GHOSTS in the GRAVEYARD

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter Twenty-Six

"Bring those buns over here to me, will you, Little Jo?” Mr. Grolund’s boss, Dick Reardon, called from his post at the barbecue grill.

Jolie gave a quick, nervous smile to the other guests at the table, embarrassed by the double entendre.

“You’ve got two perfectly good feet and the girl isn’t your slave, Dick,” his wife bellowed back at him. “Walk over here and get them yourself, you lazy bastard.” She winked at Jolie. “Don’t worry about him, darlin’. He’s harmless,” the big-haired woman waved a ring-laden hand toward her husband.

Amanda Reardon was a large woman with a large personality, the kind that shrink-fits a room when she enters it, the kind that takes over any event she attends. It was the Grolund’s back yard but once the Reardons arrived, it was their barbecue.

“I’m not doing anything anyway.” Jolie picked up the platter of hamburger buns. She was a stranger here with no connection to anyone.

The Grolunds had invited people from work and friends from church. A few of them had kids that Rebecca knew, or at least met, and her parents made it clear that, as the host’s child, she was expected to entertain the young folk, and not hide out in her bedroom with Jolie. Rebecca’s mother called her daughter into the house to welcome some of these young folk twenty minutes ago and Jolie had not seen her friend since.

She walked the plate of hamburger buns over to where Dick Reardon was holding court at the grill.

“The key to perfect barbecue is in the heat,” he explained to the dutifully submissive work colleagues clustered around with a beer in their hands. “You’ve got to know how hot to get your meat, and when to add some sauce. Oh my god, look at those buns.” Reardon leaned back from the grill to get a good view of Jolie’s derrière as he reached for the platter. “Thank you, darlin’.”

“It’s nothing.” Jolie blushed.

“Oh, it’s not nothing. I guarantee you it’s not,” Reardon smiled lewdly, waving his apron as if fanning his body parts beneath it.

Jolie gritted her teeth. She wanted to punch him. She wanted to shout at him and call him out, but there was a yard full of people acting as if there was nothing wrong, and his jokes and comments were perfectly acceptable. If she’d been with Jessie Lynn’s crowd, she wouldn’t have hesitated to beat this sucker down, but she knew that she was on thin ice at the Grolund’s. Mrs. G was just waiting for a chance to throw her out and get Becca a quality friend.

Jolie couldn’t make her exit into the house fast enough.

“Mmm mmm. It’s a treat just watching that little delicacy walk across the yard,” Reardon said to Mr. Grolund as Jolie reached the stairs up to the back deck. “Who did you say her daddy is?” Reardon took a swig of beer.

“Oh, he doesn’t work for us,” Mr. Grolund answered, cautiously. “She’s a friend of Becca’s.”

Good, Jolie thought. At least he has the sense to realize his boss is out of line, even if he doesn’t have the balls to do anything about it.

“Not one of your church going friends either, right?” Reardon’s big voice had no volume control. “I can see that. She’s not the type. That little peach is ripe for the picking, though if you know what I mean? It’s coming off her in waves.”

Mr. Grolund frowned. “Jolie is one of Rebecca’s friends from high school, Dick,” he pointed out delicately, thinking that maybe Reardon didn’t understand how young his daughter’s guest was.

Jolie could feel Reardon’s eyes on her, watching her walk up the stairs, and she was fuming.

“Mmm.” Reardon took another swig as Jolie escaped into the house.

Jolie followed the chatter of excited girls’ voices and found Rebecca playing a board game with some of the other kids, teenage girls with One Direction tee shirts and expensive salon hairstyles, girls whose home lives were so unlike Jolie’s that they might have been from another planet. Boys, clothes, and the color of their nail polish were the big topics of conversation, along with who secretly liked who in their church youth group.

“Here are some snacks for you, girls.” Mrs. Grolund set a bowl of chips and dip down beside the group. ”I wish that man’s wife would keep him under control,” she thought, annoyed. Jolie didn’t need to read the woman’s mind to know that Pamela Grolund knew exactly what was going on outside. She was deliberately keeping the church girls away from him. Her protective instincts, however, did not extend to Jolie. “Everything alright outside?” She asked Jolie, pulling her lips into a fake smile.

“Oh, Jolie. I wondered where you’d gotten to. You can play the next game,” Rebecca offered.

