It was nearing time for Stephanie to pack her bags for school. The kids were upset about it and Grant came up with an idea. “Let’s all go to the zoo.”
“The zoo?” Stephanie looked up from the cookies she and the kids were making.
“One last outing. The five of us will go tomorrow. Then we will hit McDonald’s for lunch. It will be great.”
“McDonald’s! Zoo!” The kids started chanting. Steph just shook her head and knew that she was defeated. She nodded and they all ran away to play in another room.
“Grant Williams, are you trying to help me have a nervous break down?”
“No. I am just trying to find someway to get you out in public legally.” He leaned in and, watching the door to the hallway, kissed the back of her neck. “I enjoy spending time with you.”
She giggled. “Alright, the zoo.”
“Look at the meerkats!” Eli called back to Peggy, who was in right behind him. Carol was being carried by Grant, while Stephanie was walking along beside him. Carol struggled to run to the thick plastic and look with her siblings. The tall man reluctantly put her down.
“How do Stacie and Doug do it?”
“They hire teenagers who are desperate for money to do their dirty work.” She blushed as she said that. “I shouldn’t say that. It’s just that it seems like other than the trip toCalifornia, I have spent more time with this family than I have with my own.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” Grant leaned against a railing, keeping an eye on the kids.
“No. I love the kids. I hope that one day my kids are as good as they are.”
“If you are their mom, they will be.”
Stephanie felt herself blush again at this statement. The complement was too much right now and she wanted to kiss him right there in public. But she kept herself in check. She ran her palms against her jeans and looked at the map. “Where to now?”
“How about the carousel?” Peggy answered and ran back to her care takers. “Can we please?”
“Cawousel, Steffy.” Carol wrapped her arms around the red head’s legs. Stephanie, again, felt defeated.
“Okay. The carousel next.” The kids stared running ahead of them, but stayed where they could see them. Grant slid up next to Stephanie and wrapped his arm around her waist. “Grant…” She hissed softly.
“They aren’t watching.” His fingers were at the place where her top and pants met and he ran his finger along her bare skin. She had to bite her tongue to keep from giggling. “I have a surprise for you.”
“If I tell you, it won’t be a surprise.” He removed his arm from her waist and went ahead with the kids to the carousel. Stephanie stayed back and took pictures of Grant and the kids. He will make a good father one day. He loves those children like they are his own. She thought as she snapped the pictures.
After another three hours and every other animal being seen, the kids were starting to get hungry. They drove back to town and headed for the local McDonald’s. At first Grant was going to take them home to eat, but they decided to eat at the restaurant.
They were enjoying lunch when the kids decided that they wanted to go play in the play land. Grant, Stephanie and Peggy decided to stay at the table. They were all laughing and talking when Stephanie saw the car. She began to breathe quickly as she saw him getting out of the car. “I am going to go and check on the kids.” She shot up and hurried into the play land.
Grant looked at Peggy and she looked back at him. “What is wrong with her?”
“I don’t know.” He looked out the window and saw Calvin McGuffey coming into the restaurant. McGuffey saw him and came over to talk. They had been in the same geography class during Grant’s last year of high school. “Hello, Calvin.”
“Hey, Grant. Who is this little beauty?”
“This is my niece Peggy.”
“Nice to meet you, Peggy.” He seemed to be very charming. Something about that made Grant uneasy. “Didn’t you have a baby sitter?”
Grant interrupted, “But she has quit working for Stacie because she is going to Berkley soon.”
“Oh. Well it was good to see you.” Calvin went on to the cash register to place his order.
Grant leaned over to Peggy and whispered for her to go to into the play land and tell Stephanie to wait on him to come get her. She followed her uncle’s instructions and went into the play area. Grant got up and walked over to the counter. “Hey, Cal. What are you doing tonight?”
“I am going to the bar. Do you want to join me?”
“Sure. What time?’
“I’ll be there about six.”
“See you then.” Grant went on back to the table while Calvin left. Once his car was gone, Grant went into the play land and got the kids and Steph. He got them in the car and drove them home quickly. Stephanie put the kids to bed for a nap and then came back downstairs.
“You want to tell me about it?”
“What?” She asked very innocently.
“You made a mad dash to check on the kids earlier.”
“I thought I heard Carol call.”
“Really? I didn’t hear it.” He looked at her very disbelieving.
“Please, let’s not talk about it.” She took a seat next to him.
“Was it Cal?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Stephanie. Was it Calvin?” She looked down at her hands. Grant put his hand onto hers. “It’s okay.”
“Please, don’t do anything.”
“I won’t.” He smiled at her. “Why don’t you go home?I am going to watch the kids.”
