It saddened Jeremy to see Dorothy drive away. She was the primary reason he chose to come to Florida, and now she was gone with just a few words between them. “You’ll have the opportunity to spend time with her later,” Annie said. “Remember that she will be living in Oklahoma now.”
“I know that,” Jeremy said. “It’s just sad that she lost Blake, and now she’s lost her sister. She must be feeling a lot of pain.”
“I’m sure she is,” Annie agreed. “I know Dorothy well enough to know that she is a strong woman. I would have ridden back home with her, but I could see that she wanted some time alone.”
“I’m ready to go back home now.”
“We only have a couple more days left on our vacation here. Go with the others to Disney World and have fun.”
“I don’t feel like fun. This trip down here isn’t the way I planned it at all.”
“But Jeremy, that’s life. Rarely do things turn out the way we planned them. There are too many outside factors. I would never have had the pleasure of meeting you if your parents had stayed in California. I would have been a lonely old woman. Now we are all family. Oh, it looks like the others are already in the SUV and ready to go.”
“I guess I need to apologize to Casey. He came all the way from California and I’ve hardly spent any time with him.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that. It appears that he and Molly have formed a friendship.”
“Molly is too young for him.” Jeremy was already becoming protective of his little sister.
“There is only three years difference in their ages, and in case you hadn’t noticed Molly has become a beautiful young woman. Casey is the type that would never do anything that would hurt Molly. She will be fine. It is Scott that I’m worried about.”
“Scott is tough.”
“On the outside, but inside he is hurt and angry. He really needs our love and support right now.”
“What do I need to do?”
“Just be there for him like a big brother. That’s something that Cody has never been able to do. You must never feel that your parents are replacing you with Scott and Molly.”
“I know how Cody is. And, Mom finally has a daughter. I’m happy about that.”
“You also need to understand that Scott truly needs Allen right now. He has never had a decent male role model. He needs Allen even more than Molly needs Nancy.”
“Annie, don’t worry. I’m not jealous of my little brother and sister. I know that Mom and Dad don’t love me any less. Love isn’t confined by boundaries. It is free to grow and encompass them without any less love for me.”
“My goodness Jeremy, you’re wise beyond your years. Now we had better go. I can see that our family is getting inpatient.”
The remainder of the time in Florida was much as Jeremy had planned. They all enjoyed Disney World and even got Annie on most of the rides with them. “She is the youngest old person I’ve ever met,” Casey said about her.
“This had been fun,” Molly said as they all waited for their flight back home. “It’s a lot like the trip you took us on to California. However, this time I’m looking forward to getting back home.”
The family arrived back home to unexpected warm weather; not Florida warm, but warm for January in Oklahoma. Jeremy was happy to be home, but he was worried about Scott. He seemed moody and appeared to be suppressing anger. After unpacking, Jeremy said, “Hey Scott do you want to go help me feed the horses?”
“Okay,” Scott said in a robot like manner.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Jeremy asked as he put feed in the Thunder’s feed tub.
“What’s to talk about?” Scott asked as he put hay in the feeder. “Life sucks.”
“Let’s go into the exercise room where it is warmer,” Jeremy said as they completed the task of feeding the horses.
“Have your say,” Scott said in an exasperated manner.
“I know something is bothering you, now spill it.”
“Nothing is bothering me, and life is just hunky-dory.”
“Look I can’t even imagine what your life has been like. I’ve been lucky and had great parents. While I’m angry with Cody for not stopping Mitch from hitting Molly, I can understand somewhat why Cody is like he is. What I don’t understand is why you’re angry at our family. What have I, or any of us done to make you angry?”
“I’m not angry at anyone. I’m glad that your mom has the daughter that she has always wanted. Now each of your parents has a kid.”
“Come on Scott, you know better than that. Our parents have three kids. Just because Mom has Molly it doesn’t mean that she is rejecting me. She loves each of us. Annie said that I should never feel that Mom and Dad are replacing me with you and Molly. She’s right, you know. She said that you were tough on the outside, but inside you’re hurt and angry. If I were in your place I’m sure that I would be hurt and angry too. You and Molly are my brother and sister now.”
