Read Miss Me Not Online

Authors: Tiffany King

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Suicide

Miss Me Not (21 page)

BOOK: Miss Me Not
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"Pete?" I asked, smiling at him.

"Yeah.
Every family's got one. Pete definitely pushes the limits of 'blood is thicker than water.' As my papaw would say, 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.' With Pete, that's dead-on, his mom is a piece of work too. No get-together is complete until she adds a dose of her drama to it. Needless to say, we were all glad when she ran off with her trainer, including my uncle Phil, who had been looking for an out for years. Pete's had a chip on his shoulder since she left, which is why we all cut him a little slack, even though I know my Papaw is itching to take a switch to him like he used to when we were younger."

I couldn't help laughing at the mental picture of the tiny old man at the head of our long table chasing Pete around to give him a beat down. "I think your Papaw would have a tough time with that."

"Oh, don't be fooled by his stature. Papaw is a tough old bird. I heard he brought a man a quarter of his age to the ground when he ran his grocery cart into the back of my Nana's legs, knocking her down. According to my uncle John, who had to pick Papaw up at the police station after the incident, Papaw knocked the guy down by pegging him in the head with a can of green beans.
Knocked the guy out flat."

"What?" I gasped, looking down the table at the innocent-looking old man who was regaling everyone at his end of the table with some story. Everyone was listening to him with rapt attention. Watching his animated face while he talked, I couldn't believe he'd hurt a fly, let alone peg someone with a canned good.

"Yep, I guess after the guy knocked Nana down to her knees, he kept walking like it was no big deal, even though my Papaw yelled after him. The guy flipped him the bird and kept walking, so Papaw grabbed a can of beans out of their cart and chucked it right at the back of the guy's head. They say he dropped like a sniper had taken him out," Dean said, chuckling.

"Did the guy press charges?" I asked worriedly.

"Nah, he was too embarrassed that a man three times his age took him out. Plus, there were tons of witnesses who saw him knock my nana down. Uncle John said if Papaw wouldn't have taken him out, several bag boys and the assistant manager were more than willing to step in and do it. My grandparents are quite popular in this area. I guess that's what happens when your family practically started the town. Papaw says even if he would have wound up in jail, it would have still been worth it. He says no one messes with his family, especially his lady," Dean said, looking toward his grandparents affectionately.

"That's freaking hilarious. Your papaw is old-school," I said smiling. "It's got to be an amazing feeling to have someone stand up for you without a thought about the consequences."

"That's family,
Mads
. Everyone here would have done the same. They'd do the same for you."

"They don't even know me," I said, feeling uncomfortable at being included in his analogy.

"Yeah, but they know you're important to me," he said as he took a bite of his sweet potato casserole.

Questions bubbled up inside of me. How did they know I was so "important" to him, as he put it? Why did I intrigue him so much? Let's face it. Any girl at our school would die to be sitting where I was at the moment.

"You sure take your friend status seriously," I finally said, making light of his comment.

"Whatever helps you sleep at night,
Mads
," he replied, eating another forkful of food.

I ignored his dig and concentrated on eating my own meal as Dean started up a conversation with Travis on his other side. I scanned the table while I ate, soaking in the multiple conversations around me. My eyes met Trish's, who was sitting directly across from me. She was studying me intently and I couldn't help wondering if she'd heard our exchange. It seemed impossible with the noise level surrounding us, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being scrutinized. Dropping my eyes back to my plate, I focused on eating.

The rest of the meal passed uneventfully and when everyone was done they all pitched in to clean. One of the rows of tables was folded up and stored away in the barn behind the house. All the mismatched chairs were dragged into groups where the adults could sit and chat while the kids played on the lawn. Someone wheeled a large TV out to the porch while others carried chairs up to the porch and set them up in rows.

"Football," Dean said as an explanation when he saw me looking confused.

"Like on TV?" I asked.

"Of course, the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving Day. It's a tradition for all of us to watch the game together. Papaw's living room isn't big enough for all of us, so all my uncles pitched in a couple years ago and purchased the TV and stand. They made sure the stand had wheels so we could wheel it out."

"Yeah, but we live in Florida. I don't know a lot about football, but aren't you supposed to support your home team?"

"I've been a Cowboys fan since birth," Dean boasted. "Besides, the Florida teams suck," he said loudly.

"How about I give you a whipped cream face mask for that blasphemous statement," one of his uncles growled, making a move toward Dean.

"You and what army, old man," Dean mocked, dancing out of reach. Not looking where he was going, he put himself within reaching distance of one of his other uncles who grabbed Dean's arms from behind, holding him captive.

"Give him the pie," Travis hooted, helping his uncle hold Dean in place. All the rest of the relatives joined in Travis's hooting and chanting.

"What's going on?" I asked Trish as she came over to stand next to me, laughing.

"First person to criticize Uncle John's favorite team gets a whipped cream pie in the face. Dean must have said something," she said laughing as we watched Dean break away and make a run for it. He was detoured when Travis took a dive and grabbed him around the ankles.

Travis and John manhandled Dean back to his feet as he kicked and thrashed trying to get loose again. Entranced by the spectacle in front of me, I watched with fascination as his sweet, innocent-looking nana came out of the house carrying a pie pan towered high with whipped cream. The pie looked like something you would find on a cooking contest. The edges of the whipped cream were browned to a golden brown while a cherry sat perfectly on the top. It looked way too pretty to be going in someone's face. I couldn't help wondering why his nana was in charge of the pie until I looked at Dean and saw that all fight had gone out of him as his nana approached.

