Authors: Tracie Puckett
Tags: #Young Adult, #Romance, #Contemporary
Just a Little
| Tracie Puckett
Just a Little Series Part IV
These stories are works of fiction.
Names, characters, places
, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
Friday December 14
“I’m not a villain,” Charlie grumbled, throwing his coffee mug into the sink a little too hard. He turned to my cousin for confirmation.
“Leave me outta this, Dad,” Matt said, snapp
ing the lid on a piece of Tupperware
. He secured our leftovers in the refrigerator and turned back to the counter, never once looking at me or Charlie.
sat at the table, pushing my asparagus around with the fork. Charlie, who’d cleaned his plate nearly fifteen minutes ago, was now leaning agai
nst the counter.
“Julie,” Charlie said, dropping his head. “I’m sorry, but the answer is no.”
“No,” he said, refusing to hear my argume
nt before I had time to make
“Why?” I asked,
prompting him to give me an explanation
(though I already knew
He didn’t think I was privy to the
conversation he’d had with
Luke last month, but because of my super ability to eavesdrop
at any given moment
, I knew all I needed to.
Charlie had been bending over backward to keep me from leaving the house alone. He wouldn’t let me step foot near the police station. I was on
leash—and he refused to tell me why.
If I hadn’t heard the conversation with my own two ears—if I didn’t know what Luke had admitted to my uncle—I’d be irate by
. But, in a way—a very
way—I found some humor in it. Charlie didn’t want me within a one-mile radius of Luke… and he made sure he did everything he had to do to keep us apart.
“Because I said so, that’s why—”
“It’s coffee!” I yelled, throwing my arms in the air. “O
ne cup of coffee with a friend—”
“Who?” he asked, convinced he already knew the answer.
“Does it matter
“It does if you want to leave this house,” he said.
I crossed my arms and slumped further
the chair. “
Is it a
friend from school?”
What’s going on here?” I asked. “
You’ve been keeping me under a
! You don’t have to know every minute detail of what’s going on in my life.” I looked at my cousin. “Why don’t you hound Matt every time he asks
to go out
“You don’t trust me?” I asked, straightening back up. I threaded my fingers together and rested my elbows on the table. “Charlie, I’ve never given you a reason to think I can’t be trusted. When I first moved here, you let me do anything and
I wanted to do—no questions asked. What’s changed?”
He knitted his eyebrows together
. He knew I was right; I hadn’t done anything—not once—to make him think I was untrustworthy. But the fear of me sneaking away to see Luke was more than he could
“For one,” he said, combing his fingers through his mustache
ou never used to keep secrets.”
“I’m not keeping secrets
“Grace Reibeck,” I said, seeing
sudden interest in the
He knew as well as I did that mentioning the name
meant I was
dancing on dangerous ground
“What business do you have with Grace?” Charlie asked, folding his arms across his chest.
“It’s two-fold, really,” I said, working out my explanation just as I’d rehearsed it earlier in my room. “One, she and Lonnie own the only flower shop in town.”
“And that’s important because….?”
“I joined the Oakland
Committee last month,” I said. “After designing the Fall Ball, I realized I have a bit of
knack for party planning
party execution. With some time, a budget, and a place to work, I can come up with just about anything for any occasion.”
“Not following, Julie,” Charlie said. “Narrow your scope
“I wanted to get involved,” I said. “You’re always preaching about how important it is for kids to stay active in the community. Take your job shadowing program, for instance. You wanted us to figure out what we wanted to do
. You wanted us to be proactive. Well, I’m being proactive.
I found something I like doing. I’m sticking to my guns.
The Fall Ball was great, but it was small potatoes compared to what I’m doing now.”
Parade,” I said. “
Which brings me back to Grace.
She’s going to cut me a deal on flowers for the floats.
I need flowers, and lots of ‘em. Grace is my go-to gal.
“This isn’t the Rose Bowl, for God’s sake,” he mumbled, burying his head in the palm of his hands. “What’s the other reason?”
“You said you want
to meet with Grace for two reasons,” he said. “What’s the other?”
I said. “Glad you asked. She’s
the middle man between me and the Grand Marshal.”
“What’s that now?” he asked so quickly that his words sounded like one long slur.
arshal,” I said. “The parade
ide through the line first
, leading the rest of the floats along the route
” Charlie’s mouth hung
, so I elaborated
. “The Grand M
arshal is an
outstanding member of the community that is deserving of an award or recognition
of some kind
arshal is,” he said. “I just don’t know
“Luke,” I said,
watching his face turn a dark shade of crimson.
It was strange to hear
name cross Charlie’s lips. I’d gotten so used to hearing
, Matt, and everyone else we knew call him
. To hear Charlie refer to him
… well, it told me just how quickly
the dynamic of their relationship had changed. It was no longer rainbows
butterflies… or, beer and poker nights
. Their friendship—or what they had of one—ceased to exist the night Luke opened his heart to my uncle.
“He was nominated by the committee and voted into the posi
tion last week,” I said. “I wanted to do a
kinda thing with his float—old pictures, mementos from his past… really celebrate who he is. Grace is
try to dig some of that up for me. When it comes right down to it, we just w
ant to give him the best float possible.
After all, it
“Aren’t they s’pose to just ride in on a car or something?” Charlie asked, trying to keep his voice calm and unsuspecting.
“Why a float?”
Change of management, Charlie.
We’re doing things
different this year,” I said. “
my right-hand man, and she agrees… it’s time for change
,” I said, looking at my watch. “S
he’ll be here any second to pick me up, so if you’re not going to let me go… you’ll have to tell her yourself. We’ve had these plans for weeks. She won’t be happy if I cancel.
Right on cue, the doorbell rang. We all knew it was Grace, but the real question was whether or not Charlie would ever let me walk out the door with her.
“Julie,” Charlie said as I jumped from my chair and sprinted for the door.
I turned back and met his stare.
“Yes?” I asked, long and drawn out.
“Just you and Grace?”
I nodded, and it seemed to ease his mind. “One hour. I want you back here by sundown.”
“Great!” I said, wearing a genuine smile. “I couldn’t stay out long, anyway. Luke’ll be here at eight to he
lp me pull together the
proposal for the parade route. See you in a bit.”
I turned on my heel just as Charlie said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Get back here.”
I stopped and turned back yet again.
” I asked, as melodramatically
“What did you just say?”
“See you in a bit
“I couldn’t stay out long anyway,” I said, acting as though I didn’t know what he was aiming for.
“Oh,” I said, nodding. “Derek will be here at eight to help pull together the route proposal.”
“Did I?” I asked, looking innocently between Matt and Charlie.
.” I slapped myself on the forehead. “I guess with all this
arshal business I’ve j
ust had Luke on the brain 24/7.
as I turned out
I felt borderline evil
with Charlie, but I
couldn’t help it
ny chance to see him squirm. I was tired of his new approach to parenting.
I wanted off
planned to keep applying pressur
e; I’d make him squeal eventually. He was
to tell me
why he was so hell-bent on keeping me away from Luke.