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Authors: Robin Jones Gunn

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BOOK: Departures
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“That’s right,” Dad agreed, but that’s all he said.

They were only a few blocks inside the city limits when Christy saw the flagpoles and then the front of George Washington Elementary School.

“That’s my old school!” David announced.

“Mine too,” Christy said softly. So many memories collided at once. First days of school and Mom taking Christy’s picture every year in her back-to-school clothes. Fire drills with the students lined up on
the grass. The harvest festivals with the school transformed into a wondrous carnival of clowns, ringtoss booths, and cakewalks. She even remembered the cafeteria’s aroma on pizza day and the table where she and Paula met every day for lunch.

And Christy remembered her first crush. Her heart skipped a happy beat when she silently mouthed his name: Matthew Kingsley. From third grade all the way through junior high, Christy was hopelessly gone over Matthew Kingsley.

George Washington Elementary School and Matthew Kingsley. What a rush of childhood memories were connected with those two names.

Ever since her family had moved to California, the Kingsleys had sent a family photo with their Christmas card. Every year Christy looked closely at Matthew in the photo. He was a high school graduate now, just like Christy. And he still lived in Brightwater.

Before they drove another block, Christy had to ask, “Mom, do you think we’ll see any of our old friends while we’re here?”

“Yes. Who did you have in mind?”

“Oh, no one in particular.” Christy couldn’t bring herself to ask about Matthew Kingsley. The last thing she needed was to arm her brother with ammunition he could use all weekend to tease her. The Todd un-look-alike incident was bad enough.

No, if Christy was going to see Matthew Kingsley this weekend, it would just have to be a nice surprise. Or as Katie always said, “a God thing.” And what was it that Katie had said about mystery, romance, and adventure finding Christy when she least expected it?

Christy leaned back and smiled. She was ready for anything.


ad pulled into Christy’s grandparents’ driveway. After climbing out of the car and looping her backpack over her shoulder, Christy stood for a moment, drinking in the sight of her grandparents’ two-story house. It was yellow. It had always been yellow. Yellow with white trim. The second story had two dormer windows that Christy had always imagined were the house’s eyes. Those two upstairs bedrooms had belonged to Christy’s mom and aunt Marti while they were growing up. Mom’s room had been the one on the left.

Grandma’s bright red geranium bushes were in full bloom along the front of the house. A handmade wooden birdhouse hung from the apple tree, which spread its welcoming shade over the right side of the small front yard. A modest porch fronted the house. Christy had eaten many a summer meal with her grandparents on the enclosed porch, which her grandpa always boasted was the “coolest and most bug-free spot in the house on a summer’s eve’n.”

Grandpa had worked at the hardware store in town for more than forty years, which was a good thing because his hobby was fixing things. Or, more accurately, improving things. Christy noticed the strips of safety tape on the three steps that led up to the front porch, obviously one of Grandpa’s touches intended to prevent falls.

As Christy watched, her mom rang the front doorbell. Christy thought that was kind of strange. When her family had lived nearby, they used to just knock and walk right in.
Will I ring the doorbell when I come home to visit my parents in the future?

Grandma, wearing a flowered apron over her skirt and white blouse, flung open the door. She spoke in a voice made high with delight when she saw them. Welcoming them inside with hugs and kisses, she tried to take one of the suitcases from Christy’s dad.

Christy drew in a deep breath. What was that familiar scent? Grandma’s house always smelled the same. It wasn’t a sweet smell like cinnamon, and it wasn’t yucky like mothballs. It smelled old. Like a cedar chest filled with old books and yellowing papers. The smell comforted Christy. Even if she had changed, Grandma’s house hadn’t changed a bit.

“Look at you two kids!” Grandma kissed Christy soundly on the cheek. “You’ve grown so much!”

Christy was amazed by how much her mom and grandma looked alike. She hadn’t noticed the resemblance so clearly before. They were both short, with round faces and wavy hair. Grandma’s hair was all white now, whereas Christy’s mom’s hair was turning gray around her face. Christy was taller than both of them were.

Grandpa appeared in the entryway with a socket wrench in his hand. Christy had to smile. Seeing Grandpa as “Mr. Fix-It” was a common sight.

“Well, come here, now,” he said. “Let me have a look-see at you two.” His quick, dark eyes resembled Aunt Marti’s as he gave Christy and David a visual examination. As always, his evaluation was positive, with one suggestion for improvement. That was also a trait Aunt
Marti seemed to have inherited from him—an eye for ways others could improve.

“Yes, sirree, you two are turning out just dandy. Of course, David, you might want to get a haircut before the reception tomorrow. And you won’t be wearing shorts, now, will you, Christina?”