Jolie wanted to point out that Rebecca knew exactly where she’d gotten to. She had been exactly where her friend left her, but being polite had high value among these people, and causing a scene was taboo, even if the scene was set off just by telling the truth. Jolie had never understood the story about the emperor and his invisible new clothes better.

“Jolie,” Mrs. Grolund called as she ducked back into the kitchen. “Can you take this out to Mr. Grolund for me, please?”

Jolie looked the woman straight in the eye and answered silently, No. Pamela Grolund just stood there, holding out the relish tray for delivery.

“I’m sorry. It’s really unpleasant and hot in the backyard right now. I think I need to drink some water and cool down,” Jolie excused herself.

“I’ll take it, Mrs. Grolund,” one of the church girls offered. The girl was about Jolie and Becca’s age, with fully matured curves that her juvenile tee shirt could not hide. Panic crossed Mrs. Grolund’s face.

“Oh, no. You’re playing, Athena. I’ll do it myself.” She glanced angrily at Jolie. “It will give me a chance to check and see if anything needs refilling.”

Jolie sat down behind the row of players with her glass of water and tried to settle her fluttering stomach. She was already on probation here. She could not afford to lose her temper, seem ungrateful, or unhelpful.

The list of things she could not afford to do in order to stay here was growing.

Jolie expected to run the misogynist gauntlet with Jessie Lynn’s bar crowd friends. Somebody inevitably brought along some jerk who decided after a few drinks that Jessie Lynn’s daughter was panting to lose her virginity to him. She knew how to handle it. A quick public deflating punch to his ego usually did the trick. But she had not been prepared to face such openly inappropriate talk at a middle-class barbecue at the home of a good family in the suburbs. Church going conservatives were all about family values and protecting their children, weren’t they?

Jolie moved into a player’s position, rolled the dice and moved her piece around the board, then went into the kitchen.

“Is there anything you need me to do?” she asked Rebecca’s mother. “I’d be happy to help out here in the kitchen, where it’s not so hot,” she hoped she was making her boundary clear.

Mrs. Grolund considered the offer with a tight smile. ”The ungrateful thing had better apologize,” Jolie heard the woman think.

“I don’t want you to think that I’m not willing to help out, Mrs. Grolund, but your husband’s boss makes me nervous,” Jolie said, just putting it out there bluntly. “The things he says are embarrassing.” The look of panic returned to Pamela Grolund’s face. She had not expected to be challenged openly by a sixteen-year-old.

“You mean Dick?” she pretended to laugh it off. “Oh, he doesn’t mean anything by it. He was a big football player back in his day, and he’s still got a locker room sense of humor. I guess you have to get to know him.”

“No, thanks,” Jolie replied.

Mrs. Grolund’s fake smile faded.

“Dick Reardon is the head of Kenneth’s division. He’s a smart and very successful man,” she defended her husband’s boss.

“Yeah, I noticed Mrs. Dick’s rings.” Jolie forgot to edit herself. “What’s the deal, do you think? She gets a new ring every time he cheats on her?” Jolie took a cherry off a cupcake and popped it into her mouth. “She must get something out of ignoring his bad behavior. She’s too smart not to exploit it.”

“You have a filthy mind,” Mrs. Grolund accused Jolie. “I know that you don’t come from a Christian family, Jolie, but that kind of an accusation will not be tolerated in this house. Do you understand? You can’t just take a good man’s reputation and ruin it because you’re a little oversensitive and don’t like his jokes. I think you are right, it would probably be best if you don’t go back out to the barbecue.”

“That’s fine by me. Excuse me.” Jolie ran upstairs and locked herself in the upstairs bathroom. Sitting on the closed lid of the toilet, she tried to breathe away her anger.

“Jolie, it’s your turn,” Rebecca called from the bottom of the stairway.

“Let her be, Becca. She’s probably sleeping. She had a headache,” Mrs. Grolund lied.

Jolie curled up on the fuzzy throw rug in front of the sink. She could hear the forced laughter in the backyard, Mrs. Reardon shouting ball-breaking snide remarks at her husband, everyone pretending that their dysfunctional repartee’ was entertaining. There were other sounds too, little kids playing, too young to understand the awkward nuance of the adult issues. They were probably the only ones actually having a good time. Jolie brought up Remy’s number on her phone.

“Hey.”

“Hey, yourself, Jo. I wondered when I’d hear from you.”

“I told you I wasn’t mad.”

