then what had she done with Evan?
Perhaps she had left him at a day-care center. Good. She still
worried about leaving Evan with her after the incident three years ago.
Janie sighed and decided to go wash the stage makeup from her face.
Being Emily in Our Town was harder than she had expected. It seemed
like she was at practice constantly.
She entered the bathroom and switched on the light. The first thing she
saw was a sink full of tan-colored vomit, the next was her mother's
pale, crumpled figure all over the floor, three empty, open bottles of
over-the-counter sleeping pills on the toilet seat.
She had told no one what really happened. Janie buried her in the back
garden, underneath some tulips and daffodils. She told Evan that his
mother had left them forever. Then she'd canceled all of her mother's
credit cards, learned her mother's signature, and withdrew everything
from her mother's bank account. Luckily her mother hadn't been able to
get another teaching job since Evan was born, so she didn't have to
worry about that. She got a job at a bookstore every Sunday, Monday,
Wednesday and Thursday, and Evan went with her and did his homework or
played his Game Boy in a back room.
It had been hard. She had lied so many times it was hard to keep it all
straight. But she had done it. She had saved Evan and herself from
going into foster homes.
"Well? Don't lie to me, not this time." His eyes locked with hers and
she didn't dare look away.
She swallowed, tried one last time. "Just what I told you."
"Dammit, Janie, tell me. I've never been this close to hitting a girl
in my life." His hand was, indeed raised and in the slapping position
and Janie flinched involuntarily. "He's my son, and I have a right to
know where his mother is."
"Right here!" she yelled, not caring if she woke Evan or not. "I've
been his mother all his life, not her, I hate her, oh gosh, I hate her
so much, and I've raised him with very little help from you, so don't
go giving me all this crap about your being his father. You never
changed his diapers, or fell down the stairs running to get the video
camera when he took his first step, or took him to the zoo, or
anything. It's a mere accident of genetics that you made him come into
"That's not fair and you know it. I was in college when all that
happened, trying to make something of myself so I'd be able to pay
child support. But that's not the issue. Stop stalling and tell me
where the heck she is. Did she leave?"
She looked at the floor until Derek grabbed her bare shoulders and shook
her. "Come on, don't stand there and think up lies, I want the truth."
The tears spilled over before she could stop them. "She's dead," she
spat out desperately. "She killed herself with three big bottles of
Nyquil. I found her and buried her, back there, and I've been lying my
butt off ever since making this work and I swear I'll kill you if you
even say the phrase 'foster care', I really will." A sob escaped and
she covered her mouth. "I won't go, and I won't let him go live with
you either, and let some nanny take care of him all day while you work.
I've kept us together for ten months- no, seven years, and I'll kill
you if you ruin it now!"
Derek's face registered shock. "Oh, my gosh. Janie, I- I had no idea,"
he said softly
She couldn't stop crying. Great, hiccuping sobs, the first cry she had
allowed herself to have in years, came from her mouth.
"Janie," he whispered, and the next thing she knew was the softness of
his T-shirt against her face. His arms went almost clumsily around
her, and he stroked her like she was a little girl. "I'm sorry," he
said "I should've known. I should've been there for you guys."
Janie was relieved to get it all out in the open, that she would be able
to stop the lies. But she knew deep inside that tomorrow everything
would change, probably for the worse.
Janie woke the next morning with a sense of dread. Derek knew
everything. He had the right to take Evan and have her put in foster
care until her eighteenth birthday.
She got up, showered and dressed quickly in a blue spaghetti strap shirt
and an old pair of jeans. She didn't particularly like spaghetti strap
shirts, but they didn't cost much and they were comfortable.
When she went downstairs, Derek was in the kitchen on the phone. He
waved to her. Evan was watching cartoons over a bowl of Crunchy
Derek put down the phone. "Hey," he said. His eyes traveled over her
wet hair making beads of water drop onto her shoulders for a moment.
"I just got off the phone with a moving company."
