Marooned on Planet EARTH: Devynn’s Dilemma

The world of 14-year-old Devynn X’Laena Irvette Scoville has fallen apart. Her dad has left the family after a heated argument with her mother. And he’s taken his favorite son with him—7-year-old Brady. Surprisingly, Mom is allowing it. No big stink about it.

Making Devynn and the rest of her brothers wonder—would she have let them go without a fight? Just waved them all good bye with no regrets?

Had they wanted to go with him, that is.

Devynn blames her mom for this tragedy occurring in her lifetime. For Mom’s ability to generally find humor in a bad situation didn’t surface during this last quarrel as it had in past ones. If only she had laughed, the Scovilles would still be one big happy family!

Still, she has Rodney. The senior who’s the classically tall, dark, and handsome, athletic type . . . with sleepy brown eyes and a smile calculated to seduce the unwary, the unwise . . .

More vulnerable to his charm than before, believing he’s the one stable thing in her life, Devynn risks all to see him—even though her mom stands implacably by her strict rules concerning dating—especially someone like Rodney Jacques.

Devynn is certain her mother can’t possibly remember what it’s like being a teenager in love. In any case, she made her own choices in life, and Devynn feels she ought to have the right to do the same now. After all, it’s her life, right? People should just butt out of it!

However, the discovery of her mother’s diary changes everything. In fact, Mom might actually have good reason to object to her relationship with Rodney.

The secrets in her mother’s diary are destined to change more than her outlook on her present situation . . . and in ways she never imagined possible!

 

Prologue

March . . . Who cares what day! Okay, it’s Sunday. Get me off this planet! Please!!!!!

 My Dearest Self,

 Have I ever mentioned I hate my life? Well, let me mention it again. I hate my life! Okay, maybe I don’t hate it, hate it, but still, I wish I could have my way for some things more than I do.

Mostly for like being able to see Rodney whenever I want to. Mom keeps saying no to even letting me see him if we’re with a bunch of other people.

We meet where and whenever we can. Like, sometimes I say I’m going to a friend’s house, and we meet in the park downtown.

He’s so cute—I know, I know–I’ve told you that before. But, I can’t help it! So tall, with dark hair and dark eyes! He’s a senior, and I’m a freshman. Not that I care about the age difference. I’m going to be fifteen in just a few weeks. It’s just so cool that an older guy thinks I’m hot and worth his time.

Only, he wants to do things I know my parents would ground me for life if we did them. How do you say NO to somebody you think you care about? I like kissing and holding hands—but—I’m not sure I want to go as far as he wants to go. So—if I’m not sure then I shouldn’t do it. Right?

Our principal, Mrs. Robertson, always says things like, “Boys will be boys.” like it’s an okay excuse for them to do what they want to do. But if it’s a girl doing stuff . . . well, she’s a slut, a hussy, a whore . . . [insert other insults here]. Don’t you just love the stupid unfair double standards?

Terrific . . . now what? Sounds like another argument.

Third one since yesterday, and they had two on Friday. What a thrilling weekend this has been!

Dad’s yelling again. Mom doesn’t holler much. But I’m sure she’s telling him yet again how tired she is of him always going off somewhere with Uncle Joe and never coming home till whenever—when there’s so much to do around here. My room could use some paint and a new carpet. Other parts of the house need more than just paint. God knows my lazy brothers aren’t going to offer any sort of help! Lazy loonies. The bunch of ‘em!

Especially Brady and Tag! Ah, okay, Brady’s only seven. Who’s gonna trust him with a saw? But he could hand Dad things and he could clean up after himself! The rest of them are old enough to help Dad fix up the house and clean up after themselves!!

But all they do is eat, sleep and play video games. While they’re saving virtual worlds, they’re destroying ours, trashing the place in good shape! I pick up my messes—most of the time. Not picking up theirs!

O Self, if only you could’ve been an only child!

Well, I can’t concentrate with Dad yapping at Mom like this. Hope she finds something amusing about this disagreement soon! Friday and yesterday, she finally did find something funny about the whole situation. He wanted to keep it going, but then he couldn’t go on, started chuckling himself. I don’t know how she can see a funny side to their fights, but she does. Everything’s cool once she starts laughing.

Going to go see what’s up this time and report back later.

Nothing else for me to do, anyway, since I’m Marooned on Planet EARTH!!!!!!