“I know, but you were hurt.”

“I’m fine, Remy. It was my own fault for thinking like a teenage girl.”

“You’re entitled. You are a teenage girl.”

“Not on my best days. All you did was tell me the truth.”

“Yeah, but it wasn’t a truth you wanted to hear.”

“Still, even a truth we don’t want to hear is better than a lie, especially from a friend.”

“Philosopher Figg, eh? So how’s it going at Rebecca’s?” Remy changed the subject.

“Fine. They’re having a barbecue and there’s a bunch of people here.”

“Oh. Nice.”

Jolie couldn’t bear to tell him that it wasn’t nice at all, and she hated whining. Her crazy life had caused Remy enough trouble. “Anyway, I’d better get back. They’re playing games and I’m up next,” she lied. “I just wanted to call and see how you were.” And hear your voice, she thought privately.

“I’m fine. I placed in the high jump and the relay, yesterday. But we didn’t take state.”

“Sorry. You still have your track scholarship, though. So you’re set, right?” Remy had decided that he would be going to the University in Reno in the fall.

“Yeah. It’s a disappointment, is all,” Remy acknowledged. “I’m trying to get all my assignments done so I’m back on track for Monday.”

“I’ll let you go then.” Jolie sniffled.

“’You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah. I was just cutting some onions and everything is running, you know?”

“Okay. See you Monday then.”

“Yeah. See you Monday.”

Jolie lay on the bathroom rug, drifting off to the purr of the window fan. When she woke, it was twilight outside and Becca was knocking on the door.

“Jolie? Are you in there? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, Becca,” Jolie replied, sleepily. “I’ll be out in a sec.” She got up and checked herself in the mirror, straightening out her mussed hair, and rinsing her face and hands. “What’s up?” she asked Rebecca at the door.

“Feeling better?”

“Yeah. I think I just got dehydrated. A little nap and a few glasses of water and I’m good.”

“Everybody’s leaving. Mom wanted me to check and see if you would help clean up.”

“Sure.” Jolie followed Rebecca downstairs to the kitchen where Mrs. Grolund was putting away leftovers and rinsing dishes to go in the dishwasher.

“There she is.” Mrs. Grolund gave Jolie one of her best insincere smiles.

“What can I do?” Jolie asked.

“You can take the garbage out to the cans in the side yard.” Mrs. Grolund indicated several bags someone had set by the door. Jolie grabbed one in each hand, letting the lightweight sacks bump against her legs as she walked. The backyard was empty now, the grass pressed down flat by all the careless feet, the tables deserted and bereft of their bright tablecloths. The smell of stale beer, burnt meat, and propane still crowded the air. It was almost dark, one of the best times of the day in Las Vegas, where the skies were super sized like everything else. Released from the weekend’s expectations, the neighborhood lingered over the last precious hours before the grind of the work week began. Jolie went through the gate into the long narrow side yard, weaving past the neat stacks of extra project lumber, coiled hoses, and garden tools around the shed.

Her phone rang. She stopped and shuffled the garbage bags so that she could answer it. It was Remy.

“What’s up, Rem?”

“Rebecca’s house is just North of Twain, right?” he said in a choked voice.

“Yeah. The big two story just past the corner of Valencia and La Paloma. Why? What’s wrong?” Jolie felt Remy’s fear.

“I’m on my way there now. Meet me out front. I just got a call from Bodhi’s brother, Jie. Bodhi’s in the hospital. Jie thinks that he overdosed.”

“Oh my god, Rem. Is he going to be all right?”

“Nobody knows anything yet. We need to get to the hospital. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Okay.” Jolie hung up, rounded the corner and found the garbage cans. Stuffing her bags into them, she turned to head back to Rebecca’s room to get her bag and explain to the Grolund’s what was going on.

Dick Reardon stood between her and the house.

“Well, there you are, you pretty thing. I wondered where you’d disappeared to.”

“I was helping out in the house.” Jolie tried to walk past him, but he moved into her path. “The party’s over, Mr. Reardon,” she said firmly, anger building inside her. “Everyone’s taken their wives and kids and gone home.”

“Not quite everyone.” Reardon smirked.

“Where’s your wife?” Jolie demanded.

“On her way home.”

“Smart woman. You should follow her example.”

“I’ve never been a follower.” He reached out a hand and ran it over Jolie’s hair. “I’m more of a take charge kind of guy--top dog and all that.” Jolie stepped back. Reardon stepped forward.