“No, Grandpa,” Christy said warmly, “I brought a dress for tomorrow.”

“Good, good.” Grandpa motioned with his socket wrench for them to follow him into the kitchen. He never had been an especially affectionate man, so Christy wasn’t surprised he didn’t greet them with hugs and kisses the way Grandma had. She knew he was happy to see them, even though he acted as if he saw them every day.

Grandma suggested they leave the luggage in the living room.

Christy liked the kitchen best of all the house’s rooms. It hadn’t changed since Christy was a child. The kitchen table, covered with a red-checkered cloth, took up most of the space in the center of the room. Its chairs were silver chrome with vinyl cushioned seats. As a matter of fact, the ’50s table was so old it was back in style. Christy had nibbled many a homemade cookie at that table. Dozens of her grade-school works of art had covered the front of the white refrigerator. She knew where the glasses were in the cupboard and where the “secret” jar of M&M’s was kept in the pantry. But when Christy saw the chicken and rooster salt and pepper shakers on the stovetop, she knew for sure she was at Grandma’s house.

“What do you think?” Grandpa asked, looking at Dad and pointing to a new faucet on the kitchen sink. “The old one leaked like a bucket with a hole in it.”

“Looks nice,” Mom said.

The others nodded in agreement as Grandpa stood there, eyebrows raised, challenging one of them to try his new faucet. From experience, Christy had learned not to be the first one to try anything Grandpa had just “fixed.”

“Go ahead,” Grandpa said, his eyes still on Christy’s dad.

Dad stepped forward and lifted the faucet’s handle. The water came out effortlessly.

“Cold is to the right,” Grandpa instructed. “Hot, of course, is to your left.”

Dad obliged, turning the handle first to the right and then to the left before pushing it down to turn off the flow.

“How about that?” Grandpa said, pleased with his handiwork.

Christy praised him and thought to herself,
I guess when you’re seventy-three, you deserve to receive a little praise

The group gravitated to the kitchen table, as it always did, and Grandma offered lemonade and cookies. It wasn’t very hot for a summer afternoon so they stayed in the kitchen. Otherwise, Christy was sure they would have been shooed out to the front porch.

David slurped his lemonade and gobbled up three cookies before he excused himself to go out in the backyard. The rest of them sat for an hour or so, chatting about relatives and neighbors.

“Oh, that reminds me,” Grandma said. “The Kingsley boy called here this morning and wanted to know when you would be coming.”

Christy felt her face turn warm. “Matthew?”

“Yes,” Grandma said.

“I called Jane last week,” Mom explained. “She said Matthew would definitely want to see you when we came.”

“She did? I mean, he does?” Christy felt funny with her parents
and grandparents watching her every expression. “What did you tell him, Grandma?”

“I told him to call back this evening.” Grandma sounded pleased with herself, as if she had done Christy a favor. For all Christy knew, maybe she had.

After the conversation switched to the new warehouse hardware store that had gone in ten miles up the road and had taken all the business away from the Brightwater Hardware Store, Christy excused herself and wandered out to the front porch. A refreshing late-afternoon breeze wafted in from the right side of the porch, welcoming Christy to sit in the padded chaise lounge and enjoy the coolness. It was a good place to contemplate what would happen when Matthew Kingsley called.

He had never shown much interest in Christy, or in any girl, for that matter. Matthew’s first love was sports, especially baseball and soccer. In second grade he brought his sports equipment to class every time it was his turn for show and tell. Once he gave Andrew Preston a black eye when Matthew tried to throw Andrew out at third base during recess. Everyone felt sorry for Andrew except Christy. She saw how apologetic Matthew was and how his eyes teared up. That’s when Christy decided she was in puppy love with Matthew Kingsley.

Unfortunately, Matthew had apparently never experienced such a deciding moment with Christy. He always acted as if she was just one of the girls. And not a very interesting one because Christy wasn’t athletically inclined. Jennifer Morrisey was the sports queen, and all the guys chose Jennifer to be on their team. Christy was never the first pick for any sporting event.

So why in the world would Matthew Kingsley have called her
grandmother and asked about Christy? Before she could come up with possible reasons, she heard a car pull into the driveway. Leaning forward, Christy saw a white pickup truck stop behind their rental car. She knew her wealthy uncle Bob and aunt Marti wouldn’t be arriving in a pickup truck. Besides, they were staying at a motel in town.

Stretching her neck to see through the screen door’s mesh, Christy caught sight of the visitor making his way toward her with long strides. What she saw made her hold her breath.


atthew Kingsley,” Christy whispered. The timid side of her personality urged her to jump up and run into the house to hide. Another part of her felt flattered that Matthew had come to see her.

BOOK: Departures
4.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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