It was Wednesday night, and Camie and her father were in charge of dinner tonight. Since the mood inside the house had been totally blue and down since Saturday night, the heavy air of broodiness that uncle Michael had been spreading all over the house had gotten to them, so neither father nor daughter had the energy to cook. Instead, they had opted for Chinese take-out.
Camie was just emptying the boxes of rice from the Chinese place onto a plate when her dad got a call on his Blackberry. Those calls usually took hours and Camila Hurst had come to suspect her dad took them on purpose at this time of the evening to get off the hook from setting the table and helping her out. But since she was still trying to reduce her unfair sentence to a month instead of two, she was smart enough not to complain when her dad walked over to the living room to take his call.
Normally, she would have tuned out whatever her dad said on the phone but when he mentioned to the other person on the line “My flight leaves tomorrow for New York at eight o’clock in the morning” a fresh wave of panic began to seep into her pores, causing her to almost drop half the dumplings onto the floor.
When Jerry Hurst walked back into the kitchen, he failed to notice a very pale Camie staring at him with huge dancing eyes.
Maybe he got mixed up. He is older than uncle Michael, maybe he’s starting to forget stuff already, if only he forgot he grounded me, then I could totally go with Damon and Elisa and Samantha to the movies Friday night and……
Camie halted this stream of consciousness and shook her head. Clearing her all of a sudden dry throat, she waited until her dad turned around to face her.
“Are you going to New York?”
It took two seconds for Jerry Hurst to understand her daughter’s out of the blue question. She must’ve heard him on the phone just now. Wondering if maybe she was about to make him a list of souvenirs to get her, Jerry only nodded his head. Camie was still grounded for what she’d planned with Michael Saturday night, but Jerry had a kick out of bringing his daughter a little something from his trips.
She used the same tone she’d used Sunday, when Jerry announced she would be banned from going out with her friends for at least two months until she learned to stay out of other people’s business. Jerry was aware of the unfairness of his decision. Maybe his daughter had acted on her own, gathering the intel on Olivia’s whereabouts for Saturday, but Jerry was dead certain such plan would not have been put into motion if Michael had bailed out. Since he couldn’t possible ground Michael, and God knew he’d tried to stop him from making a fool of himself as he’d been getting ready to go to Olivia’s house, his kid had had to go down on her own.
Although Michael’s behavior for the past few days was sign enough that he, too, was going through a punishment phase of his own.
Jerry, as his daughter, was curious to know what had really gone down on that wedding. It was one thing that Michael’s quest involving Olivia had encountered a major obstacle, but the fact that his brother had come home during the early hours of Sunday was a clear indication something must have gone pretty good during that wedding. Unfortunately, since he was being the one discouraging this whole crazy idea, it would be wrong to ask and prod. Not that Michael would be helpful in that front, either.
“Because I am meeting a client.”
He forgot! Oh, no, no, no. This is bad, really, really bad!
“Dad. Are you crazy? You can’t go to New York!”
Startled at the urgency in his daughter’s words, Jerry only wondered what had gotten into Camie to be so opposed to him having to go away for work.
“What do you mean I can’t go? Sweetheart, it’s work and it’s important. Now, finish setting the table, Michael said he’d be here shortly.”
Camie only complained loudly. Jerry was ready to act the parent part and order her kid to do as she was told when he noticed Camie’s facial expression. More than mere annoyance, she looked genuinely mortified that he would be leaving tomorrow.
Why would she be…..
However, Jerry didn’t get to finish that thought. The words Ms. B and Newseum flashed like neon signs inside his head and the call the history teacher had made to his office last week began to echo loudly inside his head.
“Oh, don’t tell me the visit is tomorrow?”
“Dad! I can’t believe you forgot. I told you this Monday about it and you said you were going to make it. You can’t say no now! They’ll have to cancel the visit and then I would have to either wear a mask to school, change my last name or move to another school. They’ll hate me for ruining a day out of school!”
Because he tried not to swear in front of Camie, Jerry did so silently. No wonder his secretary had given him a funny look when he’d asked her just before coming home to book him a flight for first thing tomorrow morning. It had slipped his mind and now it was too late to cancel his trip to New York. It had taken them weeks to convince this client to see them, it would look bad if all of a sudden Jerry had to cancel.
“Okay, let’s not overreact. Are you’re sure Olivia would have to cancel the field trip? Maybe they can ask one of the other teachers to go in my place?”
“Dad, I promised her you would go.”
“Camie, honey, I’m sorry. I’m sure she’ll understand this was a last minute deal.”