 

CHAPTER ONE

No Reason to Laugh

“Oh, come on, J.E.! You’ve practically been living over at your brother’s for weeks! You do recall you have a family here, right? You promised the kids a trip to Disney World on their spring vacation. That’s not far off, J.E! We should’ve made arrangements by now.”

“Promised I’d help him with the truck, X’Laena—uh—Irvey! It’s—”

“What you’re saying is that your promises to your brother, are far more important than those to your kids!”

“They’re kids. They’ll get over it!”

“I’m thinking they won’t for this! So—what time can I expect you home tonight? Same time you’ve crawled in the past few nights? Just in time to shower and go to work!”

“Yeah, so what? We finished the jobs.”

“You needed to work all night till breakfast to get them done? There’re things you’ve promised to do right here! When are those going to get done? Why is it that your parents and your brother and sisters always seem to come first with you? You have plenty to say when I spend any time with my sister and brother! Thing is, they’re willing to spend it with all of us! Not your family though! So, you—you happily dump us and off you go, and we don’t see you the rest of the day . . . or night!”

I stood at the top of the stairs, uncertain now, whether I should go down. Below me was the big hallway, off which were the living room to the back left of the staircase, Mom’s workshop to the back right of it. Diagonally across was our big kitchen with the coat closet at the right near the front foyer. Opposite the foyer was the back door and the downstairs bathroom. And right in the center of the hall, standing upon the large target shaped pattern tiled in shades of blue, black, gray and white, my parents faced off.

Quietly, I dropped down upon the top step. Thomasyna, my fluffy tortoiseshell cat, hopped into my lap and made herself comfy there. Absently, I began petting her.

Mom had a point. Dad didn’t seem to like spending any time with her side of the family. He always managed to find somewhere else to be if they came to visit. And as far as I could remember, he’d never come with us to visit them.

But Dad’s whole family cried for his attention like they couldn’t possibly do a thing for themselves. They acted like they had a right to rip him away from us whenever they wanted to. Like him being married and having a family came way after what they wanted. If Mom says anything, Aunt Jane always tells her that Dad was her brother before he was Mom’s husband.

And he’s never told them no. Never has asked them to come help him do stuff for us. They never offer, either. Pretty much expect the boys to do it. But, my journal knows how that goes!

Anyway, if they expect that, well, what about Uncle Joe’s boys? Both of them were definitely old enough to be doing stuff for their parents. They’re older than my brothers, for Pete’s sake!

Yeah, and they didn’t come here for any visits either! Which, actually, is okay with us.

“J.E.,” Mom’s tone turned pleading. “I got the account at McCloud’s so we could fix this place up. We can order what we need, and it could all be done in—”

Dad interrupted her, throwing a hand up in an expansive gesture. Impatient, too. “Yeah? Look, at this place! Why should I fix anything? You let everything go all to Hell. If you can’t get a few kids to listen to you, what makes you think you could run a real business and have it succeed? You sit at that computer of yours, devising your little plans while they trash the place. Face it, X’Laen—Irvey; nothing is going to come of any of it! And even if you did manage to make the place better, they’d wreck it within the week—if not the day!”

Fixing up our house was one of Mom’s dreams. Having Dad quit his job and start a business with her has been her fondest wish, I think, for years. He’d build, and she’d decorate.

Dad really was pretty handy in carpentry—when he wanted to be. What little he had done around here proved that. What he’d done for Uncle Joe, Aunt June, Aunt Jane, and Gram and Grampa Scoville proved it more. Geez, he’d built a whole house for Aunt June!

But whenever Mom brought up the subject, he usually told her he hadn’t any intention of ever quitting his job to go into any sort of business with her. He hadn’t the time to teach her, always supposing she had the brains to learn.

I happened to be around once when she’d confided in Aunt X’Lohna about what he’d said. Aunt X’Lohna’s older than Mom, but they’re really close. I always dream that that’s how it would be if I had a sister. We wouldn’t fight much; we’d be best friends—a united front against the machinations of our brothers who would naturally be constantly picking on us. Only we would always come up with ways of getting sweet revenge that they never can top!

Gramma Scoville used that word machinations whenever she talked about the Devil’s schemes. But it worked for describing those of devilish brothers just as much!

Anyway, Mom hadn’t cried exactly, but pretty close to it. I felt bad for her, knowing how much she wanted that. Aunt X’Lohna knew it, too. She’d hugged Mom like she was a little kid like John Jerard and just held her, her own expression very sad. There’d been something else in her look, too, but at the time I hadn’t thought too much about it. Now that I’d come to think of it, it’d been like-like a deep regret.

