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Authors: Elizabeth Bass

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BOOK: Wherever Grace Is Needed
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“He wants me to pay him,” Lou continued. “Two dollars per walk!”
“That’s just twenty-eight dollars a week,” Steven said. “A service would charge you nearly that much
per day.

“But a service wouldn’t be coming from right next door. It’s not as if he’s paying for insurance, or transportation. He’s not bonded. He’s not paying into Social Security.”
“Dad,” Steven said in exasperation. “You’re going to have to accept a little help sometime. Grace can’t stay forever.”
“Who said I wanted her to?” he asked, his tone growing spiky. “She can leave whenever she wants. I’ve been taking care of myself quite well without anyone’s help!”
“You got run over by a car,” Steven pointed out.
“An accident! Haven’t you ever had an accident?”
“Dad—”
“What have the two of you been doing in here—conspiring?” Lou laughed, not even noticing their guilty expressions. “Meanwhile, I was wheeler-dealering. And managing just fine, I might add. I told that boy I’d pay him thirty-five dollars per week and not a penny more.”
He jutted his chin and continued to glower at them for a moment. Then, he turned and thumped back out to the living room.
Grace and Steven slumped in their chairs, frowning in confusion. So while grumbling about Dominic’s demands, Lou had actually offered Dominic more than the kid had asked for.
Maybe his math skills were just faltering.
Grace wondered if there was really a situation at all, or if she was just blowing things out of proportion. “Lots of people make lists,” she said, trying to reconsider.
“And forget things,” Steven agreed.
“It’s probably all . . .” She searched for the right words.
“Much ado about nothing,” he finished for her.
“Exactly.”
They both sat in silence for a moment.
“I’ll talk to him,” he said, getting up. “And I’ll call Dr. Allen and see if we can get him in for a checkup ASAP.”
She stood and smiled at him gratefully. “Thank you!” He endured another of her hugs. “I’m sorry about everything, Steven. About you and Denise, I mean.”
“Don’t be.” He sniffed, and then squared his shoulders. “It’s losing my practice that’s the blow.” But his effort to keep a stiff upper lip was defeated by a sad sigh. “I really loved our imaging equipment.”
9
I
F
I H
AD
A
NYWHERE
E
LSE TO
G
O
, I’
D
B
E
T
HERE
A
LREADY
A
fter a morning of sitting in her bare room, Jordan was so bored she resorted to going downstairs. She went to the kitchen, foraged until she found the only thing to eat with sugar in it, then breezed into the living room. Unfortunately, Lily was in the comfy chair with the ottoman, reading some book that was thick enough to be an encyclopedia.
On closer inspection, it
was
an encyclopedia, from their dad’s old set.
Jordan let out a sigh and flopped into the chair opposite, sitting in it sideways so that her knees crooked around the armrest.
Lily glanced up briefly, scrunched her lips, and went back to reading.
“Good book?” Jordan asked her.
Except for a nearly imperceptible shrug, Lily ignored her.
“I know
M
was always
my
favorite,” Jordan said. “So much more absorbing than
F-G,
or” she snorted—“
C!
That one is
such
a bore.”
“Ha. Ha.”
Jordan exhaled on a long slow breath. “You know, you could probably look up anything in there on your computer. Then you wouldn’t have to lug a ginormous book around.”
“I
like
lugging books around.” Lily peered at her through her glasses. “Are you eating cake icing?” She squinted at the tub in Jordan’s hands. Her face pinched in disgust. “You are!”
“It was the only thing I could find with chocolate in it.” As Lily’s face froze in a scrunch, Jordan said, “I’ve seen you eat cake icing.”
“On
cakes
. Not spooning it out like it was ice cream! That’s revolting.”
Jordan scooped up an extra large dollop and stuffed it in her mouth. It
was
sort of revolting. “I’d go to the store to get a Kit-Kat or something, but I’m broke.”
“What about all the money you made selling everything?”
“It’s . . . in a place where I can’t touch it.”
Her sister looked at her mistrustfully. Jordan foresaw a significant portion of Lily’s life today being spent trying to figure out where all the money had gone.
Lily went back to reading. Or seemed to. A few seconds later, she asked, “Didn’t Dad send you money while you were at Granny Kate and Pop Pop’s? I thought he said he gave you enough for the whole summer.”
