The Parker House

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Companion book to the Cameron series: When Patty Ryan and Lonnie Parker fall in love, they begin a life together unlike anything that either of them had originally envisioned. As their sons Terin and Jerico grow up in their unique home, they learn life lessons often and navigate a complicated life among friends, foster siblings, and their one-of-a-kind parents.

Drama / Romance
Age Rating:

Patty, 1991-1992

Patty Ryan walked confidently down the path to the Kirk Building, where her first class ever as a junior in college was to take place. She thought back to her first class as a freshman, when she quaked in her shoes thinking about meeting so many new people. She had grown up in a small town that now felt suffocating compared to her college and the suburban cities it sat in the middle of. She would never live in a small town again.

Not that she hated her hometown, Pickler, but suburbia had so many more options and so many interesting people. Plus, suburbs were closer to cities, where Patty’s interests lay.

“Patty,” someone called from behind her. She turned to see her friend Melinda waving at her.

“Hey Mel,” she said, reaching for the door of the Kirk Building. “What class are you headed to?”

“Child psychology.”

“Me too,” Patty said, smiling. She loved having classes with other psychology majors.

“I’ve been looking forward to this class for years,” Melinda said as they stepped into the building and headed down the hall.

“Me too,” Patty said. She wanted to be a social worker, which is why she was a double major in psychology and social work. She especially wanted to help children have better childhoods than they could have on the streets or in abusive homes.

After class, Patty and Melinda got lunch in the dining hall.

“You should come to the bar with us tonight,” Melinda told her.

“It’s Monday, and I’m not 21.” Patty said.

“Oh come on, Patty! Live a little! One night hanging out with your friends won’t hurt anything. You don’t even have to drink.”

Patty sighed. It would be fun to see her friends for the first time this year. “All right, I’ll come.”

Melinda drove Patty and their friend Sharon to the bar that night. “Billy, Rob, Ben, Rachel, and Lisa are meeting us there,” Sharon said. “It will be so great to be together again.”

Patty smiled and nodded. She missed Billy’s jokes, Lisa laughing so hard that she snorted, Ben’s kindness, and Rob and Lisa’s endless bickering about trivial things.

“It’s packed,” Melinda said as she turned into the parking lot. “I’m going to have to park across the street. Why don’t you guys get out here?”

“Thanks, Melly,” Sharon said. She and Patty climbed out of the car and headed inside. Patty struggled to keep sight of Sharon as they pushed through the crowd towards the bartender.

“Coke and rum, please,” Sharon said. She looked back and grinned at Patty, who raised her eyebrows. Sharon was barely twenty, but the bartender didn’t card her. After Sharon got her drink, Patty got a water and followed Sharon to a couple of open stools. She sat down, but Sharon stayed standing. They both looked around. There were a number of people dressed in jeans and flannels and overalls and boots.

“Trade school must be here,” Ben said. Patty looked over to see Ben, Rob, and Billy smiling at her and Sharon. They all embraced and greeted each other. Billy, Rob, and Sharon went to mingle and look for Melinda and Lisa. Ben sat down next to Patty. They smiled at each other.

His blue eyes glittered. “Is it possible that you got even more beautiful over the summer?”

Patty blushed, “Oh, quit.”

“I missed you.”

“I missed you, too,” Patty said, though Ben had called her at least once a week over the summer. He was nice, but she wasn’t as interested in him as he was in her.

Just then, all of Ben and Patty’s friends pushed through the crowd. Lisa and Melinda hugged Ben, and the group spent an hour catching up. Ben kept trying to catch Patty’s eye, but she felt like looking at him was like lying to him.

After awhile, Lisa and Rob went off alone, and Melinda, Sharon, Billy, and Ben went off to mingle. They tried to get Patty to come, but she told them she preferred people watching. Melinda and Sharon looked disappointed, but that was okay with Patty.

She spotted Ben talking to a girl in a green dress. She was beautiful, but Ben kept glancing back at Patty.

Oh Ben, she laughed to herself, you’re so hopeless. She turned back to her water and stirred it with her straw. Maybe she should get up and find her friends. They could introduce her to people.

Right as she was about to get up, a large guy in overalls sat down next to her. “I’m JJ. You?”

“Patty,” she said, recoiling from the smell of alcohol on his breath.

“Lemme buy you a drink.”

“No thanks,” Patty said.

“Aw, come on,” he said, smiling and shifting closer to her.

“I’m okay, thanks,” she said, shifting away.

“Pretty girl like you too good for me?”

“No, I just—”

“Scoot,” Ben said, coming up behind JJ. JJ got up and looked Ben up and down. He mumbled something and merged back into the crowd.

“Thanks,” Patty mumbled.

“I’ll keep my eyes open,” Ben promised. “I can’t believe that worked,” he laughed. “Did you see that guy? He was like Godzilla.”

Patty laughed, and Ben walked away. She sat, watching Sharon dance with a stranger and eating peanuts. She wondered why she even dared to touch them as another guy sat down next to her. He was tall and muscular with messy light brown hair and warm brown eyes. He set his glass down and smiled at her. “I’m not one for crowds.”

Patty smiled back. “Me neither. I’m not really one for drinks, either.”

He looked at her water and laughed. “You here for the peanuts, then?”

She smiled. “I’m here with my friends.”