Annoyance verging upon anger now, Mom flung back, “Look, you told me to find a job. I found one! One I like as much as you appear to like yours, by the way! And I’ve added it to everything else that you expect me to do! In case you’ve forgotten, J.E., these kids are as much your responsibility as they are mine!”

“Your point?”

“Why do you get to ignore that? And why is it that only you are entitled to your hopes and dreams? Which I’ve never shot down, J.E. Yet, the second I mention mine, you’re sighing and groaning about them as if I’m expecting you to make them come true today!”

“Well, it’s going to take a lot to do what you’re dreaming—”

“Oh, and driving a Porsche isn’t going to take money? Buying land for a golf course isn’t going to take money? Running it will be free, will it? Or have you decided you want a Lamborghini and land for storage units? Or all four? That why I’ve suddenly found all the bills dropping onto my lap now, J.E.? You’ve started the ball rolling on your dreams?”

Dad couldn’t seem to look her in the face. But when he spoke, his voice came off resentful and impatient. “Some things came up, is all! Look, X’—Irv—” Dad broke off, suddenly realizing they weren’t exactly alone.

He cast me up a brief glance, turned, and disappeared out the front door without another word. Mom watched him go, a mixture of emotions in her face. Then with an almost inaudible sigh, she went off into her workshop.

Usually, I went back to my room—if I even came out of it when they fought. Other times I followed Mom into whatever room she retreated to afterwards. I never followed Dad. He never seemed to want anyone’s company but Brady’s, no matter what. Now, while I’d intended on going back to my room and getting back to the book I was supposed to be doing a report on, my legs took me downstairs and into my mother’s workshop.

It was a fair-sized room littered with books on interior design, carpentry, room plans, and stuff like that. A computer, an all-in-one-printer, a table for drawing up blueprints, and three or four different kinds of sewing machines for making drapes and stuff, plus a couple chairs for others to sit in were crammed in there too.

Totes of fabric were stacked along the wall down from the door a little bit. Other totes contained samples of wallpaper and paint chips. More of the same covered the table to the left of her desk. This room needed a redesign itself or at least some serious organization. But I didn’t see that happening anytime soon.

The other two cats, Elijah and Ezrayia, gorgeous Himalayans, sprawled upon the top of the tallest bookcases, taking a nap as if nothing had happened. Thomasyna followed me in but promptly deserted me to hop upon Mom’s lap.

Mom sat staring at the computer screen, an elbow on the arm of her chair, kind of biting her finger. Usually that meant she was in deep concentration on whatever project she was focused on presently. She let Thomasyna make herself at home, absently petting her. By the look in her face, I had no difficulty guessing that it wasn’t any of her projects messing with her mind right then.

She didn’t tell me to leave or even show she knew I existed, so I quietly sat in the chair Aunt X’Lohna usually occupied when she was over, and I tried to think of something to say. Something that would make her forget her argument with Dad. Erase that look from her face.

Nothing came to mind right off. Be stupid to bring up her issues with Rodney right then since he probably was on her black list around the same place Dad was at the moment.

Before I could find some safer topic to engage in, Dad came back looking for her. He leaned in the doorway, tapping on the doorjamb to get her attention.

“X’Laena, I’m going now. Taking Brady with me.”

Mom turned her head to look at him. She didn’t answer, just gave a slight nod. No forgiveness lived in her eyes for him. Only hurt and anger. Disappointment. And something else . . . resignation?

Pushing away from the doorjamb, Dad started to walk away.

“Wait!” Mom called, and he turned back to her. “We need cat food, milk, and bread. Plus, I promised to rent the kids a movie tonight. Get that, would you? Brady knows which one. And some snacks! We’re out of soda, too.”

Dad made a sign of acknowledgement. “Anything else?”

“How long you going to be?” She drummed the fingers of her left hand on the desktop. Rapid and nervous like, yet, a pretty cool rhythm just the same.

Dad shrugged. “I don’t know. Depends on what’s wrong with the truck. Expect us when you see us! I’ll run into Northfield Super for this stuff here. They’re open fairly late now, and they’ve got a sale going for soda and beer.”

Couldn’t mistake the Oh, yes . . . don’t forget the beer look in Mom’s eyes. She said, “There’s school tomorrow, remember. Don’t be all night!”

