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Frank Wharton’s Merry Christmas as Read on Tales from the Pages

Frank Wharton

Frank Wharton dashed under the portico out of the bone chilling drizzle of rain that was turning to snow. He stuffed $5.00 in the bell ringer’s bucket before heading toward the coffee shop door.

“Thank you, sir. God Bless and Merry Christmas.”

“Oh, I don’t celebrate Christmas.”

“Are you Jewish? Same God, sir.”

“I don’t really believe in God.”

“Well, I’ll pray for you anyway.” The young man flashed a cold tinged smile. “If you aren’t a believer, why do you give?” He asked, his cheeks cherry red, his lips blueberry.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Frank replied. “Say, you look mighty cold, kid. Don’t you have a coat?”

The young man shook his head. Frank paused.

“Hold on a second. I was on my way to drop off some boxes…. Be right back.” He walked over to his car, wondering what the hell he was doing.

All the wanted was his morning coffee and to drop his father’s clothing at the Salvation Army. But the kid looked like he was freezing. Dad’s old Pea-coat, leather gloves and Adirondack cap would fit the boy well—perfectly, in fact. His father would want them to go to a good cause. Frank couldn’t think of a better one than a young man chilled to the bone. Picking out the items, he put them in a grocery bag, adding warm socks, wool jacket and pants and an old scarf.

The scarf held memories. He’d given it to his father when he was 10. He hesitated a moment, wanting to keep it, but heard his father’s voice in his head.

“It kept me warm even in the coldest weather. Your love drove off the chill. He needs it more than we do, Son.”

Adding it to the bag with tears in his eyes, Frank walked back to the door. Handing over the bag, he accepted the young man’s thanks with a slightly sad smile.

“Dad wants you to have them.”

“Is he here? May I thank him too?” He craned his neck expectantly, looking.

“In a manner of speaking,” Frank replied. “Dad died a week ago. I’m giving his things away.”

The young man grinned. “That makes it an even more special gift,” he replied. “God Bless.”

“I don’t believe….”

“I know, but I do. Thank you.”

They shook hands and Frank went in for his coffee. While there, he impulsively bought hot chocolate and a bagel for the boy outside. Handing it to him earned another “God Bless.” Frank nodded, turned up his collar to the cold and headed to his car.

Before dropping the clothing at the Salvation Army, he went through the bags again and found more clothing to fit the slender young man. In one pocket, he stuffed a $20.00 bill.

“So he can have a good meal,” he thought.

He set those things aside and took the rest to the clerk. She went through them all, smiling.

“So sorry to hear about your dad, Mr. Wharton. He was a good man. He used to volunteer in our soup kitchen.”

“I know. I used to drive him down. I knew he’d want his things to come here where they can do some good.”

“Here’s your receipt. Merry Christmas!”

“Thanks, you too.”

The next morning, the young man was again at the coffee shop door, this time wrapped in his warm clothes. He smiled and said, “God Bless. Merry Christmas,” when Frank gave him another $5.00.

“I’ve got a few more things for you. When are you done here?”

“Six.”

“I’ll bring them by then.”

“That would be great. Thanks.”

“You hungry?”

“A little.”

“Bagel or muffins?”

“Surprise me.”

Frank got him another bagel and a coffee. The parting “God Bless” left him smiling. Once he got home, he went through more of the closets, looking for things the young man could wear. He hated to see his father’s clothing go to waste and he couldn’t stand seeing a man suffer because he was obviously down on his luck.

When Frank went back to see the young man at 6:00, he had two bags of clothing, as well as a bag of non-perishable food from his father’s pantry. Frank had enough food at home, he didn’t need all this too. He pulled up and parked at the curb.

“Hi there. I’ve got those bags I promised.” Seeing the young man struggle with his tripod and bucket, he paused. “Can I give you a lift?” he asked conversationally.

“I need a ride to the office,” the young man said. “Usually, someone comes to pick up, but today she’s sick.”

“Hop in. I’ll take you there. Frank Wharton,” he introduced himself, holding out his hand.

“Gabriel St. Peter,” he replied, taking Frank’s hand in a firm grip.

Frank dropped him and his bags at the Salvation Army office downtown. Gabriel wouldn’t accept a ride home, but thanked Frank for his help.

“Not a problem. Here’s my number. If you ever need a ride, you let me know.”

“Thank you.”

They parted with Gabriel’s heart felt “God Bless” in the air between them.