“You need to back off, right now,” Jolie growled, wondering how well she’d fair in a fight without demons or the benefit of paranormal energy. “Just turn around and go home to your wife.”

Reardon shook his head slowly, a sly grin molded onto his greasy lips. “Oh come on, be nice. I just want a little sugar.”

“You’re drunk,” Jolie said, flatly. “And I’m not giving you anything.”

He made a feint for her. She dodged the other way and he threw his weight at her, smacking both of their bodies into the block wall behind Jolie. Pushing his overweight body against her, he pressed Jolie hard up against the rough cement. Using his greater weight to keep her in place, his mouth covered hers, chewing disgustingly at her lips. His breath smelled of beer, his sweat like a butcher shop. Revulsion filled Jolie, body, and mind. She bit down on his lip as she jerked her knee up hard into his groin, then stomped down hard onto the closest foot. “Get off me, you pervert.” Reardon buckled.

“You little bitch,” he gasped breathlessly, tasting the blood on his lip. Jolie slid out of his trap and was backing up along the walkway toward the front of the house when Remy’s scooter beeped from the road.

“You’re lucky I don’t have time to whoop your ass.” She flipped him off before running down the side of the house to the street.

“We’re out of here.” She vaulted onto the back of Remy’s scooter.


Remy held Jolie’s hand, his eyes red-rimmed, his emotions like an open wound. He wasn’t allowed to see Bodhi. He wasn’t family, but word had gotten around, and people from the Kung Fu school had packed the hospital waiting room. Many of them had been at the school when they heard the news. With all the black tee shirts and black Kung Fu pants, they looked suspiciously like a ninja conference, but they came together like the brotherhood they were.

Every head turned towards the doorway, even before anyone came into the room before most people would have known that someone was approaching.

Jolie watched the Fu family mill around the room. When a new Fu entered, each of their brothers and sisters, locked eyes, taking count of who was there. They marked exit and entrance points in the room, obstacles and potential defensive or offensive objects that might be picked up and thrown. It was what they were trained to do. Confident in their abilities, their movements and stances were precise and wary, but always grounded and no one stood in the corner. They always left themselves someplace to go. No one but a few hangers on and girlfriends sat, casually reading magazines, or watching the TV. The Kung Fu crowd all stood, prepared to fight, their eyes in constant motion, taking in what was going on around them.

Hugo and Brutus entered, like the others, making their way to Jie, to see how he was doing before drifting over to Remy and Jolie. After a few minutes, they moved over to a group of boys standing with a tall thin good looking twenty something young man by the door.

Remy might be the senior Fu at Chaparral but he was not senior in this group. Jolie studied the student’s interactions, trying to figure out who was. Was it the tall skinny guy, the sinewy older student, or the other young man who looked like an Asian movie star? Each had followers loyal to them.

When Sifu arrived, the game ended. Whoever led in their teacher’s absence, he was unconditionally in charge, not because he strutted, or was loud, or ordered anyone around--he did none of those things. Sifu was soft-spoken, humble, and unassuming, but the moment his students sensed his arrival, they became one group, moving toward the door, waiting for him.

With Bodhi’s and Jie’s mother out of the country and their father working himself to death in grief over his wife’s abandonment, the boys had been living on their own, spending most of their time at the school or hanging out with people they’d met on the strip, people like them, who had no structure and a lot of spare time on their hands. Though Sifu was not Bodhi’s biological parent, even the hospital staff accepted his authority and treated him as the patriarch.

Jolie’s phone buzzed. She checked it.

“Where are you? My parents are livid,” the message from Rebecca read. Jolie texted a short version of the situation, then returned her phone to her pocket.

Jie, a younger version of his Puck-faced older brother, listened to the update the hospital staff gave Sifu, then drifted back to sit by Remy.

“He can’t leave me, Rem,” the younger boy said. “All we have now is each other.”

“We’re your family too, Jie.” Remy put an arm around the younger boy’s shoulders.

Jolie’s phone buzzed. Dissatisfied with Jolie’s text, Rebecca was calling her. Jolie pressed ignore.

“You don’t have just one brother. You have a whole school of us. We’d do anything for you.” Remy told his friend’s little brother. “You know that, right?”

“Yeah, I know.” Jie almost smiled.

