Read Moonlight in the Morning Online

Authors: Jude Deveraux

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General

Moonlight in the Morning (33 page)

BOOK: Moonlight in the Morning
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“How’d I do?” he asked Kim after his fastest slide down the dirt hill. He didn’t look like the same boy she’d first seen. His shirt was torn at the shoulder and he was filthy from head to toe. There was a bruise forming on his cheek where he’d nearly crashed into a tree, but he’d pulled to the left and only grazed it. Even his teeth were dirty.

Before Kim c">B crashed ould answer, he looked over her head and stiffened into the boy she’d first seen. “Mother,” he said.

Kim turned to see a small woman standing there. She was pretty in a motherly sort of way, but whereas Travis had pink in his cheeks, she had none. She was a washed out, older, female version of him.

Without saying a word, she walked to stand between the two children and looked her son up and down.

Kim held her breath. If the woman told Kim’s mom that she’d made Travis dirty, Kim would be punished.

“You taught him to ride a bike?” Mrs. Merritt asked her.

Travis stepped in front of Kim, as though to protect her. “Mother, she’s just a little girl. I taught myself to ride. I’ll go and wash.” He took a step toward the house.

“No!” Mrs. Merritt said and he looked back at her. She went to him and put her arms around him. “I’ve never seen you look better.” She kissed his cheek then smiled as she wiped dirt off her lips. She turned to Kim. “You, young lady . . .” she began, but stopped. Bending, she hugged Kim. “You are a truly marvelous child. Thank you!”

Kim looked up at the woman in wonder.

“You kids go back to playing. How about if I bring a picnic lunch out here for you two? Do you like chocolate cake?”

“Yes,” Kim said.

Mrs. Merritt took two steps toward the house before Kim called out. “He needs his own bike.”

Mrs. Merritt looked back and Kim swallowed. She’d never before given an adult an order. “He . . .” Kim said more quietly. “My bike is too small for him. His feet drag.”

“What else does he need?” Mrs. Merritt asked.

“A baseball and bat,” Travis said.

“And a pogo stick,” Kim added. “And a—” She broke off because Mrs. Merritt held up her hand.

“I have limited resources but I’ll see what I can do.” She went back to the house and a few minutes later she brought out sandwiches and lemonade. In the afternoon she returned with two big slices of freshly baked chocolate cake. By that time Travis had learned to do wheelies and she watched him with a mixture of awe and terror. “Who would have thought that you’re a natural athlete, Travis?” she said in wonder, then went back in the house.

In the early evening, Kim’s uncle Benjamin, her cousin Ramsey’s father, pulled up in his SUV and called out, “Ho, ho, ho. Who ordered Christmas in July?”

“We did!” Kim yelled, and Travis followed her as she ran to her uncle’s big SUV.

Uncle Ben wheeled a shiny, blue bicycle out of the back. “I was told to give this to the dirtiest boy in Edilean.” He looked at Travis. “I think that means you.”

Travis grinned. He still had dirt on his teeth and his hair was caked with it. “Is that for me?”

“ItR>cause M17;s from your mother,” Uncle Ben said and nodded toward the front door.

Mrs. Merritt was standing on the step and Kim wasn’t sure but she looked like she was crying. But that made no sense. A bicycle made a person laugh, not cry.

Travis ran to his mother and threw his arms around her waist.

Kim stared at him in astonishment. No twelve-year-old boy she knew would ever do something like that. It wasn’t cool to hug your mother in front of other people.

“Nice kid,” Uncle Ben said and Kim turned back to him. “Don’t tell your mom but I went over to your house and did a little cleaning. Any of this look familiar?” He pulled a box from the back of the car and tipped it down so Kim could see inside. Five of her favorite books were in it, her second best doll, an unopened kit for making jewelry, and at the bottom was her jump rope.

“Sorry, no pogo stick, but I got one of Rams’s old bats and some balls.”

“Oh, thank you, Uncle Ben!” she said, and followed Travis’s example and hugged him.

“If I’d known I was going to get this, I would have bought you a pony.”

Kim’s eyes widened into saucers.

“Don’t tell your mom I said that or she’ll skin me.”

Travis had left his mother and was looking at his new bike in silence.

“Think you can ride it?” Uncle Ben asked. “Or can you only handle a little girl’s bike?”

“Benjamin!” Kim’s mother said as she came out to see what was going on. Mr. Bertrand stayed inside. He rarely left the house. “Too lazy to turn a door knob,” Kim’s father once said.

Travis gave Kim’s uncle a very serious look, then took the bike from him and set off at breakneck speed around the house. When they heard the unmistakable sound of a crash, Uncle Ben put his hand on Mrs. Merritt’s arm to keep her from running to the boy.

They heard what sounded like another crash on the other side of the house, and at last Travis came back to them. He was dirtier, his shirt was torn more, and there was a streak of blood across his upper lip.

“Any problems?” Uncle Ben asked.