“I know; don’t worry about it!”

“Mmm. You’re not the one who has to face Mr. Frye every time Brady falls asleep in class! Like about every day last week! You sent him home late with Merek, but it would’ve been nice had you brought him home yourself earlier. You know . . . suppertime!”

“X’Laena, he’ll be in bed and sleeping by eight. I promise! Back off now.”

For a second, I thought it was going to start all over again. Over more issues than just Brady’s bedtime!

Geez, have I mentioned—I hate it when they fight?

Not that it’s always been this way. A few heated discussions, sure—but nothing major. Seemed like it turned ugly all of a sudden. I’m telling you, things get pretty intense until Mom finally sees some sort of humor in the situation!

Maybe Dad would say something kind of dumb or something, and she’d just break out laughing. Instant peace, just like that. Dad couldn’t seem to stay mad at her when she started to giggle. Mom would kiss him, and they’d make up. Occasionally, they’d run errands together, or we’d all go for ice cream, or bowling, or something fun like that.

So, yeah, if she’d laughed now, that’s how it would’ve gone. Maybe Uncle Joe’s truck would be waiting a couple days longer to get fixed.

But . . . she hadn’t seen one small thing funny in their confrontation just now. The yelling and the arguing were over, but there was no real peace in the house. You could feel the tension like a thick blanket on a sweltering summer night. Dad’s eyes still wouldn’t meet Mom’s for more than an instant at a time while hers seemed to impale him to the wall.

Nope, their argument wasn’t over, yet.

Brady kept bouncing all around Dad, chanting urgently, “Come on, Dad! Come on, Dad! Let’s go, Dad! Come on, Dad!”

When Mom didn’t say anything more, Dad pushed Brady ahead of him, saying, “All right, let’s go, Bud!”

“Oh, wait!” Brady, in his usual exuberant fashion, twisted away from Dad and ran back in to throw himself into Mom’s arms. “Bye, Mom!” Kissed her and hugged her like he wasn’t ever going to see her again.

He always did that. He’s the mushiest kid I’ve ever seen! He’ll be fifteen one day and still have to run back to get hugs and kisses from her, I bet!

She hugged him back and kissed his whole face. He giggled and squirmed away, calling, “I love ya, Mom! See y’ later!” as he ran back to Dad. “Bye, Dev! See y’ later, too!”

Dad didn’t go kiss Mom, though. Nor she didn’t call him back for one. Just called “I love you, too, Brady!” and let them go out the door.

In a few minutes, we heard another hot discussion start up outside. My half-brothers, Gifford and Taggart, waylaid Dad in the driveway, all mad about something. We both got up from our seats, and moved to stand at the windows together. We couldn’t hear the exact words, but the boys’ expressions, their gestures and tones certainly came off as extremely accusing!

Dad’s back was to us, so we couldn’t see his face or hear a thing he said. We tried to open the windows, but both stuck fast. Dad kept promising to fix them so Mom could have some fresh air in here. Never happened, of course.

Pushing past the boys, Dad opened the car door for Brady to climb across the driver’s seat and get in. He got in after him, made him climb into the backseat and buckle up. In a few seconds, he backed out and drove off without looking back.

For a second they watched him go. Then, turning they tore across the lawn, practically hopped over the three steps to the porch and burst through the front door, hollering, “Irvey! Irvey! Dad’s leaving us! For good!”

“He’s got his duffel bags and stuff in the trunk of his car! Some stuff in the back seat, too!”

“Momma! You gotta go after him! Now, quick! Don’t let him walk out on you guys, too!”

Out of breath and super excited, they leaned in the doorway expecting her to hop to instant action.

While Mom looked as if she actually believed them, she didn’t move right away. Just stared at them. Kind of like she didn’t really know what she should do. Or could do. Or maybe even, wanted to do.

Tag pushed past Giff and came over to drag on her arm. “Irvey, come on! It’s not a joke! He’s not coming back! And he’s taking Brady with him!” Tag’s sixteen but he looks twelve. Small, but don’t cross him! “Come on . . . do you want that?”

“Momma—” Gifford called her Momma most of the time because he liked her better than his own mother. “Momma, I think he took money from the cedar box on your dresser. Heard him mutter something about he’d replace it—if his lawyer insists. He was coming out of your bedroom at the time, and it got us suspicious, so we went snooping while he picked that fight with you.” He held up the spare keys to Dad’s car. “—and like I said, there’s his stuff in the car! He’s doing to you guys what he did to us! Go after him! Make him at least tell you that! And if I were you, I’d check your bank account!”