It was true. Jolie could see the bond between the students, some of them in their thirties, or older, most in their mid-twenties and younger. They were interlocking pieces of a whole, built around the base of their teacher, each one knowing where they fit.

“He won’t die, though,” Remy added. “You got him here in time. We just have to make sure that this never happens again, Jie.” Jolie could hear him grinding resolve into the marrow of his bones.

Jie shook his head. “I don’t know, Rem, Bodhi’s stubborn. He doesn’t listen to anybody anymore, except his own impulses. It’s like he can’t find any happiness in the world anymore.”

“Then we’ll just have to find something that will make him happy. I’m working on it, little brother,” Remy assured Jie.

Anyone who knows you is going to love you, Remy Bishop. Jolie leaned her head on his shoulder, biting back tears of mourning for what might have been between them. Her phone buzzed like an angry wasp.

“It’s Rebecca, again. I’m going to have to answer this.” She stood and walked to the hallway where everyone couldn’t hear her conversation. “Yes, Becca. What is it?”

“You have to come home, now, Jo. Tell me where you are and Dad and I will come get you.”

“I told you where I am. I’m at the hospital.”

“With Remy.”

“That’s right.”

“Which hospital?”

“It doesn’t matter because I’m not leaving,” Jolie told her friend. Jolie could hear Mrs. Grolund in the background.

“Give the phone to me,” she ordered her daughter.

“Tell your parents that they have nothing to worry about. I’m perfectly safe here and I’ll be back as soon as Bodhi’s out of danger.” Jolie ended the call and turned off her phone.

The temple kids’ heads all turned as she came in, then turned the opposite way as footsteps approached from the ER doors. A doctor came out and Sifu walked forward, motioning Jie to join him. Listening to the doctor, Jie’s face brightened. He turned and motioned to Remy to come with them.

“We can see him now. I told him you were our cousin.” Jie smiled at his little contrivance. A large group of the students began to crowd in behind them as if to go into the room.

“And how many cousins did you say you had?” Remy laughed as he, Jie, and Sifu went through the double doors into the ER, leaving Jolie and the other Fus in the lobby.


“You knew our rules, and you blatantly threw them in our faces,” Mrs. Grolund said, her anger playing second to her unspoken ”I knew this would happen.”

“My friend was taken to the emergency room at the hospital,” Jolie repeated.

“Then you should have come inside the house and told us that so that we could drive you there or--”

“Tell me I couldn’t go. Look, I wasn’t trying to be a problem. I was just trying to--”

“You went from taking out the garbage to disappearing. No one knew what happened to you.”

Someone did, Jolie corrected her interrogator silently.

“Dick Reardon did,” she said out loud. Mrs. Grolund looked surprised. “He found me out by the garbage cans. Why don’t you ask him why I didn’t come back into the house? Or better yet, ask him what he was doing out there? But then, that would be awkward wouldn’t it? Because even as I’m saying this, you know, don’t you?”

“Jolie, don’t make things worse,” Rebecca warned her friend. But it was too late. Jolie had her back up and all her Southern Boulette was coming out. “You know that man is trouble. He’s a bully and a womanizer, and maybe you even know more than that. That’s why you tried to keep Rebecca and the other girls away from him because you just can’t afford to find fault with him, can you? After all, he signs your husband’s paychecks. But we aren’t supposed to talk about that, are we?”

“Jolie, what are you saying?” Rebecca looked from her friend to her mother.

“Rebecca, go to your room. Jolie and I need to talk.”

“Dick Reardon was waiting for me outside when I took the garbage out,” Jolie said in a quiet, furious voice. “And he trapped me there and tried to force himself on me.”

“How dare you?” Mrs. Grolund gasped.

“Oh my God, Jolie. Why would you say such a thing,” Rebecca wrung her hands. “You said you wouldn’t make any trouble.”

“You’re just making that up, trying to point the blame at someone else for your misbehavior,” Mrs. Grolund argued.

“No, I’m telling a truth that you don’t want to hear. Your husband’s boss came onto an underage girl while she was living under your roof, and you did nothing to stop it, and now you want to blame ‘me’? I thought you were Christians?”

“Get out of my house--now,” Mrs. Grolund shouted.

“Mom, you can’t!” Rebecca wailed. “She didn’t mean it. Tell her you didn’t mean it, Jo.”

“I won’t,” Jolie refused. “Because it’s the goddamn truth and someone needs to say it.”

