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Chapter 5

Jon, looking out the window to make sure his mom hadn't driven up, dialed the phone, long-distance, direct. He had waited as long as he could, too long, to talk with Carolyn. She hadn't answered his last two letters, and he was worried about her. What had happened? He knew she had been busy, probably just hadn't gotten around to it, but it was only two weeks until graduation. And he would surely get enough money in graduation gifts, with all the relatives he had around here, to go to her, even if Mom and Dad refused to help.

Things had been so boring here. ever since Denise's old man got sick! She wasn't any fun anymore. She was always worried about "Dad", or afraid "Mom" might need her, or a million other reasons to stay close to home. Oh. she was still sweet to him, when they were together, but it was like she was in another world.

If he could just get Carolyn on the phone...

That's strange! The recording said the number he dialed had been disconnected. Maybe he had dialed it wrong. No, the same recording, again!

I can't imagine Carolyn without a phone, Jon thought to himself. She'd have to have a phone for her job. Well, then, what about the office of that company she had been working for?

"Carolyn Adams, please," Jon asked with his most adult tone.

May I ask who's calling, please?"

"Jonathon Rivers. "

"Thank you. Please hold."

The receptionist had a pleasant, almost sexy voice, Jon thought, as he waited. It seemed to take a long time, but after a few minutes, a man's voice came over the wire.

"Yes, this is Michael Brady. You asked to speak with Carolyn Adams? She's not available. May I take a message?"

After a long pause, Jon rallied. "Yes, this is Jonathon Rivers, a close friend of Carolyn's. It's extremely important that 1 speak to her right away. Please have her call 915-"

Interrupting Jon in mid-sentence, the man asked, "You say you're a good friend of hers? Well. evidently she has neglected to tell you that we have just recently been married, and that she'll no longer be accepting calls from her former 'friends'! Now. is there anything I can do for you, sir?" the man asked icily.

In a state of shock, Jon replied, politely, "No. sir. Thank you, sir," and hung up the phone.

So that's why my letters weren't answered. But, who was this Michael Brady? He had heard that name somewhere before. Jon started to the kitchen, pondering this unexpected turn of events. All his plans down the tube! How could Carolyn do this to him? Then he remembered. Mike Brady, she had called him. Her boss! Carolyn had married a fat, middle-aged, millionaire! Well. if he wasn't a millionaire, he wasn't far from it, reasoned Jon. Can you beat that? She sure had wrecked his plans. Now what?

He took the cover off the freshly baked German Chocolate cake, cut a man-sized portion, and poured a large glass of milk. Well, there were plenty of other fish in the sea! There was Denise. for one! And there were several other girls around here, for that matter! He could live without Carolyn! After all, he hadn't done so bad for himself so far!

Jon had very discreetly been with a few of the other girls in town. since Denise had been so wrapped up in her family. After all. he hadn't made any promises to her, anyway!

Sitting at the bar, he finished off the snack, as his mind raced feverishly. Jon's folks had their hearts set on him going to college this fall. He hadn't yet shared his plans with them. and now, he guessed it was a good thing, as it probably would have been a big hassle for nothing! Yeah! There would be plenty of girls and fun on a college campus! Only, why wait until fall to go to college? He could go to summer classes, right after graduation and get a head start on the other freshmen. He was ready to get away from this hick town, anyway, the sooner, the better!

He could hardly wait to tell Mom and Dad. He knew they'd be glad to shell out the bucks for college. The day was starting to look brighter with every passing minute!

With a new enthusiasm for life. Jon dialed the phone again. He decided not to burn any bridges, yet. "Denise, is it OK if I come over for a while? I really need to talk to you."

O.K.," Denise said thoughtfully. "Sure. why not. We just finished supper, and Dad's going back to bed. Mom will probably watch T.V. in the bedroom with him, for awhile, and Todd's got homework to do. Yeah, come on over."

They sat out on Denise*s front porch, and watched the gold, coral, and purple clouds in the west. as the sun slowly slid out of sight. Jon discussed the idea of going to school this summer, instead of waiting untiI falI.

Denise voiced her disappointment sweetly. She had planned to spend a lot of time with him this summer, since Dad feeling better, she explained. But. Jon assured her he would be able to come home on weekends, and she would hardly even miss him.

"But, isn't this kind of sudden? You've never mentioned it to me before. In fact, I got the impression that the idea of college turned you off," Denise questioned curiously.

"I know. Yeah, I guess it is sorta sudden. I just started thinking about it, and graduation is just two weeks off, and I didn't really have any plans. I could go to work for my dad, I guess, but, I just decided that Mom and Dad were right, I do need a college education. And if I'm gonna go, why not just get started so I can get it over with sooner," Jon explained carefully.

Something began to stir in Jon, unexpectedly, though, as he thought of Denise, so pretty, charming, and naive, without him around. The thought had never occurred to him before, that she might be with other guys while he was gone. He found it to be a very unpleasant thought, surprisingly. He realized he would be very upset if he should come home, and find her seeing someone else. And it could happen! Sure, he planned to have a good time, and live it up at college. But, that was different!

Impulsively, Jon took off his Senior ring. held it out to Denise, and in his most charming, sexy manner, said, "Sweetheart. all my plans depend on you. I can't go off to college, unless I know you'll be waiting for me when I come back. Will you wear my ring? Will you go steady with me, Denise?" He turned on the full power of his big, dreamy eyes. and read the emotion surfacing in Denise's.