“Doesn’t it bother you that Casey is putting the make on our sister then?”
“It would if I thought Casey would hurt her. Sure, I believe there is some attraction between the two of them. Right now three years age difference is a lot, but in two years Molly will be 18 and Casey will be 21. Further, he will be going back to California. If there is a real love interest they have two years before they can act on it.”
“But, she is my little sister and all I have left now.”
“She is my little sister too, and I would never let Casey take advantage of her. Look Scott, I know that in a few months you will be 18 and free to do as you choose. Mom and Dad love you and they as well as I hope you will choose to stay here. Molly needs you, but I don’t think you realize that we all love you and want you here.”
Tears began to flow when Scott said, “I’m so confused right now. I’m glad that Molly is here and safe, but it is almost as if she doesn’t need me anymore.”
“Oh Scott, how wrong you are. She needs you now more than ever. Just because she also has Mom and Dad doesn’t mean that she doesn’t need you. I’ll be going back to college soon and things will begin to develop into a normal pattern. She will need you as the one stabilizing factor she has left of her previous family. You may not want to admit it, but you need her too.”
“Jeremy, I’m happy that we got Molly way from Dad where she is safe. I’m still angry enough with him that I could kill him.”
“That’s why you need to continue seeing Dr. Carlton. He and Dr. Sutton have really helped me.”
“I’ll keep my appointment, don’t worry. Thanks Jeremy for having this talk with me.”
“That’s what big brothers are supposed to do.” Jeremy then saw the poignant look on Scott’s face. “I’m sorry; I guess I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
“Don’t worry about it. I know that Cody is fucked up and it is all because of Dad. He is still my brother and I still love him, but I’m angry at him too.”
“Hey, what are you two still doing out here?” Casey said as he entered the workout room. “Nancy sent me out here to tell you that dinner was almost ready.”
“I was just having a talk with my little brother,” Jeremy said. “Sit down for just a minute; we want to talk to you about our little sister.”
“Look, you two guys don’t have to worry about anything,” Casey said. “Molly is a beautiful young lady, but I do realize that she is only 16. I also know that even if I wanted to take advantage of her that she would have something to say about that. In fact I can’t see any guy taking advantage of her. She’s more mature that her brothers give her credit for. And yes, when she turns 18 I want to spend some time with her and see what happens. Even then I’d know better than to do her wrong because she has two brothers that would beat the crap out of me.”
Scott stood and pulled Casey into a bear hug and said, “If you ever hurt her, I’ll break every rib in your body.”
“No Scott, you’ll have to leave a few for me to break,” Jeremy laughed.
“I’m hungry, let’s go eat,” Scott said.
During the next few days that Casey spent in Oklahoma a genuine friendship began to develop between him and Scott. When it was time for Casey to return home to California, Scott and Molly both rode with Jeremy to the airport in Tulsa to see him off. The three walked with Casey to the security check point to say their goodbye. They each took their turn hugging him and saying goodbye. When it was Molly’s turn, the hug was longer and more intense. Finally Scott said, “Oh go ahead and kiss her. But, any tongue action and you’re a dead man.”
They all laughed except Molly who gave Scott a look that could kill. Then to her surprise, Casey kissed her gently on the lips. Although she was embarrassed by the kiss, Molly obviously liked it.
To Jeremy’s surprise Dorothy had arrived and was at the Morgan home for a family dinner when they returned from the airport. “I’m glad to see you made it home,” Jeremy said as he gave her a big hug.
“It’s good to be back in Oklahoma,” Dorothy assured him. “Annie was telling me that she found a couple of two bedroom condos for sale. They sound perfect and are next to each other.”
“What are you doing with your house?” Jeremy asked Annie.
“I had it checked to see how much it would cost to renovate, but there is termite damage and it would cost more that it is worth,” Annie said. “I think you should have it knocked down.”