Almost two weeks passed and Frank saw Gabriel nearly every day. From time to time he gave the younger man a ride and always bought him something to eat. One cold, blustery day, Gabriel wasn’t alone. A delicate young woman with fair hair and vivid blue eyes was with him. She sat in a battered camp chair. Her red, chapped cheeks stood out in her pale face. She wore the pea-coat, not buttoned quite all the way down, because of her very pregnant belly. She also wore the scarf and gloves. Gabriel wore the wool jacket and pants with the hat. Frank stopped to drop his $5.00 in the bucket and spoke to Gabriel.

“Who is this lovely young lady with you?”

“My wife, Marie. Honey, this is Frank. She’s been wanting to meet you,” he admitted shyly.

The pretty blonde stood awkwardly, holding out her arms to Frank. He accepted her hug with a grin.

“When is your baby due?”

“Christmas,” she said, beaming.

“A Christmas baby! I was born on Christmas too. My father always made a big deal about it, making the day special in two ways.”

“What about your mother?” Marie asked.

“She died having me,” Frank replied. “A rare disorder….”

“I’m so sorry. Any brothers and sisters?”

“Just me and – and Dad.” He gulped, fighting tears in earnest.

“So you’re alone? Honey, he can’t be alone at Christmas,” Marie appealed to her spouse.

“I was gonna serve at the Salvation Army kitchen,” Frank replied.

“Us too,” Marie said joyfully. “After, you can come for a visit. No one should be alone at Christmas.”

“What if you’ve had your baby?”

“Then you celebrate with us at the hospital.”

“Are you sure? You hardly know me.”

Marie touched the scarf tenderly. “We know you very well. It would mean so much.”

Frank allowed himself to be talked into it. Honestly, he didn’t want to say no. It was the first Christmas in his 47 years that he’d be spending alone. It had always been him and Dad. For awhile, there’d been Nancy, but she’d never understood why he and his father were so close. She had a huge family, she didn’t know what it was like to be the only one the other person had. She’d left him after five years of marriage.

Two nights later, it was Christmas Eve. Frank hadn’t made it by the coffee shop that morning, having been tied up with his father’s lawyer. He was now, officially, owner of everything his father had owned. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with his father’s house. He had his townhouse, so close to work, he could walk. The house was in an old neighborhood. It wasn’t rich, but it wasn’t a ghetto. He had no idea if he could sell the house or if he should rent it out.

With much on his mind, he went to Christmas Eve Mass at the nearby Catholic church. It wasn’t that he was religious, but it was the thing to do. He and his father had always gone to the early Mass on Christmas Eve.

Stopping in the corner bar on his way home, he had a drink of homemade eggnog and went home. He watched some TV, finding “It’s a Wonderful Life” too much to take on such a sad occasion. He missed his father horribly and didn’t know what to do with himself. He thought about a drink, but that would lead to many, and his father wouldn’t have approved of him drowning his sorrow that way. He was sitting down to a microwave meal when his cellphone rang. It was Gabriel’s number.

“Hello?”

“It’s Gabe. Frank, I’m worried about Marie. She’s not feeling well. I think she’s in labor, but I don’t have a car. I can’t get her to the hospital.”

“I’ll be right over. Keep her comfortable and warm. I’ll be right there.” He hung up and grabbed his coat and keys.

Driving over to the tiny one room apartment, Frank found himself muttering prayers. He wasn’t a religious man, but he was worried about Marie. When he arrived at their door, he grew even more concerned. Marie’s face was pale and pinched, her breathing shallow. Her hands trembled and she’d been vomiting. He and Gabriel bundled her in blankets and put her in the back seat of Frank’s car. He drove as fast as he dared to the hospital emergency entrance. Parking the car, he ran in to get someone with a gurney.

When he got back, Marie was unconscious, bleeding profusely. The staff rushed her into the emergency room and did their best to stabilize her. All Frank could do was pace and try to calm down the horrified Gabriel.

“I should have called you earlier,” he kept saying. “She’s been bad all day. I didn’t even go to work.”

“You did just fine. She’s okay. You have to have faith.” Meanwhile, his mind did frightened flipflops. This was exactly how his mother died, bleeding to death as she gave birth. “She’ll be fine.”

Hours later, the doctor came out. He wasn’t smiling, but he looked slightly hopeful.

“Mr. St. Peter, your wife and son would like to see you now.”

“Aw, Doc, I was supposed to be in there!”

“I know, son, but it was very tricky. We weren’t sure…. We thought we might lose them. I couldn’t have you see your wife and child die….”

“But they’re alive?”

“Yes. Marie’s weak, but she’s stable. And your son has the finest set of lungs this side of the Mississippi.”