“None whatever,” Travis said, looking the man straight in the eyes.

“That’s my boy!” he said as he slapped Travis hard on the shoulder. He closed the hatch of the SUV. “I’ve got to get back to work.”

“What work do you do?” Travis asked in an adult-sounding voice.

“I’m a lawyer.”

“Is it a good trade?”

Uncle Ben’s eyes danced with merriment but he didn’t laugh. “It pays the bills, and it has some good points and bad. You thinking of trying the legal profession?”

“I rather admire Thomas Jefferson.”

t=" of tryi

“You’ve come to the right place for him,” Uncle Ben said, grinning as he opened the car door. “Tell you what, Travis ol’ man, you get out of law school, come see me.”

“I will, sir, and thank you,” Travis said. He sounded very adult, but the dirt on him, the twigs, and the bruises, made what he was saying funny.

But Uncle Ben didn’t laugh. He looked at Mrs. Merritt. “Good kid. Congratulations.”

Mrs. Merritt put her arm around her son’s shoulders, but he twisted away from her. He didn’t seem to want Uncle Ben to see him so attached to a woman.

They all watched Uncle Ben leave, and Kim’s mom said, “You kids go play. We’ll call you in time for dinner and afterward you can catch fireflies.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Merritt said. “Go play.” She looked as though she’d been waiting for years to say that to her son. “Mr. Bertrand is going to teach me how to sew.”

“Lucy,” Kim’s mom said, “I think I should tell you that Bertrand is using you for free labor. He wants his curtains repaired and—”

“I know,” Lucy Merritt said, “but it’s all right. I want to learn to do something creative and sewing is as good as anything else. You don’t think he’d sell me his machine, do you?”

“I think he’d sell you his feet, since he rarely uses them.”

Lucy laughed.

“Come on,” Kim’s mom said, “and I’ll show you how to thread the machine.”

For two weeks, Kim lived in her idea of heaven. She and Travis were together from early until late.

He took to having fun as though he’d been born to it—which Kim’s mom said he should have been.

While they played outside, the two women and Mr. Bertrand talked and sewed inside. Lucy Merritt used the old Bernina sewing machine to repair every curtain in the house.

“So he can get a better price when he sells them,” Kim’s mom muttered.

Lucy bought fabric and made new curtains for the bathrooms and the kitchen.

“You’re paying him rent,” Kim’s mother said. “You shouldn’t be paying for them, too.”

“It’s all right. It’s not as though I can save the money. Randall will take whatever I don’t spend.”

Mrs. Aldredge knew that Randall was Lucy’s husband, but she didn’t know any more than that. “I want to know what that means,” she said, but Lucy said she’d told her too much already.

At night the children reluctantly went to their respective apartments. Their mothers got them washed and fed and into bed. The next morning they were outside again. No matter how early Kim got up, Travis was always waiting for her at the back of the house.

One night Travis said, “I’ll come back.”

Kim didn’t know what he meant.

“After I leave, I’ll return.”

She didn’t reply to that because she didn’t want to imagine him being gone. They climbed trees together, dug in the mud, rode their bikes; she tossed the ball and Travis hit it across the garden. When Kim brought her second best doll out, she was nervous. Boys didn’t like dolls. But Travis said he’d build a house for it and he did. It was made of leaves and sticks and inside was a bed that Kim covered with moss. While Travis made a roof to the house, she used her jewelry kit to make two necklaces with plastic beads. Travis smiled when she slipped one over his head, and he was wearing it the next morning.

When it got too hot to move, they stretched out on the cool ground in the shade and took turns reading
and the other books aloud to each other. Kim wasn’t nearly as good a reader as he was, but he never complained. When she was stumped on a word, he helped her. He’d told her he was a good listener, and he was.

She knew that at twelve he was a lot older than she was, but he didn’t seem to be. When it came to schooling, he was like an adult. He told her the entire life cycle for a tadpole and all about cocoons. He explained why the moon was different shapes and what caused winter and summer.

But for all his knowledge, he’d never skimmed a rock across a pond. Never climbed a tree before he came to Edilean. He’d never even skinned his elbow.

So they taught each other. Though he was twelve and she only eight, there were times when she was his teacher—and she liked that.

Everything ended exactly two weeks after it began. As usual, as soon as it was light, sleepy-eyed, Kim ran out the back door, past the back of the big old house, to the wing where Travis and his mom were staying.

But that morning, when Travis wasn’t already outside and waiting for her, she knew something was wrong. She started pounding on the door and yelling his name; she didn’t care if she woke the whole house.

Her mother, in robe and slippers, came running out. “Kimberly! What are you shouting about?”

“Where is Travis?” she demanded as she fought back tears.

“Will you calm down? They probably just overslept.”

“No! Something is wrong.”

Her mother hesitated, then tried the knob. The door opened. There was no one inside, and no sign that anyone had been there.

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BOOK: Moonlight in the Morning
4.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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