“I’ll be going back to the university soon,” Jeremy said. “I’ll see what I can get done. But, maybe you should just ask Dad to take care of it for you.”
“Because it’s your house now,” Annie said. “I know how much you love the land, and I have no attachment to the house. It was just a place to live while living out my time in life. One day you’ll want to build a house on the bluff overlooking the river valley.”
“Why are you doing this now?”
“If you’re thinking I’m giving up on life and preparing to die, think again. Dorothy insists that she have her own place, and I think we both need each other. Living next to each other is perfect.”
“I’ll check on the demolition of the house over spring break. That will be the next time I have a long enough break to get anything done.”
“I see no reason that it has to be done right away. It will take a while to get the property deeded over to you anyway.”
“What about Scott and Molly, shouldn’t they get part of the property?”
“The land will be yours to do with as you please, but they will be well taken care of financially when they turn 18.”
“I’m not ready to go back to school Monday,” Molly said during dinner.
“Oh you poor baby,” Jeremy teased.
“Stop teasing her,” Nancy reprimanded. “You don’t have to go back until the nineteenth.”
“Hey you’ll be here for my birthday,” Molly said.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t miss your sixteenth birthday,” Jeremy said. “What do you want for your birthday?”
“Now I have everything I’ve always wanted,” Molly said.
“Good, that will save me money,” Jeremy laughed.
“Really, I have what I wanted,” Molly said.
“We’ll have a small party for your sixteenth birthday,” Nancy promised. “Invite a few of your friends if you want.”
“It will be your sweet sixteen party,” Allen laughed. “Sweet sixteen and never been kissed.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Scott teased.
“What are you talking about?” Nancy asked.
“Casey gave her a goodbye kiss at the airport,” Jeremy explained.
“Yeah he did,” Molly admitted. “It was a nice sweet kiss too.”
“I’ll need to go with you the first day back at school,” Nancy said in an effort to change the subject. “They will need the documents that named us as your foster parents.”
“We’ll need to get you enrolled in the driver’s education class too,” Allen said.
Jeremy woke to an empty house Monday morning. There was a note that his parents were at the high school with Molly and Scott. Jeremy decided to have breakfast in town and then have the Honda serviced and detailed before giving it to Molly.
After dropping the car off for detailing, Jeremy walked the two blocks to a diner for a big breakfast. He still had a couple of hours to kill after breakfast and he decided to look at the jewelry store for a nice birthday gift for Molly.
“May I help you?” The clerk asked when Jeremy entered the store.
“I’m looking for a nice gift for my sister’s sixteenth birthday,” Jeremy said.
“What did you have in mind?”
“I think she would like a necklace.”
“We have several nice ones in this display case over here. If you see something you like, let me know and I’ll get it out for you.”
After about 30 minutes of looking, Jeremy decided on a gold guardian angel necklace with a feathering of diamonds. “May I see this necklace?” He asked as he pointed to the selected necklace.
“This is a lovely choice, and it’s on sale for $298,” The clerk said. “We also have matching earrings that are also on sale for $225.”
“I’ll just take the necklace and maybe my brother will want to buy the earrings. Could you gift wrap this for me?”
“Certainly I can. Give me about 15 minutes.”
Jeremy still had almost an hour to kill before the Honda would be ready, but he decided to walk back to the detail shop and wait there. To his surprise the Honda was ready when he arrived. “Your car was cleaner than most we get and it didn’t take as long as we expected,” it was explained to him.
“Decided to take the Honda for one last cruse, did you?” Allen asked when Jeremy returned home.
“No, I took it into town to have it serviced and detailed for Molly,” Jeremy said.
“That’s a nice birthday gift for her,” Nancy said.
“That’s not her gift, this is,” Jeremy said as he took the gift wrapped necklace out of his pocket.
“I hope it isn’t a watch, because that’s what we got her,” Nancy said.
“No, it’s a necklace,” Jeremy said. “Did you get her enrolled in driver’s education?”