“He’s crying? Is he hurt?”

“No, he sounds like he’s saying Da over and over. Never heard a baby so young vocalize. You the grandfather?”

Gabriel answered in the affirmative before Frank could even open his mouth. The two men followed the doctor to Marie’s room. She lay in bed, pale but smiling. She gave Gabriel a kiss and held out a hand to Frank. Gabriel kissed her and Frank held her hand.

Beside her in the clear plastic bassinet lay their son. He was red faced, blue eyed and had a shock of black hair that put Frank in mind of his own baby pictures.

“Nearly nine pounds,” she said. “Would you like to hold him?” she asked her husband.

Gabriel picked him up, holding him carefully. The baby gazed up at him and touched his father’s chin. Gurgling, crosseyed, he smiled and cooed, “Da”.

“He knows me! How can he know me already?”

“Some babies are exceptional,” the doctor said. “I’ll leave you alone now. You call if you need me.”

“Thank you, saving them, Doctor,” Gabriel said, gazing at his son.

“Modern medicine’s a wonderful thing. Fifty years ago, I’d have lost one or the other or both. Merry Christmas,” he said.

Frank glanced the clock. It was 12:15 on Christmas morning.

“Want to hold him?” Gabriel asked.

“I’d love to, if you don’t mind. I haven’t held a baby in years.”

Gabriel handed the child to him. It gazed up at him and smiled, but didn’t speak.

“What’s his name?”

“We wanted something old fashioned,”Gabriel said. “We named him Josiah.”

Frank gasped, nearly bursting into tears. “That was my father’s name,” he replied. “I’m honored. Though you didn’t know. I thank you.”

“His middle name is Frank,” Marie said.

“I never had a namesake before. But wouldn’t you like to name him after your fathers instead?”

The young couple exchanged a look. Marie nodded at Gabriel.

“I was raised in foster care,” Gabriel replied. “Marie’s mother took me in. I think we loved each other as soon as we could walk. Marie never knew her father, he was nothing but a name on a birth certificate. Her mom divorced him without even telling the poor guy she was pregnant.”

“All that time and he never knew?” Frank’s tears fell and he nuzzled the baby’s head. “I can’t imagine growing up without my father. He was my best friend.”

“And a child should know his grandfather, don’t you think?” Marie asked expectantly.

“Absolutely. My grandfather was the greatest.”

“We thought the same thing, Frank.” Marie continued, bursting into tears. “So when we found you like that, just out of the clear blue, it seemed so perfect.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

Gabriel took Josiah from him. “Marie’s your daughter,” he replied. “Her mother’s name is Nancy.”

Frank nearly fell down. “My daughter?” He burst into tears, hugging the beautiful young woman in the bed.

They clung to one another, crying until their chests ached.

“Why didn’t she tell me?”

“I don’t know,” Marie said, wiping her eyes. “She never said. But why don’t you ask her yourself? She should be here soon. She had to take a cab from the airport because Gabe couldn’t go get her.”

“Nancy? Is coming here?”

He wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Over 20 years had passed since he’d last seen her smiling, pretty face. When he looked into Marie’s eyes, she saw shades of her mother. Nancy’s smile twitched her daughter’s lips, the same little line creased her forehead when she was thinking.

“Does she know? About me?”

“She does now,” Gabriel said with a smirk as he nodded at the door.

Frank turned to see an elegant, slightly older version of his ex-wife standing at the door, her hand to her throat. Her blue eyes brimmed with tears as she advanced into the room.

“Frank? Is it really you?”

“Nancy?”

They embraced, kissing as if two decades hadn’t passed.

“I missed you so. Why did you leave me?”

“I didn’t understand about you and your father. I always thought I was intruding.”

“No, never! You were the other part of me! Life was never the same without you. Why didn’t you ever tell me about Marie?”

“I was angry and hurt. We had that huge fight and I walked out. I didn’t know at the time I was pregnant. When I found out, I was even angrier and couldn’t bring myself to tell you. By the time she was born, I was so ashamed about keeping her from you, I couldn’t say anything. It was wrong. I should never have kept her from you. After seeing other children and their fathers, I finally understood. But by then it was too late.”

“It’s not too late,” Frank assured her. “It’s never too late.”

“Just think,” Gabriel said. “If we hadn’t met by accident that day, we wouldn’t be here now.”

“Yes,” Marie said. “We would. Because God would have seen to it.”

“You’re right,” Frank agreed, taking her hand. “I think He did.”

“You said you weren’t a believer,” Gabriel said.