I grinned. It was all crystal clear. They sent the elderly woman in to do the dirty work because they knew the captive wouldn't kick out at his grandmother. It was ingenious. The noise level around me increased to a fever pitch as his nana stopped a foot from him. "What did you say again?" she asked wickedly.

"I said, Florida football teams suck!"
Dean hollered, owning his statement proudly just before the pie landed smack dab in his face.

Everyone started cheering and I couldn't resist joining in. They were a family unlike any I had ever seen. Their affection was contagious as they all took turns slapping Dean on the back while whipped cream fell from his face in big old globs. Watching them made me envision my own future. By choosing to live, I had given myself the chance to have a family like this someday. We could start our own traditions, stand up for each other and above all else, forgive each other for our faults. I wanted this future. At that moment, I couldn't help thinking about James. Would a future like this even be possible for people like us?

The sun had set by the time the football game ended on the big TV. The atmosphere had mellowed out as the younger children were carted off to bed. Most the men were snoring in their chairs, obviously full from desert. Trish and I spent the majority of the football game chatting and getting to know each other. I enjoyed the conversation more than I thought I would. It had been years since I had talked to a girl around my age that didn't look at me with disdain. It was nice.

"How's it going?" Dean asked, coming up beside me.

"Good," I said honestly. With the exception of the initial hugs and my freak out after his tackle, it had been possibly the best day of my life. Any of the apprehension I had felt about sticking out like a sore thumb had never surfaced. His family had accepted me as one of their own without a qualm.

"I'm glad," he said sincerely, tucking a lock of my windblown hair around behind my ear.

"I better go see if Mom needs help getting the twins down," Trish said, standing up. "Madison, it was really nice to meet you. Don't forget our lunch date when I come home for winter break."

"I won't. Thanks for keeping me company this afternoon."

"Absolutely."

"So, what would you like to do now?" Dean asked, checking his phone for the time. "We still have a few hours before we need to head home."

"Truthfully?"
I asked.

"Yeah, truthfully.
The sky's the limit."

"Well, I'd really like to take a turn on the tire swing by your parents' house," I said self-consciously.

"I can do that," he said, leaning in to brush a quick kiss across my forehead.

My pulse did its normal racing when his lips hovered so close to mine. He grinned down at me confidently before reaching down to help me up. He was playing me like an instrument.
Making me accustomed to his touch.
Making me hyperaware of his every movement.

"Let's go say our goodbyes so we can head out."

"Will there be hugging involved?"

"Without a doubt," he answered.

"Bring it on," I said, resigning myself to the multiple hugs.

Much to my surprise, the farewell hugs didn't feel nearly as oppressive as the greetings had. In one short day, I had come to know almost everyone at the get-together. They had all taken a moment to chat with me at least once throughout the day. Some had chatted longer, making me feel included.

Just when I thought I had the hugging thing down pat, Pete ruined it by holding me too tightly and allowing his hand to cup my ass before he released me. Glaring at him, I jerked back and shoved him away.

It took every bit of strength I had in me to resist knocking the smug look off his sleazy freaking face. I looked around for Dean, suddenly very anxious to leave.

"It's all good, Madison. We're cousins, so we share
everything,
" he taunted, emphasizing the word while he reached out a finger to stroke my wrist.

"Really?
How about another hug then?"
I said, inviting him closer.

He stepped toward me with his arms open as I thrusted my knee into his crotch, sending him to the ground in a heap.

Stepping closer to him, I went in for the kill. "You ever touch me like that again and you're fucking dead. Got me?" I said, flicking him on the ear, just to emphasize my point. I turned away from him in disgust.

"Bravo," Travis said, sliding up beside me. "I'm pretty sure you got your point across. Of course, I think I might need to add in my two cents."

"You all right,
cous
? You gotta be more careful watching where you walk," Travis said, reaching a hand down to help him up. Pete's eyes widened in pain as Travis obviously squeezed his hand. "We don't share everything. Got me, dipshit?" he said, before strutting away and leaving a shell-shocked Pete in his wake.

"What was all that about?" Dean asked, joining me.

"He fell," I lied.

"Pete? What a doof. Pete, do we need to get you some kneepads or something?" Dean teased, unwittingly adding more insult to Pete's injury.

"You ready?" he asked, turning back to me.

"Sure," I answered, looking back at the lit-up patchwork house one last time. Despite Pete's groping hand, I was sad to leave. Facing my silent existence in my own house seemed cruel after spending a day with them. Death would almost be more welcoming than being alone, even for a second. Someday, I would have a life like the one I had experienced today. A life where I wouldn't give death a second thought as I actually lived.

"Will your parents mind that we're out here?" I asked Dean when he pulled into the dirt drive in front of his parents' house a few minutes later.

"Not at all.
As long as we don't run around screaming like a bunch of loons and keeping the twins up," he added, climbing from the jeep.

I followed behind him, trying not to trip in the dark. The beams from the porch light didn't quite reach the area where we were walking. Dean reached over and grabbed my hand to help guide me over the tree roots that had broken through the soil.

Reaching the tire swing, I cautiously climbed on, waiting for Dean to join me.

"Hang on," he said, pulling the tire swing all the way back until the ropes wouldn't stretch any farther. Finally releasing the tension, he allowed gravity to take over.

I laughed in exhilaration as the cool breeze tickled my neck and my hair blew around me in the night sky. I swayed back and forth with Dean shoving the tire each time I passed to aid my momentum.

Finally, he grabbed the rope, jerking me to a stop."That was great," I said, looking up.

BOOK: Miss Me Not
2.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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