“But it wasn’t and that would be lying to her. And isn’t that why I am grounded for like forever?” Camie crossed her arms across her chest.
Nice time for her daughter to become all righteous about lying.
“Don’t get smart with me young lady.” Jerry warned her daughter.
In a typical teenage gesture, Camie threw her hands up in the air in defeat while groaning loudly.
Michael was leaning against the kitchen’s entrance. He’d come just in time to understand why his niece looked like any other woman when upset with a guy: totally helpless. Her mouth was pressed into a thin white line and her hands were fisted at her sides.
Michael was willing to bet anything that this was making Jerry more uncomfortable than if she’d decided to throw a tantrum in the middle of the kitchen.
Totally ignoring the newcomer, Jerry knew the only rational thing to do was locate Olivia and inform her of the problem. Michael’s brother understood that his mistake would put his daughter in a tricky position at school. The last thing he wanted was to cause her trouble with the group of kids she was just beginning to fit into. In a more understanding tone, Jerry said to Camie.
“Honey, I am sorry about this.”
When there was no answer, Jerry sighed and took out his Blackberry.
“Do you know her home number? I’ll call her and explain everything. With luck she’ll be able to find another parent to go with your class tomorrow.”
His daughter’s response was a shrug of her shoulders. Now the problem was she had no idea what Ms. B’s number was. They could try sending her an email but she might not see it until it was too late. She was about to inform her father of this little glitch in his plan when out of the corner of her eye, she noticed her uncle Michael’s quiet stare. She really hated it when he stopped being fun and teasing.
Apparently, this was Michael’s cue to join in on the conversation because he walked into the room and quietly surveyed both his brother and niece.
“I seriously doubt she’ll be able to find another available parent with such short notice.”
This time both father and daughter looked stunned. Jerry quickly composed himself and tried to uncover what was his brother up to this time.
“And what do you suggest we do?” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Jerry knew he was just wasting his time. His current predicament already had a solution. One he was damned sure he was not going to like it. There was the tiniest hint of purpose pushing away the haze of chagrin Jerry had noticed in his brother’s eyes since he had come back from the wedding with Olivia. Without a doubt, Michael’s solution meant he had just been buying his time and finding the perfect opportunity to approach Olivia, again.
“I think we should eat. I see you two lazy invaders decided to order take-out. Just remember the condition for you to live here was you had to cook.”
“Uncle Michael, I think dad was referring to tomorrow’s visit.”
Michael walked over to the fridge, opened the door and took out a beer. Popping the top open, he took a long gulp before replying.
“I know kiddo. I’m just saying, I had an important meeting and was forced to skip lunch. I’m so hungry I could eat anything, even that stuff you like to call Chinese food.”
“I’m sure the three of us can come up with a way for you to save that tiny ass of yours,” he pointed his beer to Camie, “and to spare dear Ms. B the hassle Jerry here, has so inconsiderately dropped on her.”
Camie’s eyes darted from man to man. Although Camie was relieved to see some of her uncle’s old self was back, like her father, she could only groan inwardly at the clear signs of trouble ahead. For some reason, she knew the solution would be even worse for Ms. B than her dad not showing up tomorrow.
“Okay you guys, please, make a line and we’ll start getting into the buses. Have your permission slips ready before climbing inside the bus.” Olivia yelled over the chatter of her overexcited group of teenage kids. All of her classes were gathered in the school’s parking lot, milling around the three yellow buses parked in front of the school.
Damon’s mom, and the other two parents were gathered in a tight circle chatting with Ms. Rosenberg. Emilia was by her side, quiet, thank God, as Olivia did her job of getting the kids ready to leave.
A small spurt of unease coursed through her as her eyes scanned the moving heads for Camie and her dad. When she noticed Jerry’s familiar silver Volvo turning onto the school’s parking lot entrance, she felt her body relax.
The students finally began to form a line outside the first bus. The history teacher began taking the permission slips from each one, as they began to climb into the bus. By the time she had moved onto bus number three, Camie had walked to where Olivia stood with a far less excited expression than that of her fellow classmates.
“Camie, good, you’re here. We are almost leaving. Just tell your dad he can leave his car here. We’ll divide ourselves among the three buses.”
But Camie just stood there, fidgeting, her eyes downcast. She spoke from under her bent down head.
“I…….Ms. B, there’s something I have to tell you.” Then, she lifted her head, this time her gaze filled with the same amount of anxiety that had invaded her last night when uncle Michael announced who would be taking her dad’s place for today’s field trip.