Frank touched the baby’s head, smiling happily for the first time in years. “I’m a believer now.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 28

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

“What can I do for you, Detective?” He had a smarmy, Southern drawl. Louisiana, she remembered from her research. His voice was higher than his bulk would indicate, and grated on her nerves.

“I’m looking into the murder of Wendy Hamilton. I believe she was women’s golf team captain for two years?”

“Two and a half. The other captain got sick mid-season and had to drop out. Wendy stepped up. She was good, best team captain I ever had.”

Was it her own interpretation of his relationship with Wendy, which shaded those words to sound like more? Perhaps, but the lascivious expression was on his face as he gazed at her. She didn’t miss the evidence of his lust in his pants.

“We can go in my office,” he suggested, holding out an inviting hand.

“No, thank you. I’m fine here. How well did you know Wendy?”

He shrugged nonchalantly. “Little bit better than the other players, why?”

“I think you knew here really well. I think, maybe, you knew her in the Biblical sense.”

“Excuse me? What are you saying?”

His attitude and body position changed abruptly. Vanessa saw rage in his eyes, but refused to back down.

“I’m saying that you were having an affair with Wendy Hamilton.”

“You bitch!” His right hand twitched. “You’re twisting my words!” His hand came up, ready to backhand her.

The door behind him burst open and Mendez was there, grabbing the offending hand. Pulling Bullock’s arm around his back him, he slammed the coach’s face into the nearby metal table.

“Got your cuffs?”

“Always.” She pulled them out of her jacket pocket and snapped them on Bullock’s wrists as she read him his rights. “Sorry about this, Officer Mendez.”

“No problem, ma’am. Lemme get coverage for the kids, and I’ll walk this piece of human shit out to your car.”

“I can wait.”

He made a call to the office. A very harassed looking principal hustled out of a nearby building.

“I’ve got this,” he panted. “Go. Jesus!” Closing the doors quickly behind him, he called out to the students, “Nothing to see here! Back to what you were doing!”

“Where’s your car?”

“Right out there.” She pointed to the parking lot. Her car was about three spots away from the door.

Mendez perp walked Bullock toward it.

“Won’t the alarm go off?”

“Nope.” He held up a security card. Sliding it in a card reader, he waited for it to beep and opened the door. “Resets automatically. That was dumb, Bullock. Even for you. You philandering slime.”

“You can’t talk to me like that! I have a witness!”

“I don’t hear anything,” Vanessa said, clicking her remote on the car. “Thank you, Mendez. Call me or come by later?”

“You bet. Word of this gets out, we might catch a break.”

“Let’s hope so!” Calling her station, she headed in with her prisoner.

“You can’t do this to me. I’m a pillar of the community!”

“Which is probably why you’ve gotten away with it so long.” Vanessa had swiped the record app on her phone. Placing the phone on the seat beside her, she waited to see if he’d incriminate himself.

“I didn’t do anything with those girls, that they didn’t want!”

Suppressing the impulse to slam on the brakes, making him rocket into the cage, she kept driving. Her best bet was to say nothing, or she would say something she’d regret.

“You don’t know a thing about me! You think you got something. You got nothing! I didn’t do nothing!”

It amazed Vanessa how much a Louisiana accent sounded like the Bronx. Her horrible ex, whose name she preferred to forget, had a similar accent, but his was Yankee born. Shadron was from New York City, Hell’s Kitchen, to be specific. The noise of the coach’s tirade flipped a switch to inner bitch and she did slam the brakes when she got to the light at US-1. Bullock smacked the cage behind her seat.

“Hey! You done that on purpose! You bitch! That’s brutality!”

“Yelling at me, cursing less than three feet away, is verbal assault. On a police officer. Which one of us is in more trouble? Hm? One of your rights is to remain silent. Might wanna give that a try.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 27

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

On the road, Vanessa called her boss, explaining that she was stopping at the school to talk to the coach and administrators about Wendy. She hadn’t scheduled the appointment, wanting to catch them off guard. Something was going on there, and she intended to find out what. If Coach Bullock had been having an affair with Wendy, he might have done the same with other girls. Or boys. She wasn’t discounting that possibility. Most pedophiles preferred one gender or the other, but some were multi-purpose perverts. Bullock probably didn’t see himself as a pedophile, because the girls were teenagers, but he was still a predator. She wouldn’t tolerate that.

As she turned into the campus, the saw a bus taking students to the small, satellite college campus down the road. She’d forgotten that Aiden said Wendy had done dual enrollment. Making a note to talk to those people, too, she headed to the office. The receptionist didn’t balk when she flashed her badge. She put the call in to the principal and Coach Bullock. That would do for a start. She was a little surprised to have the school security officer, Mendez, arrive first.