“And make sure Brady comes back with you!”

A glint in her violet eyes banished the hurt there. But when she rose and started to cross the room to go out, something in me snapped.

This wasn’t true! How could they say those things!

Fathers—or at least mine—wouldn’t do those things. If he said he was going to Uncle Joe’s to fix the truck, then that’s what he was doing! He promised to have Brady in bed by eight, so that meant he was coming back! Just because they’d had the worst fight of their history together—the worst I knew of, anyway—didn’t mean they were breaking up. Further, just because he’d left their mother, didn’t mean he’d be leaving mine.

You couldn’t compare Mom to Bernice May. Bernice May was taller, older, fairly chunky, and dressed mostly in sacky looking house coats, wore her hair in a tightly pulled back pony tail, smoked like a line of factory chimneys. And she drank as much as Dad did. More, maybe.

Everyone in Northfield knew Bernice May Scoville loved herself and no one else. She’d driven Dad out of her house and her life with her bad temper, her nagging, her squandering of his money, and her constant demand to be first in everything with everybody!

Mom was my height, about five-four, only a few pounds heavier than my 112, so nothing big. Her hair was of a gorgeous silver blonde, while mine’s sort of a blend of silver and gold. And hers was longer. Way longer. I didn’t care to have my hair dragging on the floor. Okay, it wasn’t, really. Anymore, anyway. She’d finally gotten it cut a month or so ago to just above her waist. Sold it to get money for the new computer she wanted Uncle Xavion to build for her.

Mine’s short, just about at my shoulders.

Mom didn’t smoke and only drank a wine cooler once or twice a year—which lasted her a week when she did have one. Literally! She never nagged anyone much and tried to be careful with her money. Walked that fine line between getting some of the things she needed and wanted, and making sure we kids had all we needed and most of what we wanted. Until today, she’d tried to make sure Dad was happy, too.

So—why would he want to leave? Who could he find that would be better than her?

Besides that, because of her ready acceptance of his kids, Giff and Tag wanted to stay with us. When Giff was about six and Tag five, they started coming to the house right after school every day. They didn’t wait for their visitation weekends. Stayed for as long as they could finagle and cried when Bernice May made them come home. When they got older, like about nine or ten, they’d slip out the windows, slide down whatever was handy, and come right back. They ran away so often that, finally, Bernice May let them come live with us.

I remember that because I was about five when it happened. I might not’ve understood exactly what was going on, but I did know my brothers would be staying with us all the time now. I’d been pretty excited about that!

I was excited now, too—but not in a good way! Ducking quickly past Mom, I stopped and stood before them all, glaring, challenging them to prove it beyond all shadows of doubt. Daring them to. “He never left before just because of a stupid argument! He is coming back! That’s it!”

“We’re talking now, Devynn! Today!” Giff answered impatiently. Reaching out, he hauled me out of Mom’s path. “He left us the same way! Well, he didn’t take anything with him back then. She told us he just got in the car and never came back. Didn’t even say he was going anywhere. ‘Course, Mom’s a b—well, I won’t say it. But she is! I don’t know what his problem is now! I thought everything was great here! Thought everything was like–well, like it’s supposed to be.”

Giff’s seventeen, but just then he seemed like a kid who needed a hug himself. Not that he’d get it from me. Not then!

“You wouldn’t make us leave, would you, Irvey?” Tag asked Mom anxiously. He always called her Irvey because that’s what she liked to be called. It’s a form of her middle name which is Irvette. “I mean, if he is leaving, you won’t ship us back to our mother, will you?”

“No,” Mom said, squeezing between us all and heading for the stairs. We all followed her up to her bedroom.

The duffle bags Mom used to pack her stuff in when she went on an overnight or when we went camping were still in the closet. But Dad’s were gone. Some of his clothes; anything that Mom had gotten him was still there or in his dresser drawers.

She went up the hallway to Brady’s room. We trooped over with her, forgetting that John Jerard still napped in there. Johnny’s only two. Guess he was really tired for he didn’t stir the whole time we checked things out. Brady’s duffels were missing along with most of his clothes. And some of his toys.

“See that? If he was bringing him back, why would he need to pack duffels?”

