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Negative Space XII
Continuation of our Tuesday serial
from the fountain pen of Myra Love
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 Chapter XII

I wish I could say that I went right home after my drugstore shift and told my parents about Donald. I'd like to believe I would have, if either of them had been there, but I'm not sure. Sometimes just deciding to do something, especially if the decision has been difficult, makes me feel as if I've already accomplished whatever I'd decided to do. In this instance I didn't get a chance to find out whether I'd have acted on my decision or not since the only person at home when I got there was Donald.
My mother had left me a note saying she'd had to go into work early since the day shift person had come down with the flu and that my dad had a hauling job that would keep him out from late afternoon until after midnight. Donald was quite pleased with himself and told me not to bother cooking his dinner as he had his wheels and wanted to head into town since there was no one home to stop him.
"You need to eat," I scolded.
He grinned. "I'll get pizza or a burger. It'll be nice to be out of the house after dark. I feel as if I've been a prisoner since I got busted."
I resisted the temptation to tell him that if he got busted again he'd be a prisoner for real. Instead I followed him out the door to look at his new vehicle. Only it wasn't anywhere I could see it.
"So where do have the new wheels?" I inquired.
He turned and look at me as if I were crazy. "You don't seriously think I'd leave the thing where dad could see it, do you?" he asked in a tone shot through with incredulity. "My God, Lisa, you really haven't got a clue, have you?"
"So what's the point of having wheels if you can't keep the car here to use?"
He laughed. "It's just over at Jordan's," he replied cheerfully.
Jordan was his best friend and a near neighbor. If Donald went along the road, he'd have to walk three miles, but cutting across the fields, the trek was only a little over half a mile.
"Does Jordan's dad know you have your car there?"
He snorted. "Half the time Jordan's dad doesn't know his own name. Of course, he doesn't know."
Brendan Lewis, Jordan's dad, was an alcoholic whose wife had left him, taking her twin son and daughter with her when they were toddlers. She'd remarried, but her husband didn't really want the kids from her first marriage, so she'd shipped them back to their father, who loved them when he was sober enough to remember who they were.
Donald had always spent as much time as he could at the Lewis' place playing with the twins when all of them were still kids. Now that they were grown it wouldn't have surprised me to learn that Jordan was involved in Donald's drug dealing. Whatever Donald did, he did or at least wanted to do as well.
Brenda, named after her father and his favorite child, merely had an enormous crush on Donald and was willing to grant him any favors he asked for. Even mom and dad had noticed and were worried that he'd end up impregnating and having to marry Brenda because she was so willing to do anything he wanted.
What they didn't know was that Donald's interest in Brenda wasn't that kind of interest. What he valued above all else was her uncanny ability to copy. She'd written him many a note getting his absences excused when he'd cut classes. All it took was his handing her a shopping list that mom had tossed in the trash, and she produced a perfect facsimile of mom's handwriting.
Even I was impressed by Brenda's incredible eye for detail and her extraordinary coordination. I just wished she'd used her considerable talent in some other way. Needless to say, mom and dad had no more idea of what Brenda was doing than her own father did.
So I wasn't at all surprised to learn that Donald's car was stowed away somewhere on the Lewis' property. He wouldn't tell me exactly where, and I didn't press him. I wasn't that eager to know.
"Go back in the house. It's cold out here," Donald ordered me. He was right. I hadn't put on a coat when I followed him outside and with my sweater on over a turtleneck I was shivering.
"Don't be too late," I called out after him.
He just shook his head and waved. I watched him take the short cut behind the barn and disappear. Then I walked back into the house and put on water for tea.
It took me a few minutes to warm up. I stood by the stove and watched the kettle start to steam. Once the water was ready and I'd made myself a small pot of tea, I sat down at the kitchen table. I wasn't hungry, but I knew I ought to eat. Instead I sipped my tea and wondered if Donald would really come home before the curfew that applied to all drivers under eighteen. He had until one in the morning.
I sat for almost an hour and then decided I was hungry enough to eat some bread and left-over meat loaf. After that I'd study for my psychology test.
I must have been sound asleep when Donald got home because I didn't hear him or my father climb the stairs. I'd studied until close to eleven and then gone to bed. It was all I could do not to search the bathroom and Donald's bedroom to see if he really had gotten rid of the jar full of drugs. I restrained myself, afraid he'd come in while I was going through his stuff Besides, he could have hidden the stuff somewhere outside the house or even taken it with him in his new vehicle.
I wondered how long it would take for his secrets to be discovered. Someone was bound to see him driving around town and tell dad or mom. As for his other secret, I shuddered to think of what might happen when that was discovered. With that thought in mind that I feel asleep. It was still there when I awoke the next morning. The other worry on my mind was my psychology final. It was scheduled for Monday, the evening after the pen club party. Although I'd studied, I wasn't sure I was really making progress. Of course, if I decided it was too hard to face Jason and Diana at the party, I could always use my need for last minute cramming as an excuse for staying home.
Dad wasn't around when I went out to do my morning chores, and I wasn't sure he'd made it home the night before. I knew Donald had come back because his dirty socks were on the kitchen table. I sighed and removed them. After I put out breakfast dishes and put the coffee on, it was time for me to head to work.