“I’ll take you to the gym. Coach Bullock has class. I’ll watch the kids while you talk.”

“And Principal Harkness?”

“He’ll get there. He’s in a meeting.” He shrugged, rolling his eyes.

“He’s avoiding me.”

“Would he do that?” He winked at her.

They knew one another from the police force. He had taken the security officer position when he was injured on the job. Still a young man, he hadn’t wanted to quit entirely, and had found a good fit here.

“What do you think of Bullock?”

“Nessa, I really shouldn’t….”

She showed him the photo of Bullock touching Wendy’s ass. He pressed his lips together, rolling his eyes away.

“You aren’t surprised.”

“No. Disgusted, but not surprised.”

“He still doing that?”

“Not around me. I’ve heard rumors, but I can’t catch him at it. I approach students, but they won’t talk to me.”

“Is it just touching?”

“Not from what I’ve heard.”

“Rape?” she asked very quietly.

“Depends on how you define it. It’s sick and perverted, but supposedly consensual. Though how it can be when they’re mostly under eighteen, I don’t know. None of them will talk.”

“Maybe Wendy was going to.”

He stopped walking, moving to face her, stepping closer. “I’ve heard rumors, again, can’t prove anything, that there were some girls who were planning to come forward and talk.”

“How many?”

“Three? Four? Some have graduated, some still here. They were talking about a lawsuit. One of them got knocked up, and he paid for an abortion. It’s all hearsay, but I think it holds validity. I just can’t find the truth by myself. These kids don’t talk to me, except to tease or be insulting.”

Vanessa couldn’t help thinking that this might be what Aiden knew, and was keeping to himself. Perhaps she could enlist his help. Did she dare? Following Mendez, she asked a few more questions about his family, his job and made chitchat.

When they got to the door, he turned to her, with his hand on the bar. “What aren’t you telling me, Detective Weinstein?”

“I can’t talk about it here,” she said quietly. “When are you done here?”

“Around three—ish. I usually hang around until four. Why?”

“Come by the station when you’re through. We’ll talk.”

“You got it.” He opened the doors to the gym.

The smell of sweaty bodies assailed her. Taking a step back, she had to regroup.

“Something you aren’t telling me?” Mendez asked. “Like a tiny Weinstein on the way?

“How did you guess? I don’t really even show yet.”

“I have four kids, Nessa. I know the signs. Let me bring him to you.” Taking a step forward, he waved, whistling sharply.

Coach Bullock’s head snapped around. He’d been eyeing the girls playing basketball. Vanessa’s sharp eyes didn’t miss that. Nodding, he jogged across the floor. He was still fairly fit, though he was a solidly built man. He didn’t strike Vanessa as a golfer, more of a wrestler or football player. Mendez introduced them and invited them to step outside. Vanessa nodded her thanks. Bullock looked miffed, but followed her out. She could feel his eyes on her, and felt distinctly grubby as a result.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 26

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Helping Aiden up, he walked into his room with him, leaving Deirdre and Corin behind.

“Guy stuff,” Corin said, heading to his room.

“You’re a guy,” his mother said, a little surprised at his acceptance.

Corin shook his head. “Big guy stuff.”

He’d accepted that his older brothers were closer to one another than to him. He didn’t like it much, but there was no separating them. There might be two years apart in age, but they were only a year apart in school. As a result, they had shared a lot more with one another, than they had with him.

Deirdre stood in the hallway, completely flummoxed by her sons. They were all getting so grown up. Soon, they wouldn’t need her anymore. Her phone was ringing when she got back to her office. It was Fred.

“Hello?”

“Hey, beautiful. How’s my girl?”

The emotions she’d kept bottled up all day, burst free. Sniffling, she tried to answer.

“What’s wrong? Are the boys okay?”

She explained what had happened at the school, Aiden’s long afternoon away, and the strange emotions she felt.

“My love, I wish I could be there. I hate being away, but I can’t leave. I’m in charge of the whole bloody business. The other person, who was supposed to be in charge, had a fall and is in a cast to her hip.”

“Quite a fall!”

“Parasailing or something stupid. Dumb pastime.”

Deirdre had to agree. Then again, she and Fred had never been ones for outdoor activities, except golf and camping. She wasn’t as good as he and the boys, but she held her own. Camping was her love. They went out at least every other weekend in the summer, spring and fall. Winter, the boys would go with their father, but she stayed home. She might enjoy camping, but liked her warm hearth and hot showers.