"Oh, Jon, of course. I'll be here for you. I haven't wanted anyone else since I first saw you! I'll keep your ring, and wear it, so I can feel close to you even when you're gone. But, don't ever worry about me wanting anyone else. Jon. you* re all I'll ever want!"

They spent some time in sweet embrace, sitting on the porch in the ever increasing darkness. They listened to the night sounds, peaceful sounds, as they drank in the lovely warmth of togetherness, and commitment.

But, as soon as Vickie and Amanda drove up. Jon kissed Denise goodbye, and headed across the driveway to his home. Now, to get everything cleared with Mom. He'd have to wait to talk with Dad tomorrow, as he was out of town tonight. But. he wanted to get all the loose ends tied up as soon as possible. Of course, he would have to decide what he wanted to study, and where, but first things first!

Denise lay in her bed, feeling safe, secure and loved. She had wound yarn around the backside of Jon's oversized ring until it fit her. Caressing it tenderly with her fingertips, she remembered how sweet and patient Jon had been with her during the entire time of Dad's illness. And now that Dad was so much better, and she was wearing Jon's ring, things were really starting to look up! She had dreamed of going steady with Jon, and now she was! This was a milestone in her life, she decided. Thinking back. she realized it was the first time since that slumber party, when she was just twelve years old, that she had felt so secure.

But, then the memories of that life-changing night flooded over her, and with the memories, came the tears.

She had been invited to a slumber party at Nancy's house, with some of the most popular girls in her Jr. High class attending, she remembered. She had arrived at the designated time and place, anticipating a fun-filled night.

Many delicious snacks and beverages were set out for the girls' enjoyment, and they were given all-night cable T.V. and V.C.R. privileges. Two of the Mom's were present to supervise.

Sleeping bags were spread out in the floor, leaving little space to walk, and the girls quickly changed into their pajamas. intent on having a good time. And as girls will do. they automatically separated into groups, talking, singing, shouting, and playing.

After several hours of snacks, games, and scary movies, boredom, and exhaustion began to surface, and bickering increased among the friends.

Denise, not one to give in easily to sleep, had talked Angela into being a model for her experimentation with make-up not usually allowed twelve-year-olds. After a few minutes of brushing and painting, Denise sat back to look at her creation.

Angela, normally a very pretty girl, now had rosy red cheeks, (sort of clown-like), dark, straight brows, rainbow shadowed eyes with thickly smeared black lashes, and too-large red lips. Denise began to laugh, catching the attention of the other girls in the room, who quickly joined in the fun.

Angela had become very self-conscious at being the center of unwanted attention, and got up from the floor angrily, starting for the bathroom.

But, Denise was having too much fun to let her wash it off so quickly! Enlisting the aid of a few more girls, she blocked Angela's path to the bathroom, and refused to let her under, around or through the barricade.

On the verge of tears, Angela had turned her anger full- force on Denise!

"Denise, let me by! I don't know why you're being so mean! Let me in there. Now! I mean it!" She shouted, pushing, pulling, and trying to break the barrier that prevented her.

But, the girls just giggled, and pointed more than ever, spurred on by Angela's frustration,

"You think you're so smart, Denise! You did this on purpose!" Angela screamed viciously, as she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the wall. "Well, you're not so smart! You don't even know who your own mother is!"

The room grew suddenly quiet. What are you talking about?" Denise laughed. Of course she knew who her mother was. Was Angela freaking out, or what?

"Your real mother didn't love you! She gave you away to strangers! I heard my Mom say so! See, you're not as smart as you thought!" Angela retorted, enjoying her revenge, and gaining momentum as all attention shifted from her to Denise.

Seeing them whispering, and noting the frightened look on their faces, she retorted, "Who's she kidding?"

She continued laughing at Angela's joke, until she became aware that everyone was quietly staring at her. No one else seemed to think this was a joke! Shocked, Denise looked unbelievingly at the other girls.

"No. no! It can't be! It's a lie! Can't you see it's a lie?" The voice seemed to be coming from far away as Angela's words began to penetrate Denise'a consciousness. Then suddenly, Denise turned, and bolted out the side door of the house, running with all her might, unaware of the darkness, the path or her attire, just knowing she had to get out of that house!

Denise remembered running wildly for a very long time, her mind continuously questioning 'why?' Why did Angela say those things? If they were true, why didn't her parents tell her? If it was true, who were her parents? If it was true, why didn't her 'real* mother love her?

She finally collapsed in the darkness, not even knowing where she was, and not caring! Unaware of the time of night, she blocked out the pain that was tearing at her young heart.

Awakened as her Dad picked her up out of the ditch, and carried her to the car, she heard him repeating her name over, and over, and recognized the pain and concern in his voice, but Denise was unable to respond. After being tucked into her own bed, Doris and Tom tried explaining to her, but numbness and fatigue prevented Denise's ability to comprehend.

Later, Denise came to understand that she had been adopted as an infant, since, after eight years of trying to conceive, Doris was still unable to get pregnant.

Doris and Tom had explained how badly they had wanted a child, a family, and Denise had been a such a blessing to them. Several years after adopting Denise, Todd had been born into the family. She was reassured of Doris and Tom's love for her.

They explained the fear and pain they had experienced when they received the call from Nancy's mom about the incident. They had even called out the Police to help find her. But, she had never been the same since that night.

And frequently, especially in the quiet hours of the night, Denise wondered about the woman who had carried her in her womb for nine months, given birth to her, and then gave her away to perfect strangers. Was she still alive? Did she have other children, by now? Why didn't her biological mother love her? Denise wondered if that woman ever wondered about her.

And, again, she wondered why.

Rose Petals