Lily was a repository for details like that. She could tell you how much people got for their allowance at what age, and what Aunt Jeannie had sent you for your eighth birthday, and what grade you’d gotten in Social Studies when you were eleven, even if you hadn’t shown her your report card, which of course you would never do in a million years. Lily knew. She was a ferret in Keds.
“I spent that money,” Jordan confessed.
Her sister’s jaw dropped. “How could you spend a summer’s worth of money in one month?”
“I got my hair done. And I bought some stuff.”
“What kind of stuff?”
“None of your business.”
Lily’s eyes narrowed and she turned back to her encyclopedia, but Jordan could tell she wasn’t really reading by the way her right foot was jangling. “I bet it had something to do with why Granny Kate and Pop Pop kicked you out,” Lily said.
“You don’t know anything, so shut up.”
The front door opened and slammed shut and Dominic came in. His face registered surprise to see the two of them sitting together in the same room.
“Where were you?” Jordan asked him.
“Next door,” Lily and Dominic answered, in unison.
“With the woman who bought my picture?” Jordan asked him.
“Egbert wasn’t
your
picture,” Lily said, as if she were actually supposed to be part of this conversation, which she wasn’t. “You gave the picture to Nina, remember?”
“Yeah, I
do
remember that.”
Lily glared at her. “Sometimes I wonder. She doesn’t exist here anymore, thanks to you.”
Jordan froze. “What do you mean by that?”
“You
sold all
her stuff!”
Jordan leapt up. “That’s not what you meant by
thanks to me,
though, was it?”
Lily stared back up at her, her lips turned down at the corners in that really irritating way she had. The girl was a natural-born hemorrhoid. Jordan considered wringing her skinny little neck, but the last thing she needed now was to get into more trouble.
She spun around and practically dove onto the couch. “I never should have come back here,” she moaned, only slightly comforted when Dominic sat down next to her.
“As if you had any choice,” Lily scoffed. “The only reason you’re here is because Granny Kate and Pop Pop wouldn’t have you. Now
we’re
stuck with you.”
“Believe me, if I had anywhere else to go, I’d be there by now.”
“What did you do?” Lily asked.
“I’m not going to tell you, so quit asking.”
“I know,” Dominic piped up. “You painted a room.”
Jordan lifted her head. “Who told you that?”
Dominic shrugged. “Dad.” He squinted at her. “It’s true, isn’t it?”
She nodded.
Lily’s eyes were like two full moons. “
What?
They sent you back here for painting a room? That’s insane!”
“Tell me about it,” Jordan muttered.
“There
had
to be more to it than that,” Lily insisted.
“She painted the spare bedroom at Granny Kate and Pop Pop’s without permission. And she wrote
‘happy little tree’
on a wall.” Dominic looked to Jordan for confirmation. “That was it, wasn’t it?”
Jordan nodded again.
“ ‘
Happy little tree?’ ”
Lily repeated. “What does that mean?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Would I?” Dominic asked.
Jordan smiled and nudged him with her knee. “Maybe.”
Lily looked like she was about to explode. “There
had
to be something else. Granny Kate wouldn’t kick you out of her house just for writing
‘happy little tree’
on a wall.”
“Sorry to burst your Granny bubble, Lils, but that’s the way it went down.”
“You’re a liar.”
Dominic shook his head. “Dad said. He told me Granny Kate said she had painted the room black and painted
‘happy little tree’
on a wall.”
“Black!” The word brought Lily out of her chair. Her forehead wrinkled. “Why black?”
“Granny Kate told Dad it was on account of she had been listening to satanic music,” Dominic said.
Jordan squinted at him. “Dad didn’t tell you
that.

He ducked his head. “Well . . . I kinda sorta listened in on the phone when Dad was talking to Pop Pop. The night you came home.”
“That’s eavesdropping!” Lily exclaimed.
Dominic answered, “I’ve seen you do it.”
Lily didn’t deny it.
“Anyway,” Jordan said, “the music was not satanic. It was the Rolling Stones. They have a song called ‘Paint It, Black.’ ”
Lily stood in the middle of the room, mouth agape. “You painted a room black because a song told you to?” She tossed her head back and let out a sharp laugh. “Only an idiot would hear a song and then do what it said! It was probably like a metaphor or something!”
Dominic frowned at Jordan. “What’s a metaphor?”