“How long will you be?”

“At least a week. This is a monster. Someone f**ked up the damn floor plan. This is one of those bizarre layouts, like the Port Orange store, with the pharmacy in the middle. That requires a lot of different shelf and aisle placement. It’s a mess. Someone else wired the freezer section wrong, so that has to be completely redone.”

“Are you in charge of that, too?”

“I have to kick ass seventeen times a day. It’s like working with a crew of monkeys. I take that back, the monkeys would be smarter. I never worked with such a dumb crew. The only ones who know their asses from their elbows are Holly and Maynard.”

They were from his store and he’d worked with them a lot.

“Because you trained them.”

“Good point.”

They talked a while longer, but both were tired. Deirdre did remember to tell him she had given Aiden permission to use his car the following day.

“It’s fine. He knows what he’s doing. We’ll have to see about a car for him. He’ll be nineteen—wow in a month? And then off to college next year. I’ll talk to Byron about something second hand.”

“Okay. You get some rest, love. I know you start early and finish late.”

“You, too. I’m sorry you’re having to go through this without me.”

“Can’t be helped. I love you.”

“I love you.” He hung up.

Deirdre allowed herself a few minutes of tears, then got ready for bed. Her dreams were frantic, filled with people chasing her, and pretty, dead girls, with long, blonde hair.

Vanessa woke before her alarm. Turning it off, she woke Dario. He, of course, wanted to start his day with some happy time. Afterward, they had a rushed breakfast. As she was dressing, she realized that several of her favorite skirts no longer fit. Not sure how she felt about that, she pulled out a pretty A line dress, reminiscent of the Sixties. It was swirls of different shades of blue, which looked good with her caramel complexion. Dario couldn’t stop admiring her.

“I think you’re getting a little bump.” He rubbed her belly. “Yep!” Bending over, he kissed her belly. “Hey, Pepita. It’s Papi! I can’t wait to meet you!”

They kissed goodbye before heading up the road to work. Dario stopped at the house on the corner to pick up one of his co-workers. They both worked for a building contractor. Dario was the carpenter, and Debra was the electrician. They were heading out to do an estimate for a remodel, so decided to go together. Vanessa waved as she stopped at the sign at the end of their road. Dario waved back, blowing a kiss. He kept waving until she was around the corner and out of sight.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 25

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

“Thank you,” Corin said quietly. “I feel kinda stupid….”

“Never. You know how many times Aiden had to save my ass? Creeps have to learn that they don’t f**k with any Partridge. I’ll show you some tricks sometime, when Mom’s not around. She’d have a cow. Aiden showed me that duck and punch.”

“Right in the gut!”

“You kidding? I got him in the dick. He’s gonna pee sideways for a month.”

They exchanged a knuckle bump.

“You think Aid’s okay?” Corin asked very quietly.

“Don’t know. Aid doesn’t talk much. It freaked him out, finding her like that. He liked her a lot.”

“How do you know that, and I don’t?”

“You were still a little kid, he wasn’t gonna talk about stuff like that with you.”

“Like what?”

“Duh—he had sex with her.”

“Oooh….”

“You’re a dweeb sometimes,” Burl said affectionately.

“Thanks. Have you—ever?” Corin wouldn’t look at his brother, his ears burned red.

“No. Almost. You’re too young to think about stuff like that.”

“Aiden was younger than you!”

“And he was too young, too. He even said so when he told me. But you know, stuff happens….”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“So, show me how you do that,” Burl said, changing the subject.

Corin warmed to the subject change, and they played until dinner time. The meal was leftovers. They chose what the wanted from the array of containers, and warmed it in the microwave. On days like this, they did their own dishes. If they ate the last of something, they washed the empty container. They were just finishing up when Aiden walked in the door. Saying nothing, he went to his room, slamming the door. Deirdre peeped out of her office. “Aiden?”

“Yes?” he called, not opening his door.

Deirdre tapped on it, waiting for him to answer. He did so, looking worn out.

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah.”

“Where have you been? I thought you’d be home ages ago.”

“I had some thinking to do. I took the bus to the beach.”

“Call next time, I’ve been worried sick.”

“I tried to text.” He pulled out his phone. “Crap, it saved as a draft.” He showed it to her. “I’m sorry. I really thought I’d told you.” He spotted Corin and rushed to his brother’s side, examining him carefully. “What happened? Burl?”

His middle brother explained the altercation.

“Burl took care of it,” Corin said. “He was super spooky, nailed Moe in the nuts and scared the crap outta Xander and Oliver! And Mom! Wow, she was kick ass.”