"What?" Janie asked. It was happening way too fast.
"There are two spare rooms in my house. One's Evan's whenever he stays
over, and you can have the other one."
"Yes, you. You didn't think I was going to let you stay here, did you?
You'd burn the place down without Evan to keep you straight. And any
foster family that got you'd resort to justifiable homicide within a
week. Really, I have no choice."
"You're in a good mood." She stood and went to the coffeemaker.
"Why not? I've wanted Evan to come live with me for years. You sure do
inhale that stuff."
"I don't see color until I have a cup. But- you're just going to take
us? Just like that?"
"He's my son, Janie. I have a right to. You don't have to come, if you
don't want to, but I couldn't think of anyone better to sit with him."
"So anyway, the moving truck's coming at three-"
"Three. We'll be ready before then though. As for the living room
furniture, and the pots and pans and stuff, we could put it in storage
or sell it." Some pieces of bread popped out of the toaster, and Derek
grabbed them and buttered them.
"Good girl. I'll call one of those second-hand places and have the
money to you as soon as possible."
"To me?" She poured herself some coffee.
"Oh. Okay." She tucked her hair behind her ears.
"I just had your records transferred to Roland High, by the way. I
didn't know you were a senior already."
She sighed. He had known she would come with him.
"I'm sorry if this is, you know, disrupting your life. I know you just
finished your first week of school as it is, but it's how it has to
"I know. It's okay. It's just sudden, that's all."
"Well, I'm really sorry. But I can't have my kid raised by a
"I know," she snapped, and she slammed her coffee mug down, spun on her
heel, and stalked out of the room.
The moving men had already arranged all of her bedroom furniture in her
new room when Janie got to Derek's house. She set her bag down
tiredly. It had been a long flight. She didn't know Derek had done it
every other weekend.
"Night," said Derek from the hallway. He was holding a sleeping Evan in
"Night," she said.
She snapped the light on so that she could see more than the dim shapes
of the furniture. The room was bigger than her old one, that was for
sure. It had a walk-in closet that lit up automatically when she
opened the door, a padded window seat, wall-to-wall carpeting, and long
white curtains made of something expensive. Nothing like Janie's old
room at all.
Her desk, a present from her father when she had turned eleven, didn't
look too bad, but her bed, which she had been sleeping in since she was
two and a half, was small and cheap-looking, the faded yellow spread
clashing with the curtains.
She was too tired to care. She pulled her little white nightgown from
her bag, brushed her teeth, and went to sleep.
"I want to pay you for the moving fees," were Janie's first words of the
morning as she adjusted the strap of her overalls so it went over the
spaghetti strap of her red shirt.
"Nope. Sorry," Derek said without looking up from the Sunday comics.
"Janie, no," he mimicked. "I rushed the stuff here. A silly
extravagance that cost a lot. It would break you. So forget it."
She sighed loudly, and he, of course, imitated her, throwing his head
back. "It isn't funny," she snapped.
"Not till I made it that way. Now, we have some business to discuss.
He rolled his eyes, stood up, and jerked her by the shoulders into a
seat, then sat down himself.
"Ow," she said softly, rubbing the red marks on her shoulders.
"Stop being a brat. Now, about your bed. The bed that was originally
in your room is now in my basement. It's a queen-size, and I thought
maybe you'd like to move it back up into your room. It's really nice."
"The room's big enough and everything, don't worry."
"I said no."
"Blast it, Janie, it won't kill you to accept a few favors," he glared
at her and she looked away. "Why should you sleep in that tiny little
thing when I have a huge bed right downstairs? You're being stupid."
"Fine. Whatever." She tossed her hair off her shoulders.
"Want a cup of coffee? So you can see the lovely colors of the quilt of
your new bed?"
She nodded and he fixed one for her. "Black, right?"
"Right." She accepted the cup and sipped it. She studied his face.
"So what do you for a living anyway?"
"Whatever my dad wants."
"Oh." One of those Vice-President-of-Good-ol'-Dad's-Company jobs.