Some days work drags on forever, especially when I have a lot on my mind. However, my morning at the bank seemed to fly by. A lot of customers meant that I didn't have time to worry, and that was good. Some people were coming in to deposit Christmas bonuses, though I noticed there were fewer than last year. And many were coming to draw the last of what they had left in their Christmas club accounts. It was the height of gift-buying season.
I studied through my lunch hour and then finished my shift at the bank. My supervisor said the bank manager had some good news for me and told me to see him at the beginning of my shift tomorrow. I knew this meant a promotion, but I was not about to quit my job at Hightower's until it was official.
The sky was already starting to get dark by the time I headed over to the drugstore. I was five minutes early, but Ernie, the day clerk, was already waiting to leave. "You're late!" he growled, pointing at his watch, which he always had set seven minutes ahead. I grinned at him and pointed at mine. "Still five minutes to go," I announced loudly, so everyone in the store could hear. Mrs. Harvey, the pharmacist, smiled broadly at me. She didn't like Ernie. "Nice of you to show up early, dear," she said just as loudly. I smiled at her and locked my tote bag into the drawer under the cashier's counter. Ernie snorted and left.
Hightower's wasn't quite so busy as the bank, but there were a few customers wandering around at the start of my shift. Jerome Finch, the only male nurse in the hospital's emergency room, greeted me with, "That pregnant girl was discharged." He shook his head. "A shame to see one so young." He paid for a bottle of shampoo and a small package of breath mints and left with a friendly wave.
As the hours of my shift ran down, fewer customers came into the store. I checked the stock, re-stocked a few items, and dusted the book rack. I was just beginning to re-organize the two shelves of greetings cards at the front of the store when a customer came in. She was about my age, tall and thin with a noticeable cleft in her chin. I'd never seen her before, and she stood out because she looked Chinese.
"Hi," she said in a pleasant tone of voice but without smiling. "I need to get some contact lens cleaner. I forgot to pack it."
I could have just pointed her in the right direction, but since the store wasn't busy, I said, "Follow me," and led her to the right shelf.
"I can't believe I was so careless," she mumbled. "Might as well have forgotten my birth control."
I wasn't sure I'd heard right, but that's what I thought she said.
"Are you visiting?" I asked.
She nodded, peering at the selection of contact lens solutions on the shelf. "Yes, it's school break and my boyfriend wanted me to meet his mother." She shook her head. "His mother is fine, but that grandmother of his is a monster."
I reeled. Could this be Diana? I took a good look at her peering at the shelf. "You aren't, by any chance, Jason Hardy's new girlfriend, are you?" I asked, surprised at my directness.
She looked up, perplexed. "How did you…?" she began, but I interrupted her.
"I'm Lisa Dunn," I said, leaning back on my heels to watch her reaction. Had she ever heard of me? Would she be embarrassed? Defensive? Smug?
She grinned at me and extended her hand. "You're Lisa? Wow! I really wanted to meet you. I've heard so much about you from Jason."
I was surprised at the sincerity and warmth of her voice and the look of respect that went with her words. She didn't seem to be uncomfortable at all. Didn't she get it?
I looked her over appraisingly. "So, you're my replacement," I said. "Well, I guess Jason could have done worse."
She seemed surprised at my tone and that I didn't shake her hand.
"It would have been nice though if you'd waited to move in on him until the two of us had broken up."
She looked stunned. "What?" she mumbled. "Jason always called you the girl he used to go out with back home. I thought…"
I shrugged. "Forget it. It's not your fault."
"But I feel terrible," she said and seemed to mean it. Her grin had been replaced by a look of chagrin.
"Well, we never broke up. Of course, you might say that I should have realized Jason would date someone else once he left, but it would have been nice if he'd told me." I said all this while re-arranging the bottles of contact lens solution that she had picked up and put back down on the shelf.
"Nice?" she repeated. "NICE! Of course he should have told you. I don't know what he could have been thinking of!" She sounded truly perturbed and so outraged on my behalf that I almost wanted to let her off the hook. Her, but not Jason.
"Well, I guess guys just don't think about those things," I said, wishing she'd just pick a bottle and pay for it so I could stop trying to figure out the right thing to say.
"You aren't still…," she caught herself not knowing what to say and then chose her words carefully, "…attached to him, are you?"
"Attached?" I repeated a little mockingly. "You mean, am I pining away for Jason?"
She shrugged.
"No," I said, and it was true. "I am just offended at his behavior and appalled that I could have thought so highly of someone who could treat me like that."
She grinned. "Well, that's good to know. Not because I think it makes his actions any better but just because…, well because it wouldn't be good if you were all down about it."
I waited. She seemed to want to say more but hesitated and tapped one of the bottles of contact lens cleaner in a rhythmic way.
"Yeah, well, that's how it is, I guess," I said inconsequentially.
She pursed her lips for a second and wrinkled her nose. "You know, it would be really nice if the two of us could manage not to let this stop us from getting to know each other."
Getting to know each other? I had no clue what she was talking about.
"I write children's books," she said. "And I need someone who can illustrate them. Jason said you did great drawings of animals, plants, and kids. I was going to ask if I could see some of your work."
I stared at her blankly.
"Of course, if you didn't want to have anything to do with me because of Jason, I'd understand. I'd feel really bad about it, but I would understand." She sighed. "I'd try to anyway. But really, I wasn't that interested in coming here to meet Jason's mother, though she seems very nice. I'm just not that serious about him. But when he said he knew a girl who had great talent as an illustrator, well, that really caught my attention." She smiled a little shyly. "I hope you'll think about what I said."
She picked up a bottle of contact lens solution and held it out. "I'll take this one," she said.
I took it from her hand and led her to the cash register. She paid me, thanked me, apologized again for her part in what Jason had done, and was gone, leaving me chewing on my thumbnail in total bewilderment at the strange turn events had taken.

 

 

 


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