“But you’re okay?”

“Bruised, not broken,” his mother assured him. “Dinner is leftovers.”

“I ate at McDonalds.”

“Okay, if you’re sure. What did you find out?”

“Mom, I don’t really want to talk right now. I’m beat. I’ll try to do school tomorrow. Do you think I could drive the boys in Dad’s car?”

“It hasn’t got a sticker.”

“I can buy one in the office. Please?”

Sighing, she couldn’t think of a good excuse. He was a good, safe driver. “Be careful and cautious. Don’t take chances and don’t let your temper get you in trouble.”

“I promise to behave—as badly as possible. Sheesh, Mom. You act like you don’t trust me.”

“I trust you fine. I don’t trust anyone else. Drive defensively.”

“I promise. If I don’t, Corin will rat me out.” He ruffled his brother’s hair.

“Can’t I take a day?” Corin whined. “I’m bro-hen!” He made his fingers like twisted claws, bending over like Quasimodo.

“No. You’re not broken. You’re bent,” Aiden said, pinching his ribs.

Corin squeaked, jumping away. “Ow! Ow! Ow!”

“Sorry, I’m sorry, kid. I’m so sorry!” Aiden burst into tears, falling to his knees. “I’m so sorry.”

His little brother dropped to the floor beside him, hugging him almost savagely. “I’m okay. I’m fine. It’s gonna be all right, Aid. It really is. Just—we do this together, okay? Nothing and no one comes between the Partridge Boys.”

“Nothing, no one,” Burl said, squatting by his brothers. He didn’t hug them, but he was beside them adding his support. “They will find who killed her, and bring the bastard to justice. Belief.” He held out his knuckles for his brothers to tap.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 24

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

“He swung first. I have witnesses,” Burl said.

“That’s right,” Thug Two said, ratting out his friend. “Moe swung first.”

“Yeah, he did. We saw the whole thing. He was f**king with the little one earlier. We tried to stop him!” Thug Three added.

They couldn’t talk fast enough. Several other students stepped forward, speaking for Burl.

“We still have to call your parents,” the officer said.

“No need. My mother is in the car. She saw the whole thing.”

Traffic had stopped, so Deirdre was able to get out of the Jeep and walk to the sidewalk. Corin cowered in the back seat.

“These boys attacked my youngest son,” she spoke in a chilly tone. “Where were the teachers and administrators when that happened? Corin, front and center.”

Her youngest son got out. He wasn’t any taller than his mother, and slender. The other boys were considerably bigger. The security officer took one look at Corin, and got an entirely different attitude.

“They charged up to the car,” a girl said. She was the picture of a pretty high school teen; fresh faced, her hair in a ponytail, wearing a sweater, pleated skirt and saddle Oxfords. “Burl got out to stop them, but they were looking for Corin.”

“You know them?” The officer pointed to the other three boys.

“Yes, sir. Xander, Moe and Oliver.” She pointed to each of the boys.

“Marybeth!” Xander, Thug Two, squeaked.

“Shut up,” she replied.

“Did you see them picking on Corin?” the officer asked her.

“No. If I had, I’d have stopped them, or gotten a teacher. I may look like a little, bitty girl, but I’m a red belt in Aikido.”

Burl flashed her a grateful look. “They owe my little brother an apology,” he stated calmly.

“Agreed. Boys?” Crossing his arms, the officer looked intimidating.

Faced with him and Burl, the three of them babbled an apology.

“What about him?” Moe pointed at Burl. “He hit me!”

“From what I saw,” the officer said. “He was defending himself.”

The principal stepped into the circle. “The rule is that anyone fighting gets an automatic ten day suspension.”

“If you suspend my son for protecting himself, I’ll have your job,” Deirdre said. “You have multiple witnesses, parents and students, who saw what happened. Your security officer even saw it. There are cameras, too, I assume? If you suspend my son, then I’ll have to have those subpoenaed to find out why no one saw my younger son getting roughed up. He’s got a black eye and his clothing is torn. I think this is evidence enough for me to get a lawyer, don’t you?” She appealed to the officer.

“Ma’am, I’ll find out, personally, what happened. I apologize, son. Someone wasn’t paying attention and doing their job.”

“Thank you, Officer Mendez,” Deirdre said in her most regal tone. “Now, gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me, I need to take my son to the hospital. I assume that I can have them send the bill to the school? Good.”

Not waiting for confirmation, she got in the Jeep, followed by her sons. Officer Mendez round up the other boys and they were taken to the office. They were just going inside the door when she pulled away from the curb.