“No, the class was already filled,” Allen said. “She was really disappointed too.”
“You could enroll her in the parent taught course that I took,” Jeremy said. “Since she will be sixteen she could take her driving test and get her license as soon as she finishes it.”
“Good idea, I’ll go online and enroll her now,” Allen said.
“Mom, Dad, could I ask you a question first?” Jeremy asked.
“Sure you may,” Nancy said.
“Well it seems strange for me to be calling you Mom and Dad and Scott and Molly calling you Nancy and Allen. Why don’t you ask them to call you Mom and Dad?”
“They have to be comfortable doing that,” Nancy said. “I would love for them to call me mom, but they have to make that decision themselves.”
“I feel the same way,” Allen agreed.
“Maybe they don’t know that you don’t mind,” Jeremy suggested.
Maybe you’re right,” Nancy said. “We can discuss it with them during dinner.”
“Have you already bought Molly’s birthday present?” Jeremy asked Scott during their workout before dinner.
“No, I’ll do that tomorrow,” Scott said. “What did you get her?”
“I got her an angel necklace, and they have matching earrings if you wanted to get them for her,” Jeremy suggested.
“How much are they?”
“They’re on sale for $225.”
“Whew, that’s more than I’ll have to spend after I pay my insurance.”
“Didn’t Annie say that she would pay it? Anyway, Mom and Dad will put you on their policy like they did me. I heard Mom and Dad mention that they would be getting money for fostering you and Molly and they were giving the money to you and Molly.”
“I want this to be Molly’s best birthday ever. Will you meet me tomorrow at the jewelry store so that I get the right earrings? She is really disappointed that she didn’t get into the driver’s education class.”
“Dad enrolled her in a parent taught driver’s education course. She doesn’t know it yet, but she will be getting my Honda and I’ll get Dad’s old SUV.”
“So that’s why he kept the old one?”
“Yes that’s why and, I kind of hate giving up my Honda. But, I can’t think of a better person to get it.”
“I really get to get my driving license?” Molly asked when told that she was enrolled in a parent taught driving education course.
“You will have to have a learners permit for six months,” Allen explained. “You should have done this at age fifteen and a half. The only difference the driver’s education course does now is reducing the cost of your insurance.”
“I tried to get Dad to let me take driver’s education, but he wouldn’t let me,” Molly said.
“Six months will go fast,” Nancy said.
“Not fast enough,” Molly said.
“As soon as you turn sixteen we’ll go let you take the written test and get your learner’s license,” Allen said. “You should start studding for it soon.”
“Chelsea Blackwood gave me her driver’s manual and I already know it from cover to cover,” Molly said.
“As soon as you get your learner’s license we’ll start letting you practice your driving,” Nancy said.
“Thanks Mom,” Molly said. “Oops, I’m sorry. That just came out.”
“Oh honey, that’s fine if you want to call us Mom and Dad,” Nancy said with a big smile. “That goes for you too Scott. However, if you’re not comfortable with that Nancy and Allen is fine with us too.”
“Mom, what’s for dinner?” Scott managed to say with a straight face before the entire family broke into laughter.
Jeremy pulled into an open parking spot near the jewelry story. The bright sun was deceiving as it was bone chilling cold. The sun shining through the SUV window felt warm and cozy to Jeremy, but the cold north wind soon made the vehicle feel cold. Jeremy was about ready to start the engine to the SUV for some heat when he saw Scott pull into a parking space across the street from the jewelry store.
“It’s about time you got here,” Jeremy said. “I about froze my ass off.”
“It doesn’t look like it to me,” Scott teased.
“Fuck you,” Jeremy shot back.
“I’m not your type,” Scott said.
“Right, you’re too ugly,” Jeremy countered.
The two entered the jewelry store laughing when the sales clerk that assisted Jeremy spotted them. “This must be the brother that said may want to purchase the earrings for your sister,” she said as she smiled knowing that she would likely make a sale.