“What are you asking
her
for?” Lily asked. “She made a C-minus in sophomore English.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jordan told him. “Nobody cares about stuff like that except people like Lily. And people like Lily think they’re way too good for you and me.”
“You don’t know anything about me,” Lily said. “You don’t know anything about anybody, because all you care about is yourself!”
“Whatever,” Jordan grumbled, knowing that if there was anything that drove Lily insane, it was being dismissed with a
whatever.
Sure enough, she was practically quivering.
Jordan smirked at her. “You might want to go get a glass of water or something, Lils. Your face is all splotchy red. It looks like your zits are having a rave.”
Dominic laughed.
Lily glared at him now, too. “I can’t believe you would take her side.”
“What did I do?” he asked.
“Dominickel always takes my side.” Jordan pulled Dominic to her, tickling him so that he laughed even harder. After another moment of stewing, Lily stomped out of the room and Jordan released Dominic. “Well, that got rid of her.”
Dominic leaned back on the couch, frowning. She was afraid he was going to ask more pesky questions about what had happened in Little Salty, but instead he asked, “Can I have some icing?”
“I only have one spoon,” she said, handing it over.
“That’s okay, I’ll use my finger.” He dipped a stubby forefinger in and scooped it out. Then he leaned back and sucked on his finger.
“So, to get back to what we were talking about before Little Miss Mensa interrupted us . . .” Jordan arched a brow. “Where were you?”
He pulled a slimy finger out of his mouth. “I already said. Next door. I got a job.”
“No way! Doing what?”
“Walking Professor Oliver’s dog.”
She gave him a congratulatory shove. “You enterprising little bastard! How much are they going to pay you?”
“Thirty-five dollars a week!”
“Oh.” That didn’t seem like much. But then, walking a dog wasn’t exactly strenuous work. “Wow.”
“I know,” Dominic said excitedly, “I was kinda shocked by how much he offered me.”
As long as he felt good about it, she supposed that was what mattered most. Anyway, it was more than she was bringing in. She should have stayed home this summer and gotten a job. Now summer was halfway over and it seemed too late. “You’ll be rich and you’ll be able to loan me money.”
“You’ve got money—you sold all that stuff.”
“The money’s already gone.”
“How could you have spent it all? You haven’t been out of the house!”
“Yes, I have.” The day before she’d walked to the post office, bought a money order, and sent it off to Granny Kate and Pop Pop. The idea of letting all that money out of her grasp still stung, but it was done now. They couldn’t fault her for leaving them in the lurch financially, at least.
“Lily said you made over four hundred dollars,” Dominic said. “How could you have spent it all so fast?”
“I owed someone.”
“Four hundred dollars?” he squeaked.
She sighed. “Probably more than that.”
Dominic shook his head and dipped his slobbery-looking finger into the icing again.
Jordan’s stomach flipped. “Take the rest,” she offered. “I’m definitely not going to eat any more of that stuff. It’s nauseating.”
At least, it was now.
“It’d be better if there were some saltines,” Dominic said, digging in. “I did that with the other tub we had, but it was strawberry. This is better. Where did you find it?”
“It was crammed behind some old canned asparagus.”
“No wonder I didn’t see it.”
Asparagus was Dominic repellent.
“Why isn’t there any food in the house?” she asked. “Any decent food, I mean. Where’s the Cap’n Crunch? Whatever happened to Chips Ahoy?”
“Dad does the shopping once a week, and he hardly ever gets stuff like that. Most of the time we just have sandwiches and soup, or frozen pizzas and salad, or if he’s late we just go to Taco Cabana. And the only cereal he buys is Shredded Wheat or bran flakes. I have to spend all my allowance money just on candy bars. Otherwise I’d die of malnutrition.”
She nudged his thigh with her foot. “Now that you’re the big breadwinner among us, you’ll be able to keep us all in candy bars.”
Dominic ducked his head modestly and scooped another blob of icing into his mouth. “I’m really psyched about my job. And Professor Oliver said he’d teach me to play chess, too.”
“Why?”
“For fun.”
“Sitting around with an old geezer doesn’t sound like fun to me, but whatever.”
“I just worry that he’ll think I’m stupid. Maybe he’ll fire me.”
“Not likely! You’re just walking his dog—you’re not trying to teach it calculus.”
His forehead was still pillowed with wrinkles.
BOOK: Wherever Grace Is Needed
9.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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