Kat opened her eyes and stared at a faded, white ceiling. It didn’t take long for her to figure out she was in the clinic. ‘This is just great!’ she thought. ‘Now, my dad will come and nag me about wrestling.’
Just then, her father walked in. He looked down at her and said, “Kat, don’t you think it’s time you gave up wrestling?”
‘I knew it!’ thought Kat.
The school nurse, Ms. Hilty, nodded her head agreeing with Mr. Smith. “Kat, it’s not too late to try out for the dance team. They need some alternates.”
Kat was livid. She stared at Ms. Hilty thinking, ‘Maybe, your son should try out. He would look great in a tutu.’
“Well, Ms. Hilty, thanks for the info. I’ll talk it over with Kat,” replied Mr. Smith, glaring at his daughter.
‘When pigs fly, we will,’ thought Kat.
“Come on, Kat, get up. You have to help with supper tonight.” Mr. Smith helped his daughter get up from the cot. Kat could feel the tender spot under her nose. It was a painful reminder of never letting her guard down again, especially around Slim, because next time it could be much worse.
“Charles, you and your family are always welcome at my house for supper. Perhaps, on a Saturday night, you know I make the best fried steak with garlic potatoes in town,” smiled Ms. Hilty.
“Jessica, thanks for the invite, but I’m not ready for any social engagements,” replied Mr. Smith.
“Now, Charles, it’s only dinner. I’m just being a good neighbor.”
‘Take the hint,’ thought Kat. ‘He’s just not interested.’
“Like I said, I’m not ready for any social engagements,” replied Mr. Smith.
‘Tell her the truth,’ thought Kat. ‘Then, she won’t bother you anymore.’
Mr. Smith and his daughter left the clinic and headed for the Chevy truck. Mr. Smith went to the driver’s side, reached over and unlocked the door for Kat.
“Well, what do you want for supper, Dad? It’s either meatloaf or hamburgers.”
Her father mumbled, “We’ll see,” as he started up the truck, heading down the highway away from the direction of home.
“Hey, Dad, where are we going?” asked Kat.
“I’ve changed my mind about you cooking, Kat. I think you should take it easy. So, we’re going to get some take-out.”
“Oh, Dad, I love you!” exclaimed Kat.
“How easy it is to regain your love! I thought you were going to scratch my eyes out when I asked you about quitting wrestling.”
“I’m not going to quit.”
“Yeah, I kind of figured that out. But, I can’t help trying. I just hate thinking of you getting really injured. Who was it this time? Was it Slim again?” Kat did not answer, so he spoke again. “I knew it! I told the Coach that I don’t want you to wrestle with that boy. Every time you do, you end up getting hurt.”
“Dad calm down! I challenged him.”
“Kat don’t do that again!”
“Really, I want you to promise me!”
‘But, only if he doesn’t challenge me,’ thought Kat, forgetting Slim’s threat about breaking her nose.
They stopped at the Chicken Pit. Kat got out with her dad and walked inside. She inhaled the scent of spices and hickory. This place reminded her of camping outdoors. Kat was thrilled at first, until she remembered her mother cooking over an open fire. A tear rolled down her left cheek. She remembered her mother quoting a scripture from the bible which came from I Corinthians 13:4-6, ‘Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not cruel. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.’
There were eight booths in the place and all of them were filled. Mr. Smith and Kat walked up to the counter to order. “What would you like, Charles?” asked the lady, behind the counter. Her eyes were merry and she had a warm, inviting smile. Mr. Smith smiled back and said, “Well, Missy, we’d like a bucket of your barbecue chicken with a large, side order of baked beans.”
“M-m-m, Dad, that sounds good!” interrupted Kat.
“Yes, it does! It sure beats meatloaf,” laughed her father.
“Could we also order some strawberry shortcake?” asked Kat.
“Yeah, that sounds good,” said Mr. Smith. “Add to my order two individual servings of your famous strawberry shortcake.”
“Gee, Charles, I wish I could,” replied Missy. “But, I can’t.” Mr. Smith was confused and asked ‘why.’ “Well…It’s like this,” whispered Missy. “Something is wrong with our wa…”
“Hi! Kat,” said Jack rather loudly, interrupting Missy and everyone at the counter.
“Wh-a-t are you doing here?” stammered Kat.
“Oh, well, I’m hungry and wanted some chicken. But, that strawberry shortcake sounds interesting,” laughed Jack. Then he looked at Mr. Smith and nodded. He looked back at Kat, expecting an introduction.
“Hi!” interrupted Missy, giving him an old-fashioned southern smile. “You must be new in town.”
“Yes, I am! My name is Jack. How do you do?” he smiled, extending his right hand.
Missy blushed and shook his hand. She looked directly at Kat and mouthed the words, “a real cutie” and then asked Kat, “How old are you again?”
‘Is she for real? Is she trying to set me up with the new guy?’ Kat rolled her eyes and mumbled, “I’m eighteen.”
Missy, who happened to be a thirty-five-year-old divorcee, seemed to flirt with every male in town. ‘My goodness,’ thought Kat. ‘How rude can she be? She’s acting like the girls at school when she’s twice their age. Though, I feel sorry about her break-up with Jim, who just up and left her, but my dad isn’t his replacement!’ Kat glanced back over at Missy and sure enough she was batting her eyes at Kat’s dad.
“Well, I hate to let both of you know, but I don’t have any strawberry shortcake. The funniest thing happened this year with the strawberries I grew. Instead of being red, they were black. They were the nastiest things I ever did see.”
“Did you water your crop with well water?” asked Jack, appearing older than his teen years.
“Well, yeah, it’s cheaper than using city water,” frowned Missy.
“Have you ever had your well water tested?” asked Jack.
“You’re as curious as you are cute,” winked Missy.
‘Gross! Did she really just hit on Jack’ thought Kat.
Missy looked over at Mr. Smith and smiled. “Sorry, Charles, but I do have a lemon meringue pie that I can add to your order.”
“Sure, if that’s okay with Kat.” All eyes were on her. “Go ahead and get the pie, Dad, I’m starving!”
Later, on the drive to their home, Kat asked her dad what he thought of Jack. “He seems like a nice fellow. But, he sure was asking a lot of questions.”
“Yes, he sure is nosey.”
They rode the rest of the way home in silence. When her mother was alive, they would always sing songs whenever they were traveling, no matter how short the ride. It had been five years, since her mother left. She had passed away in a freak car accident. She was sending a text on her cell phone when a deer appeared in the middle of the road. Kat’s mother tried to avoid hitting the deer and slammed into a large, oak tree. From that day on, Mr. Smith no longer used a cell phone and forbid Kat from getting one.
Later, after dinner, Kat went outside to gaze at the full moon. The moon with its glory was just above the pine
trees. Kat inhaled a breath of air and released it slowly. It was a beautiful night for star-gazing, one that T.J. would have loved. She remembered when T.J. got his first telescope. He had mowed plenty of lawns to save up the money. It did not make any sense that no one knew what happened to T.J. and his mother. They had just simply disappeared.