“Let’s go down to the Boomerang for a cup of coffee,” Jeremy said after Scott purchased the earrings and had them gift wrapped.
“That sounds good to me,” Scott readily agreed.
“Hi Scott,” the pretty waitress said when she came to take their order.
“Hi Bailey,” Scott said. “I didn’t know you worked here.”
“It’s a part-time job after school and some weekends,” Bailey said. “What would you like to drink?”
“Coffee for me,” Scott said. “Oh, this is my brother Jeremy.”
“What would you like to drink, Jeremy?” Bailey asked without taking her eyes off of Scott.
“Just coffee too,” Jeremy said.
“She has the hots for you,” Jeremy teased when Bailey left to get their coffee.
“Do you really think so?” Scott questioned. “She is cute, don’t you think? Oh, I guess I’m asking the wrong person.”
“Hey I have an eye for beauty too,” Jeremy laughed. “And, yes she is cute.”
Bailey spent most of the time they were there flirting with Scott and actually scooted in the booth beside him. She likely would have spent the entire time with him had the other waitress not called her for help as the diner began to get busy.
“You should ask her out,” Jeremy prompted Scott.
“I doubt she would go out with me,” Scott said. “Besides, I’m not sure I’m ready to date again right now.”
“You should,” Jeremy said. “There’s more to life than work and school.”
“You should talk. Who are you dating now?”
“My situation is different than yours.”
“Is it really? We both lost something. Oh I know that your loss was very painful, but you can’t crawl into a hole for the rest of your life.”
“Now my little brother is giving me advice. Okay, I guess you’re right. I suppose I should consider dating but, for now we need to get home and help Mom and Dad get ready for Molly’s birthday party.”
“I wonder how she did with her written driving test.”
“She’s a smart girl and I’m sure she passed.”
Jeremy and Scott were busy helping Nancy prepare for Molly’s party when she arrived in excitement of passing her written driving test. “I passed with a hundred,” she exclaimed. “Dad even let me drive part of the way home.”
“How many other cars did you run off the highway?” Scott teased.
“She did very well,” Allen proudly proclaimed.
Following a wonderful buffet style dinner and the birthday cake, it was time for Molly to open her presents. Annie and Dorothy each gave her a $250 gift card from Dillards for new clothes. She loved the watch, necklace, and earrings that the family gave her. She was surprised to see a gift from Casey, a digital picture frame with pictures taken at Disney World as well as a picture of them together.
“There is one more gift, but it is outside,” Allen said.
Molly smiled, knowing that she too now had her own car. But, to her surprise there wasn’t a car outside. She looked around and then in disappointment said, “What is out here that you wanted me to see?”
Jeremy handed her keys to the Honda, but she was still confused and said, “What are these for?”
“Your car,” Scott said. “It’s the keys to your car.”
“What car?” A confused Molly asked.
“The Honda is now yours,” Jeremy said.
“You love that Honda,” Molly said.
“Now you can love it as well,” Jeremy said. “I’ll get Dad’s old SUV. That is unless you had rather have the SUV.”
“I don’t want that big old tank,” Molly said. “I’ve always admired the Honda.”
“It is cold out here,” Nancy said. “Let’s go inside for some hot drinks.”
“I wish I could drive my car to school tomorrow,” Molly said as she enjoyed her hot chocolate.
“I don’t see why you can’t,” Allen said. “Instead of driving you to and from school in my SUV we can take the Honda and let you drive. You need the driving time anyway.”
“It is getting late, and Dorothy and I should be getting home,” Annie said. “Molly, I hope you enjoyed your birthday as much as I enjoyed celebrating it with you.”
“It is the best birthday I’ve ever had,” Molly said.
“Jeremy, walk out with us,” Annie said. “I have something for you.”
“You really don’t have anything for me, do you?” Jeremy asked as he closed the door behind them.
“No, I saw you staring down the driveway when we were out here giving Molly her car,” Annie said. “You saw what I saw didn’t you?”