I Dare You

Red Hair and Blue Eyes

"Nancy, he's married..." Bess repeated, more softly this time. Nancy stared in shock, her mouth open.

"What do you mean?" Frank boomed. The anger that he was normally so good at concealing was showing through now. "How can he be married?" The three in the doorway were stunned at his reaction, Joe more so than the others.

"I'm sorry," he squeezed his way to the front, "Did I miss something? 'Cause I seem to be the only one not fully understanding the impact of this information."

George looked to Nancy, Nancy nodded approval, and George pulled Joe aside. In a hushed tone she said, "Ned just broke up with Nancy last night. I don't know what happened exactly, she hasn't said, but it was pretty drastic…and it was final." Joe raised his brows. He turned to look at Nancy, a new comprehension sinking in. She seemed to be stuck in a haze of nothingness.

Finally, she spoke, "He's…married?" She looked up with an intense hurt in her eyes, "Are you sure?" She took on a face of unbearable pain.

"It's true," George whispered. The three that stood found a seat. Joe sat on the floor beside Frank's chair, Bess sat next to Nancy, and George sat next to Bess. Joe looked to Bess. The look in his eyes asked if he should take Frank and leave, but she returned saying that it would be fine if they stayed. Joe was concerned about his older brother. The seventeen-year-old was very close to him, and he could tell that Frank was having trouble with this. He wondered, though, why Frank's reaction had been so strong.

"Nancy," George asked softly, "Why is Ned married?"

For a long time, Nancy said nothing. "He proposed to me last night…and I turned him down," she whispered after what seemed like forever.

Bess gasped, "He did what?..." Realization hit her blue eyes and she spun to face her friend,"Wait, you did what?" She sputtered for a moment, "Why?"

Nancy gazed at everyone in the room. She sighed and then decided to give everyone a brief account of her date the night before. Bess sputtered several times, but George kept her from saying much. George herself had a hard time keeping her good opinion inside. Bess, however could only take so much. She exploded when Nancy was finished, "He proposed to you and then went and married that no good, beef breathed, hair sprayed, bar hoppin', red headed, blue eyed Nancy Shoer! Ooh, wait 'til I get my hands on him!"

"Bess, calm down!" George practically shouted. Her voice was choked, and she had a mixture of rage, fear, and sorrow that played through it. A tear slipped down her cheek as she did her best to control herself. Bess immediately clammed up, crossing her arms. Steam rolled out her ears, and her face was red from the heat that rose in her.

Nancy sat open-mouthed, staring at Bess, "What did you say?"

"Nothing," she muttered.

Nancy stood and walked to her friend. She placed her hands on Bess's shoulders and shook her as she said, "Who did he marry, Bess?"

Bess looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. She was afraid to answer, "Nancy Shoer…"

"Nancy," Joe stood.

George did also, "Nancy, she's some skinny, no-good bumpkin he met at a bar last night, nothing more."

"Last night!" she cried incredulously, "He met her last night?"

"Nancy, just forget about it. He's the sorry freak that went out and married the first red-headed, blue-eyed girl named Nancy that he could find," Joe never had been good at finding the right words to say.

"Joe!" everyone but Nancy shot him glares. Frank smacked him on the back of the head.

"Ow!" he said. Frank dragged him by the arm out of the room, "What?"

Nancy fell into the couch, unable to find the strength to stand any longer. "What happened?" she whispered, "I mean, how do you know?...Are you sure…"

"Honest, Nancy," George reiterated. She took a deep breath, "We walked into the Pizza Palace, Bess and I, to order two or three pizzas. Cody was at the counter, and he told us that we'd have to wait about fifteen minutes. So, we went back out to the car and Joe- he'd been waiting in the car for us- wasn't there. I told Bess to wait there for me and then I went inside to look for Joe. I thought that he must have become impatient- you know how he is, especially around food-"Nancy smiled briefly at that, "and come in after us. Well, I found him trying to sweet talk Cameron, the waitress. When we went back out, Bess was staring angrily at the approaching car-it was Ned's."

"He pulled up and before I could give him a piece of my mind this girl that looked incredibly like you stuck her left hand out the window and started waving it around! Ooh, she made me sooo mad! She chanted in that four-year-old tone 'Ha ha hahaha. He married me. Ha ha hahaha.'" Bess shuddered. "It was like a scary version of 'na nana boo boo'. Well, then she said 'Go tell that to your…" Bess hesitated, "friend."

Nancy burst into a fresh bout of tears. Eventually she dried up enough to speak, "We loved each other…I just…I told him that I wasn't ready to be married. I didn't- I don't- want to marry yet. I'm too young! I don't feel mature enough to make a commitment like that. Oh, why didn't he understand that? It's not like I wouldn't have married him…when I was ready."

"Nancy…" George whispered, her own voice caught with emotion.

"You shouldn't worry about it, Nancy," Bess patted her friend's shoulder, "Her hair was redder than yours. It was an ugly color, and frizzy too. Her skin was pale and her eyes were dim. Her freckles spotted everywhere, and her glasses slid down her pointy nose."

"She didn't have freckles," George mumbled, "She actually looked pretty, and-" Bess hit her leg, glaring.

"Why do you think he was in such a hurry to marry?" Bess asked, changing the subject.

George responded thoughtfully, "I think he was more driven mad by Nancy's refusal… than he was concerned to marry."

After a moment, Bess agreed, "That would explain the girl's looks. But, how did he manage to find a girl named Nancy with red hair and blue eyes?"

"It's a miracle, that's for sure…or a trick, but I don't believe that. I think he was just lucky," George said, "Hmm, he'll live the rest of his life with her…but he won't be happy." She looked to Nancy. Gingerly stroking her friend's cheek, George kissed the top of her head.

Nancy spoke up, "Most red-heads have blue eyes…"

Frank, who had been listening in, whispered so low that no one could hear, "But not like yours, Nancy…not like yours."

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