“Ah,” he said. He looked around, and Patty followed his gaze to Ben, who was staring at them. “He one of them?”

“One of them, yeah.” Patty gave Ben a thumbs up, and he looked away, disappointed.

“I’m Lonnie,” the guy said.


“Short for Patricia?”


“It’s a beautiful name.”

Patty shrugged. “It doesn’t really fit me.”

“Hence Patty, I suppose.”

She smiled and nodded. “Is Lonnie short for anything?”

“Lionel. I’ve never heard it anywhere else. I think it’s just my parents trying to be original.”

“Well, I like it.”

He smiled, the skin around his eyes crinkling.

Lonnie was almost a full-fledged mechanic and he was 22. He lived in an apartment with his friends Sam and Isaac, who were also in trade school, not too far from Patty’s apartment, which she shared with her friends and fellow psychology and social work majors Marnie and Laura. Lonnie asked her all about social work and her career goals. She happily answered his questions. When she asked about him, he always changed the subject back to her.

“I’ve never met anyone as passionate about helping people as you,” Lonnie said. “It’s amazing.”

Patty blushed and looked down at the bar.

“I’d love to get to know you better.”

She looked up and locked eyes with him. “I’d like that.”

He pulled a little pencil and a notepad out of his pocket. She wrote her number and the address of her apartment on it.

“Can I pick you up for dinner Friday night?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Lonnie tucked away the pencil and the notepad, smiled and said goodbye, then merged back into the crowd. Patty watched the people close around him and wished he would come back. She smiled to herself and replayed their conversation until Sharon and Melinda came over.

“Who’s the guy?” Sharon asked. “You guys talked for so long.”

“His name’s Lonnie. He asked me to get dinner with him Friday.”

Sharon and Melinda squealed. “You have a date!”

“Shh,” Patty said, blushing, but she couldn’t hide her smile.

After what seemed like years, Patty sat down in front of a mirror to do her make-up before Lonnie picked her up. She worked slowly and carefully to make sure that she didn’t make any mistakes. She imagined Lonnie’s smile, how the corners of his eyes crinkled so that they were smiling too. His voice echoed in her head.

“What are you wearing?” Laura asked from the bedroom they shared. Marnie got her own room because she had a cat and a litter box.

“The dress on my bed,” Patty said. She didn’t know if it would be nice enough for this non-official date or if it was too nice. She had no clue where they were going.

“You’re going to look amazing,” Laura said, coming in the bathroom and stroking Patty’s hair.

“You think?” Patty asked.

“I know,” Laura promised.

Patty was ready to go just minutes before there was a knock on the door. Laura and Marnie giggled excitedly as Patty went to answer it. She opened the door to see Lonnie in a wrinkled pair of khakis, a blue button-up shirt, and a darker blue tie. He held out a small bouquet of flowers to her. “You look amazing.”

Patty took the flowers, blushing. She looked back at Laura and Marnie.

“Have fun,” Marnie said, stepping forward to usher her out.

Patty smiled and followed Lonnie down to his car. “Don’t judge her by her looks,” Lonnie said. “She’s in fine working condition.”

Patty took in the rusted, chipped, and dinged shell in front of her. “Well, with you being a mechanic and all…”

“I never said I was a good mechanic,” Lonnie said, smiling and holding open the door for her. Patty got in. He shut the door and hurried over to the driver’s side to get in. He put the key in the ignition, but before he could turn in, Patty reached over and grabbed his hand. “I need to know. Are you a good mechanic?”

They laughed together, and Patty let go of his hand, feeling tingly where she had touched him. Lonnie cleared his throat. “Not to toot my own horn, but I am a very good mechanic.”

The date went wonderfully. When talking to Lonnie, Patty felt like she was catching up with an old friend. They talked about their childhoods and how they always felt so lonely as an only child. They talked about movies they liked—any genre as long as it was a good movie and there wasn’t too much blood—and about their friends. When Lonnie hugged Patty at the end of the night, she felt at home in his arms.

Seeing Lonnie became the highlights of Patty’s week. By second semester, he came to her apartment every day. He was incredibly handy, not only fixing anything in the apartment that needed it, but helping Patty study and always putting a smile on her face. He made the shower stop dripping, changed the oil in Marnie’s car, unclogged the sink, and stopped the washer from clanking. When Patty cooked for him he always offered to help. He complimented the food endlessly and assisted in washing the dishes afterwards. Everything was great, except for the fact that he still hadn’t kissed her.

Patty thought about it often. Probably too often. She wondered if maybe he didn’t feel the same way about her that she did about him.

“We’re going to see a movie at the drive-in Saturday night,” Patty told Sharon and Melinda while they ate lunch.

“It’s the perfect time, Pat,” Sharon said. “If he doesn’t make a move, go for it.” Melinda nodded vigorously.

“What if…” she bit her lip. “What if he just sees me as a friend?”

Sharon and Melinda laughed. “Patty,” Sharon scolded, “Just because you guys have never talked about your relationship doesn’t mean you’re not dating.”

“Has any other guy come and fixed things for you and your friends without asking to be paid?” Melinda asked. “He’s coming to see you every day.”

“He’s totally in love with you,” Sharon concluded.

With me? Patty thought. Nobody falls in love with girls like me.

Continue Reading Next Chapter
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