"I had to work my way up, though."
"I'm sure." She said dryly, tracing the lip of her mug.
"Fine, be that way," he muttered, going back to the Comics.
Evan walked in, still dressed in his blue plaid pajamas, his hair matted
where he'd slept on it, rubbing his eyes.
"Morning, Ev," Derek said, putting down the paper.
"Hey, Dad." Evan plunked down beside Janie. "Did you buy Fruit Loops?"
Derek turned around, opened a cabinet, and tossed Evan a red box of
cereal. "Always," he said. Evan grinned and got a bowl and some
Janie couldn't help but blush. She could never afford to buy name brand
cereal. Evan hadn't even told her he liked Fruit Loops.
"Want to move your bed now, Janie?"
"Sure. Okay." Janie took a last sip of coffee and got up. She followed
Derek to the basement door.
"Darn," said Derek when the light switch produced nothing but a faint
click. "Gotta remember to change that bulb." They walked down the
dark stairs together.
Janie hadn't known it would happen. She hadn't even thought about it.
But it did.
One minute, she and Derek were walking down the basement stairs, the
door overhead closed. It began when she noticed how dark it was.
Then, suddenly, she couldn't breathe as fast as her lungs wanted her
to. Her legs were shaking.
"You slut! You sick whore! A little kid's better than me, huh?"
"Paul, no, please, it's Sunday dinner . . . this isn't our house . . .
please . . . no . . ."
She gripped the handrail.
"Should we go try and stop them?" asked Uncle Frank
"No," said Granny, nervously fidgeting with the napkin. "No, they'll
fight it out and forget about it. Let's just ignore them."
"We never should've gotten together this month," Aunt Madge muttered,
adjusting her glasses.
After that, Janie closed her eyes, so she only heard what happened next,
instead of seeing it.
She closed her eyes. Sweat was all over her forehead.
"What we shouldn't've done was ask them to go get those candles
together," said Uncle Frank.
"I wish you hadn't brought that wine, Frank-"
"I only wanted to celebrate-"
"Still, you know how Paul is."
"Well, they're quieting down now. If I know Paul, right now they're
smooching like this is a-"
"No! No! Please!" a voice from her grandmother's basement screamed.
More screaming. More and more.
Scrapes of all the chairs except Janie's, and the high chair.
"Janie! Janie, are you okay?"
Evan started to cry.
"Yes, yes, yes! You're beautiful when you're burning, darling!"
The sounds of rapid footsteps on the steps.
Aunt Madge screamed.
Janie screamed. Her knees gave way . . .
"Janie! What's wrong, honey?" arms were around her, and she felt like
she was drowning in sweat.
She opened her eyes. Aunt Madge and Granny were carrying her mother.
Her silk shirt, once lavender, was now a mass of brown and black. She
was still screaming, and she only had half her hair, and for some
reason, all Madge would say was "It'll grow back, it'll grow back,"
over and over until Janie wanted to scream too. Uncle Frank came up
next, his brother's arms in a lock. Daddy was still clutching the
three smoking periwinkle blue candles, laughing softly . . .
"Madge, put her in the shower. Mom, call 911 . . ."
Why had she gone under the table? Why was she under the table? But
Janie was under the table, curled up on the rug, and no one thought of
her until after the paramedics came.
"What?" she felt as if she were waking up from a dream. She and Derek
were crumpled in the middle of the steps, her head on his lower chest.
The basement door opened. "Janie, are you okay?" asked Evan
"You stopped walking and started to wobble, and you were like totally
spaced out. And you were panting like a dog. Then you screamed and
blacked out for a few secs. What's wrong?" he sat her up.
Janie shook her head. "I guess I sort of . . . had a panic attack.
The counselor warned me about it, a long time ago, but I didn't even
think about it . . ."
