Jane reveals some secrets about Claire’s life, explaining her nasty behavior and hatred of Maddie. It doesn’t make it right, but it does make it understandable. When he finds out about Claire’s father, Craig is furious and declares that he will do something about it.
The others watched Craig’s departure in silence.
Maddie walked over to Jane, hugging her. “Thank you for telling me,” she said.
“She’s probably never going to like you much,” Jane warned.
Maddie shrugged. “I don’t care. But at least now I know why she’s such a bitch and I can deal with it.”
“Does she have to know that I told everyone?”
“Yes,” Caroline said firmly. “I wish someone had told one of us before. I’m not a lawyer, but I used to be a social worker. Polly’s a nurse. We could have done something.”
“But her dad scared her into not telling,” Jane said. “He told her he’d hurt her little sister.”
“If Dad has anything to say about it, that’s over,” Daniel said. “He’s furious.”
“But he’s so quiet,” Jane said.
“And at his most deadly. Leave it to him, he’ll make that man wish he’d never been born.”
“He’s an oral surgeon,” Denise protested. “A professional man. No one will believe this about him.”
“Wanna bet?” Daniel grinned. “If you think it’s gonna stop here, you don’t know my dad. He’s just getting warmed up.” Looking proud, he headed out.
“I think we should all have some breakfast and get a nap,” Leslie said. “I’ll get something going.”
Several of the others followed him, leaving Maddie, Clayton, Gabe and Jose together.
“I’m sorry I blamed you,” Jose said. “I didn’t know about her old man.”
“None of us did, except Jane,” Clayton said quietly. “I’d break the man’s nose if he were close enough.”
Gabe chuckled. “I thought you didn’t like Claire.”
“I didn’t. I don’t. It’s just—no one should have to live through that. A dad isn’t supposed to abuse his daughter. And she’s protecting her little sister. That’s brave. And worth defending her honor.” He cleared his throat, looking embarrassed. “Sorry, sounding like my paladin.”
“Chip would ride up on his horse and slay the mighty ogre,” Maddie said, hugging him. She kissed his cheek. “You’re a good man, Clayton. Thank you for always believing me, too.”
He smiled, kissing her cheek. His lips lingered, then he brushed the spot with his thumb. “You’re welcome, Maddie.” He left too, following the crowd.
Jose cleared his throat. “We need to get home, son. Mom will be worried.”
“Yeah, one second. I’m right behind you.” Gabe couldn’t pull himself away. “See you later,” he said to Maddie.
“Sorry I soaked your shirt.” She tugged on the wet material.
“I don’t mind. You get some sleep.” He kissed her forehead and followed his father.
© 2015 Dellani Oakes