“Don’t forget to check your account . . . and your cedar box, Irvey.” Tag tapped Mom’s arm. “If all the money is gone—”

Mom shot a look over at Johnny to be sure he still slept, and she pushed past us all to go back to her room.

“That just proves he’s a thief!” I countered crossly, following the party out the door. “Or he needed some extra cash.”

“Yeah, for what? He started that fight on purpose, Devynn! And if you were down there at the time, you’d know he did!”

“Maybe, but he’s never gone and taken her money—”

“Yes,” said Mom in rather a calm tone which cut off my retort. “Actually, he has. Just not from there.”

Okay . . . she would know that. No reason for her to lie about it. But in my determination to believe that nothing had changed in my world since I got up this morning, I wouldn’t let it go. “Okay. Okay, it still doesn’t prove he’s gone for good!”

We streamed in behind her, our gazes seeking out her dresser top. There sat the cedar box, the hinged clasp ripped off it, and the top open.

Reaching out a hand to it, she tipped it slightly to look inside.

Empty.

Not even a wood chip or a lint ball.

Gifford growled. “I knew it! He robbed you and left us, Momma!”

“How come you didn’t stick it in your bank account? That was kinda stu—” My accusation suddenly turned to amazed awe. “Ohhh! Whoa!”

For she’d taken a small pen knife from her pocket and slid it in at an edge. With a deft movement, the bottom of the box popped out to reveal a false bottom! Very cool!

And, there, safely hidden away was a large wad of cash, some letters tied with red ribbons and a small maroon and gold journal.

“Oh, wow! Nice play, Momma! So, what he got wasn’t what he was hoping to get?”

“No, not even close. But now you all know about this, I hope I can trust you to mind your business!”

We will!” Tag promised, “So how much did he get?”

“Enough,” she said noncommittally. Then, suddenly, she let out a long breath and buried her face in her hands. Just stood there without crying or anything.

My anger surged up like a red tidal wave. Drowned my brain. Then, it turned into a thick rope that tightened around my chest. I couldn’t think straight, and I couldn’t breathe. While Giff had said Dad had started the fight earlier, my mind carried off just one thought.

I wanted two parents. Together! Forever!

It didn’t matter who started the fight. If Mom hadn’t let it go on for so long—if she had just healed it with her laughter like she had all those times before, it would’ve been all okay. She had such an infectious laugh you couldn’t stay mad at her. Now, because she’d held it back, held back the peace and forgiveness that went with it, she’d driven him off the same way Bernice May had done!

“So, is this it? You’re taking their word for it?” I pushed her a little. “Don’t you think you should go find him? Tell him you’re sorry for all the mean things you said to him!”

Giff whacked me upside the head. “You stupid or something? He said way more rotten things to her than she did to him! What about that?”

“So, what? Mom, you always say sorry first! What’s different today? And if he is leaving—well, is that what you want?” I shouldn’t have said it—not in that tone. Well, okay, I shouldn’t have said it at all! But definitely, not with such a heartless and snotty attitude.

Just then, though, all I wanted to do was make her sorry for what was happening. Make her go find him and bring him home. I truly did not want to live in a split home. I wanted to be one of the lucky kids with two parents who stayed together till death did them part—after I died at about 155 years old!

She just gave me a look, the same mixture of emotions in it that I’d witnessed earlier, and then she strode out of the room. “Stay with the baby! I’ll be back!” she flung at us over her shoulder.

“Oh, no! We’re coming, too!” Tag followed her out, practically in her pocket. “We’re gonna back you up, Irvey! That way, he can’t say you’re lying about anything later. Or that you misunderstood, or made it up, or heard it wrong, or however he might say it!”

She didn’t argue. Just kept heading toward the stairs. The boys clumped down them after her. I hesitated only a second. If they were going to back Mom, then I needed to go. Dad had his favorite son with him, true. But, as no one else was giving him the benefit of the doubt, I, his only daughter, would.

I shot back up he hallway to the little boys’ room and grabbed John Jerard out of his crib. Parked him under my arm and chased after Mom, fearful she’d leave me behind if I didn’t hurry.

And she would have. Especially if I hadn’t had John Jerard clamped to my side. He was groggy and confused. But when he saw Mom at the wheel of her van, he came around enough to cry out for her. No one can resist that sweet angelic face with those big purplely blue eyes, and headful of curls so thick and golden. His tears trembling on long eyelashes, ready to fall any instant.

She stopped the van and let us get in.

Barely.