"Oh. Oh, I didn't think about that either. I'm sorry, hon- Janie. Me
and Evan can move the bed up, can't we Ev? It's a job for us big buff
"Yeah," Janie struggled to get up, but Derek pressed her down. "Let me
carry you up. You're still shaking." And then she was going up the
stairs, two at a time. Derek carried her to the living room and laid
her on the couch. Evan followed them. "Go get her some water, will
you, Ev?" he said, sitting on the coffee table near the couch. When
Evan left, he pushed the hair back from her face. "You okay?" he
"I was worried about you for a minute there. You were really . . . it
was like you weren't even there."
"I wasn't. It was that day all over again."
"How old were you again?"
"Almost twelve. Evan was about eight months."
"I'm really sorry, Janie." He sighed. "It's an awful thing for a kid
to have to remember."
"I'm not a kid."
He laughed softly as Evan came back with the water. "Well, I guess you
have me there."
Janie knew it was just her imagination that his gaze lingered on the
place between the straps of her overalls longer than it should've.
"Hi. I'm Nikki Morgan. You're new, right?" A girl with auburn hair
wearing a too-big leather jacket grinned at her.
"Yeah . . . I'm Janie." Janie tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.
"Doesn't it suck being new as a senior? And a week into the school
"Yeah, I guess."
The best thing about this school was that no one here knew about her.
Oh, her father's murder attempt would've reached their news stations,
but of course they wouldn't remember it. It had been seven years,
people had better things to think about. Like being normal.
"Let me see your schedule," the girl said.
Janie dug it out of her bag.
"Oh. Cool. You have math with me. And you have English with my
boyfriend Clay. He'll be the guy in the cast . . . motorcycle
accident. He's taking some college courses too, 'cause he's a year
older than me . . . he has dyslexia." Nikki rolled her green eyes.
"Sorry, I'm rambling on forever. I'll walk you to your homeroom."
"Okay," said Janie, and grabbed her books.
"So. How was school?"
"Okay," she rolled her eyes. What did he care?
"Sorry. I know I'm not your dad, or anything." Derek grabbed a bag of
chips and sat down at the table. "Wow, algebra II. Gotta love that."
"You know you act about eight?" She wrote a 12 on her paper
"You know you act about eighty?" He blew the red-and-green spices from
off of his chip onto her paper.
"Stop it Derek, you're not funny." She slammed her algebra book shut.
"Where's Evan?" He crunched on a chip.
"Up in his room. His face was all red when he came home and he said
something about hating being the new ki-"
Derek pushed back his chair and stood up, heading for the stairs.
"Gotcha," she said, almost allowing herself to smile.
He hit the back of her head playfully, and for a moment his fingers were
tangled in her hair. "Well, I'll go get him anyway. Guess what I
"What?" She looked over her Algebra notes boredly.
"The makings for bread. We're going to make it from scratch. Cool,
"You are joking." She looked up.
"I am not joking. Better go change into something you don't care about,
'cause I am a very messy baker."
She stuffed her things in her backpack and got up from the table. "I'll
just stay in my room."
Derek rolled his eyes. "Janie, I'm not going to let you be a recluse in
your own home. You might think that your responsibilities are over and
done with because we live here now, but you're way wrong. Evan needs
"First of all, this is not my home. Secondly, somehow I think my not
participating in making a complete mess of the kitchen won't scar him
for life." She put her backpack on and walked up the stairs.
"It'll scar you for life if you aren't back down here in about three
minutes," he yelled after her, just like a father.
Janie sat on her new bed and started to study her algebra. She soon
heard Evan and Derek laughing in the kitchen. Then she heard footsteps
on the stairs. Her door opened and there stood Derek.
"Hello," he said "In case you haven't noticed, it's been about seven
point five minutes, making you four point five minutes late." He came
closer to her bed and picked her up over his shoulder. Janie screamed.
"Derek, put me down!"
Evan, from the doorway, giggled.
She felt one of his hands on the bare skin between her jeans and her
"I'm sorry, Janie, but you had your chance-"
She heard Evan giggling in the hall, looking up at her. "Your hair's
flying up like my troll's, Janie," he said.