“What is it? Where’s your dad?” This time, both Olivia and Emilia did a check of the parking lot, noticing the silver Volvo, which stood parked a few paces away from the buses. The shadow of its driver was still visible, although it’s shape hidden under the tinted glass and the lack of light from the sunless day.
“He….he…….is kinda not here, right now.”
“What do you mean ‘kinda not here’? We are leaving in just a couple of minutes.”
“The thing is…”
But Olivia carried on, this time her voice lowering down to almost a whisper.
“Who drove you here, then? If he isn’t here then who…..”
In that instant, the car’s driver door opened and Olivia felt her mouth hang open in disbelief. It wasn’t until her entire body began to tingle in anticipation and her stomach did a summersault, that the disbelief quickly transformed into hot boiling anger and her face set in a scowl that made her eyes hard and cold as ice.
This was precisely what Camie and her dad, both, had known would happen after her uncle Michael offered to take Jerry’s place in today’s field trip. Michael’s niece made her eyes search her uncle’s as he crossed the parking lot with long confident strides. His look was focused on her teacher, and the depth of feeling dancing in them was enough to make Camie feel goosebumps.
Her teacher’s reaction went from shocked to raging mad in seconds. Her cheeks turned flaming red, the second Camie heard some of the other girls comment, none too subtly, about her uncle’s looks.
Damon’s voice was the answer to her prayers. He was waving frantically and yelling her name from the second bus’s entrance. Camie could kiss the boy right now. Taking her chance to escape, she thrust the permission slip into her teacher’s hand and ran away like someone was after her.
Somehow, Emilia had already figured out who had driven Camie here, even before gorgeous Michael emerged from the car. Even without knowing what had taken place at Olivia’s couch after the wedding, she would have to be more than dead to miss the sparks of blood burning and toe curling passion flying from both Olivia and Michael.
Relishing her invisible state, Emilia prepared to enjoy the show.
“You?” Olivia uttered with such despair, it took every ounce of self-control from turning the opposite way and making a run for her car.
“Hello, Olivia.” He drawled her name, as if they were alone in a room and not in the middle of a group of noisy teenagers.
The hairs on her arms and neck stood up as his voice sent chills of dread and desire as she recalled the way his voice had said her name while on her coach.
Olivia practically hissed at Michael as soon as he stood next to her.
“What are you doing here? Where is Jerry?”
“Jerry is in New York. He was stuck with some last minute traveling and couldn’t get out of it. He wanted to call you last night, but I insisted he shouldn’t worry you.”
“So he sent you instead?”
“Not exactly. Camie was just worried her dad’s absence might cancel the trip and the entire school would end up hating her. I was able to move some stuff around.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“Oh, that’s right. Everything I say is just a load of crap.”
“If you ask me, the guy is seriously pissed off at you, dear Olivia.” Emilia announced as her eyes did a quick examination of Michael. She now realized some of those sparks she’d seen before were a result of some pent up frustration.
Like I care!
“Somehow I think you do.”
Why did he have to come? Can’t he take a hint?
“Don’t flatter yourself. I think he just wanted to help Camie. Which, funny, was how you two first met.”
Oh, jeez. Seriously, you need a hobby.
“Whatever. Anyway, I’d change that nasty face of yours. Your boss has already spotted your guy here and she’s heading this way.”
“Well right now, he is the one who’ll save your ass. Camie was right, if she’d come here without her dad, you’d have to cancel the whole deal.”
“Olivia, is there a problem? You should be leaving already.” Virginia Falls High School’s principal said as she approached the spot where Olivia and Michael were.
“No, Ms. Rosenberg. No problem at all.”
At Michael’s light nudge, Olivia begrudgingly introduced Camie’s uncle to the school’s principal.
“Oh, I was under the impression Ms Hurst’s dad would be joining the group.”
“He was, but a complication from work forced him to fly to New York very early today. I hope there’s no trouble if I tag along instead of Jerry.”
“He is a charmer, this one. He’s even got your very scary boss blushing all over him.” Emilia said.
“No, not in the least. I’m sure Ms. Beckett is grateful you took time off from your own busy day and prevented her from canceling the field trip. Isn’t that right?”
You’ve got to be kidding me.
“I think the kids are very grateful. Anyway, we should really get going. Mr. Hurst you might want to climb in the first bus.”
“No, I think I’ll just get into this one,” he pointed at the one Olivia was planning on getting on.
“Right. Well, let’s go, then.”
“After you, Ms. Beckett.”
“And to think I almost stayed home today.” Emilia muttered as she went in behind Michael.