“Call someone now--anyone.” Mrs. Grolund ground her teeth. “Have them come and get you.”

“Mom, she’s my friend,” Becca cried.

“Not anymore, Becca.” Mrs. Grolund turned back to Jolie. “I don’t want you in my home another minute.”

“No problem. We’re done here. Sorry, Becca.” In minutes, Jolie had gathered her few belongings from upstairs, stuffed them into her backpack and was out the front door.

“Jolie.” Jolie jumped as Mr. Grolund appeared from behind the car parked in the driveway.

“It’s all right. I’m going,” she told him.

“I feel really bad about how this has gone for you,” he apologized, lamely.

“Which part, throwing me out of your house, or letting your boss molest me?” Jolie challenged him.

Mr. Grolund looked like a mouse trying to figure out which way to go to get out of the maze.

“Look, I know that you were staying here because you were afraid you’d lose your credits,” he recovered himself finally. “I’ll pay for a semester of classes for you online so you can finish. I hope this will help smooth things over for you.”

“For me, or for your boss?”

“I don’t condone what Dick may have done, or who he is, but I still have to work for the man, Jolie.” Grolund’s eyes begged her to understand the problems of his adult world.

“You must realize, that if you don’t confront him and you let this go, it is condoning his behavior? If no one holds him accountable, he will try this with some other girl--maybe even your own daughter?”

Mr. Grolund looked up, a fierceness changing his bland features. “He wouldn’t.”

“Why? Because he’s such a moral, upright member of the community? Because he’d be afraid that you might speak up and expose him? I don’t think he’s worried about that, Mr. Grolund. I don’t think he’s worried about that for one minute. He’s a predator. He doesn’t hunt because he’s hungry, he hunts for the twisted pleasure of it. It’s not about sex with people like him, it’s about power, and if your daughter is there when he feels the need to prove he has a pair, then nothing is going to stop him. Certainly not any fears about you standing up to him, or speaking out against him.”

Mr. Grolund’s face was like a sheet stretched tight across the bones of his face. “You should leave. I’ll pay for the classes if you let this go and don’t say anything. That’s my offer; take it or leave it.” He pulled his self-righteousness on like Mr. Roger’s old sweater and walked back into the house.

Iris was there in twenty minutes.

“Tecopa?” she made a face when Jolie told her where she needed to go. “You don’t have to do that, Jolie. You could stay here. You could stay with me.”

Jolie knew that Iris would make the offer and she thought about what she might say.

“It would be great to live with you, Iris, but I feel like right now, I need to be with my mom. We’re a family--a weird one, but still a family. She’s trying to get her life together again, and I need to be there to support her.”

“I knew you’d say that.” Iris smiled as she pulled away from the curb. “Do you know how to get to where we’re going?”

“Yeah.” Brett had texted Jolie directions before he’d flown out, in case Jolie needed them.

“Okay. We’ll pick up some coffee on the way. This could be a long night.”

Settled in for the long drive, Iris gave Jolie space.

“So, since I have you here, can we talk about Faith’s will?” she opened the subject she was waiting for Jolie to be ready to discuss.

Jolie sighed. “I guess, if we have to, but I don’t see what it’s got to do with me.”

“You know that Faith was very fond of you. She thought of you like her own granddaughter, and she was a big believer in education.”

“Yeah.” Jolie smiled. “She gave me the college speech a few times.”

“Well, she did more than talk. She left a college fund in trust for you.” The emotions generated by the memory of their friend and her generous gesture put an uncharacteristic quaver in Iris’ voice.

Jolie stared at her. “Why did she do that?”

“Because she could and she believed in you, Jolie.”

Jolie turned her face to the window and wept quietly.

When they finally found the overgrown driveway to the new house, Iris repeated her question. “Are you sure about this, Jo?” Jolie assured her that she was. They drove slowly down the long dirt drive, barely able to see what was road and what was not for all the clumps of grass growing up through the thin gravel.

Jessie Lynn came out onto the front porch.

“Are you going to tell your mom about the trust fund?” Iris asked.

Jolie shook her head. “Not now.” She got out of the car.

“Do you at least want me to come in before I leave?” Iris asked, leaning across the seat.

“No. This is good. I really do appreciate you going to all this trouble, Iris. I’ll keep in touch.” Jolie stood on the porch and waved goodbye as Iris drove out.

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