"Thanks a lot," she muttered as Derek carried her down the stairs. He
put her down in front of the kitchen counter, where a large mound of
dough was, surrounded by flour.
"Now. We're kneading the stuff now. You get to help, lucky girl that
you are." Derek grabbed a lacy apron and put it around his waist.
"This better not turn out like it did in I Love Lucy. Man, you look
like a transvestite in that thing." She washed her hands as Evan
grabbed a chair to stand on.
"Oh, Lucy, how many cakes of yeast did you use?" Derek asked in a
"13 cakes, Ethel." She answered, allowing herself to smile. Derek could
be fun when he wanted to be.
"But right here-" Derek's voice went so high it cracked "It says you're
only supposed to use three."
"Oh well, they're small, it won't matter." They grinned at each other
over Evan's head.
"Can I be Ricky?" asked Evan
Derek didn't look away from Janie's face, which had a streak of flour on
it where she had tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "He's uh, he's
not in that scene, Ev," he said absently. Janie looked back down at
They kneaded the huge thing for a few more minutes in silence. Then
Evan got tired of it. So he grabbed two fingers full of flour and
threw it at Janie.
"Ev-an!" She tried to brush the powder from where it had landed on her
shirt, but it was no use.
Derek laughed, and Janie rolled her eyes. "Stop encouraging him," she
"I'm supposed to encourage him. Don't you watch Oprah? In fact, I
think I'll encourage him some more." He threw some flour at Evan.
"That's it," she said, and threw some at Derek.
What resulted was an all-out flour shower, with Evan and Janie against
Derek. They all threw it in fistfulls, like snow, but Derek was usually
too quick to hit, until he slipped and fell on his back.
"Hey, are you okay?" asked Janie, kneeling by him.
"Oh, I'm fine."
"Great! Evan, get the rest of the sack!" Derek tried to get up, but
Janie, laughing, got on top of him to hold him down. "Hurry, Evan . .
. " Derek was staring at her, with a strange look in his brown eyes.
She stopped laughing. His gaze did not falter even when Evan dumped the
rest of the flour on his head.
"You look like a snowman, Dad," Evan said between peals of laughter.
"Yeah, I guess I do, don't I, Janie?"
She got off of him, and he reached out a hand for her to help him up.
"Yeah," she said as he rose to stand in front of her.
Derek began shaking his flour-filled hair, like a dog, and powder rained
down both of them. "That was fun," he said, his eyes resting on
Janie had no idea what had happened. She was supposed to hate Derek.
In fact, she still did. Sort of.
She didn't want to want a relationship with him. But her heart was
making its own decisions. She found herself spending five minutes
pondering the golden flecks in his eyes, his broad shoulders, the
perfect curve of his bottom lip.
Why was this happening to her? She studied the ceiling of her room as
she lay in her bed that Friday night. For all of his joking, there was
an intensity to Derek, a darker side. And she had known another man
No. Derek wasn't like her father, not at all. He couldn't be.
She had read something, somewhere- what was it? What a girl sees in her
father, she seeks in a lover. Was that true? Was that what this was
She hoped not. She desperately hoped not.
Janie woke the next morning with a senseless lightheartedness. She
hopped out of bed, though it was only a little past eight, grabbed her
jeans and a t-shirt, and took a long, refreshing shower, shaving her
legs and washing every part of her body.
When she got out, she felt clean and smooth. Her hair hung in a
thousand strands and dripped on her shoulders as she wrapped a white
towel around herself.
Suddenly the door opened, and Derek stood there, looking shocked.
Janie expected him to close the door, yell "I'm really sorry" or
something to her, and feel embarrassed and guilty about it. And after
that she'd always remember to lock the bathroom door.
But it wasn't like that at all.
Derek stood for about two seconds, staring at her almost bone-thin body
clad only in a towel, then, without warning, he stepped into the room
and closed the door behind him.