Three hours later, they got home. Corin wasn’t badly hurt, just bruised. He wasn’t sure how he felt about Burl stepping in to defend him. On one hand, he was glad his brother was protecting him, on the other, he felt like a baby. He was playing Call of Duty when his door opened and Burl walked in. Flopping on the bed, he said nothing, just watched his brother play.

“You kill at this,” he said when the mission was complete. “I’m not this good.” It wasn’t entirely true, but Corin was better at some things than he was.

“You’re just saying that, but thanks.”

“You’d kick my bony ass,” Burl said, dropping to the floor with his brother.

Corin handed him another controller and started the game. They played side by side for a while, crowing then they did well, cursing when they did badly.

“Thank you,” Corin said quietly. “I feel kinda stupid….”

“Never. You know how many times Aiden had to save my ass? Creeps have to learn that they don’t f**k with any Partridge. I’ll show you some tricks sometime, when Mom’s not around. She’d have a cow. Aiden showed me that duck and punch.”

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 23

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

“Mom, really?” Burl yelled. “Why can’t you be like normal mothers and listen to appropriate music?”

Deirdre turned the music down. “And what’s appropriate?” She smiled, raising an eyebrow as she turned it down a little.

“I dunno, like Enya or Michel Bublé.”

“Hmm…. No. And hell no.”

The music changed, now it was More Human Than Human by Rob Zombie. The song began with the sounds of a woman having an orgasm. Burl hid his face in his hands.

“Please, Mom! Come on! People know me!”

Taking pity on her son, Deirdre laughingly turned the music down more. Corin got there a couple minutes later, disheveled and red faced. His shirt was torn and his face bruised. His lower lip was puffy and one eye was going black.

“What happened to you?” Deirdre asked, concerned.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Freak!” some kid yelled at him.

“Can we just go?”

Others walked by, leering at them, making rude noises and cursing.

“What the f**k?” Burl said. “What did you do?”

“Nothing! I heard some guys talking about Aiden finding Wendy’s body, and they were saying awful things about her—and him! So I tried, politely, to set them straight. I said he hadn’t found her, I had, and they jumped me.”

“Jumped you? Who?” Burl opened his car door.

Deirdre, who had been ready to pull into traffic, slammed on the brakes. “What are you doing?”

“No one f**ks with my baby brother. They want a piece of Partridge, they go through me.”

“Burl, I’ve told you…!”

He actually glared at his mother, one foot on the ground. “I don’t care, Mom. I’m as non-violent as the next guy, but someone put hands on my little brother, they cross a line. Look at him, he’s half the size of nothing. That can’t happen!”

“Get back in the car.”

“No. Corin, who was it?”

Three large, tough looking boys were walking over to the car. Corin shied away, although he was inside. That was all Burl needed. He walked over to the center one, blocking his way. He wasn’t quite as tall as Aiden, but was more solidly built. His anger made him seem bigger.

“You got a problem, Partridge?” the boy asked, squaring off with the middle brother.

“Yeah. You’re messing with my brother. I guess no one told your dumb ass not to f**k with our family.”

“Must have missed that memo,” the boy said, taking a step closer. He chest bumped Burl.

His friends hung back, ready to bolt. The raised voices had finally caught the attention of other students, and teachers.

Deirdre started to get out of the Jeep, but Corin caught her arm. Shaking his head, he held her in a steel grip.

“I guess you don’t listen well, then. That’s been the word now for three years. You f**k with one Partridge, you get us all.”

“I see only you. Your big brother’s not here to protect you.”

“I don’t need Aiden,” Burl said softly, looming over the shorter boy. “You think I need him to fight my battles?”

“You fighting for the baby,” the boy countered, but he looked less sure.

“You leave him outta this. Your argument is with me, now.”

“Your crazy big brother’s probably the one who killed her,” the boy grew bold, thinking his friends were behind him.

They had backed off even further. Teachers and administrators were converging on their position. Given the number of students who were gathered around, they were having a tough time getting through the crowd.

Burl started laughing. It was a deep, dark, ugly sound. “You think you’re a tough guy, huh? You’re a pussy. You and your butt buddies need to back off. If I catch you anywhere near my brother, or even smell your stank….” he didn’t have to finish the treat. It was implicit.

The other boy, unfortunately, didn’t read it right. Feeling bold, but threatened, he took a swing at Burl. The middle Partridge ducked, slugging the thug in the stomach. The other boy gagged and retched, red in the face. Moaning, he gripped his stomach. Backing up a step, Burl put his hands behind his head as the school security officer came over.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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