“Are you sure?”
“You need to start packing and spend some time with your mom and dad.” He looked at the staircase and then kissed her on the cheek. Williams watched her get her stuff together and leave to walk home. Then he got up and went to his room. He started getting ready for his ‘date’.
“What is it?” She tried to shake the sleep out of her head. Looking at the clock, she realized that it was four in the morning.
“You are not going to believe it.”
“What? Annette, what is so important?”
Stephanie pulled the covers around her. “What about him?”
“He got so drunk that he left the bar tonight and fell down the cliff behind Phil’s place.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“Is he okay?”
“Yeah. But my mom was at the ER when he came in. He looked like someone had worked him over good. His blood alcohol level was so high he was lucky he didn’t die from that alone. Luckily some other drunk saw it and called it in.” Annette just kept going on. Stephanie was in shock and said nothing else. After a few minutes Annette went to call some other friends and hung up with her friend.
Stephanie got up. She didn’t think she could go back to sleep. The young woman pulled out her suitcase and started packing her clothes for late fall and winter. Then she took a shower and got dressed. At seven o’clock she went over to Stacie and Doug’s house. They were still at the house.
“Stephanie, you’re early.”
“Well, I only have a few days left until Annette takes over for me. I wanted to spend as much time with the kids as I could before I leave.”
Stacie hugged her. “You are so wonderful with them. They are going to miss you.” She went on to finish getting ready.
Doug poured Steph a cup of coffee. “The kids are not the only ones going to miss you. Did you like the surprise?”
“What surprise?” She looked at him dumbfounded.
“Didn’t you and Grant go to dinner last night?”
“No. He sent me home to pack.”
“Oh.” Doug continued drinking his coffee.
Grant came in and went to pour himself a cup of coffee. He didn’t see that Stephanie was sitting there until Doug cleared his throat. “Hey. You’re here early.”
“Yeah.” She took another sip of her coffee. “I got a phone call this morning.”
Grant didn’t say anything. Doug knew she was fishing for something. “What was it about?”
“A guy we went to high school with had an accident last night. He got really drunk and had an accident.”
“Who was it?” Doug asked. He, like Stacie, had grown up in town and knew a lot of people around there.
“Calvin McGuffey.” She looked up at Grant. He didn’t say anything; he just kept drinking his coffee over by the sink.
“That was terrible. Is he alright?”
Grant finally spoke up. “I went out for a drink last night and ran into him at the bar. He had already been putting them away when I saw him. It’s a shame that something happened to him.”
Doug looked at his watch. “I need to get out of here. Have a good day guys.”
Stephanie waited for Stacie and Doug to leave. Then she got up and walked over to Grant. He wouldn’t look at her. “You did something, didn’t you?”
“He asked me to have a drink with him.”
“You worked him over?”
“No. I did not. As a matter of fact, I was the one that called the cops when he fell.”
“Grant, don’t lie to me.”
He took her into his arms and pulled her close. “I did not hurt him. I kept buying him drinks hoping that he would kill himself with alcohol. I went out planning to kill him, but I couldn’t do it. No matter how mad I got at him, I couldn’t kill him. I couldn’t even hit him.” Tears formed in his eyes. “I am so sorry, Stephanie. I wanted to make him hurt for what he did to you.”
“It’s okay.” She threw her arms around him. “If you had, I couldn’t be here right now.”
“I had a surprise for you last night.”
“I thought that we could go out to dinner and a movie.”
“Was that my surprise?”
“Yes. Do you want to go out tonight?”
“I would like to but mom and dad are taking me out tonight for my birthday.”
“The girls are taking me out tomorrow. Friday?”
“Sure.” He kissed her on the forehead.
The next day Stephanie turned eighteen. She and her high school friends had gone to a local club. The girls were having a good time talking and dancing.
While she was out enjoying herself, Grant was at home. Stacie had gone to bed early and Doug was looking over some paperwork. After a while, the older man looked at his brother-in-law. “Why didn’t you take her out the other night?”
“I don’t know.”
“If you don’t tell her, she’ll be upset when she does find out.” Doug reminded him. This was a talk they had had a few days earlier.
“But I am not sure where they are going to restation me. I don’t want to discuss that with her until I know.”
“Do you like her?”
“Then tell her how you feel. I think she feels the same way.” The older man looked at him. “I almost chickened out on telling your sister how I felt.”
“But you weren’t in a job where you can be stationed somewhere far away from her.”
“It won’t matter. If she loves you and you love her, she would follow you to the end of the world.”
Grant looked at him. “I don’t know if she loves me.”
“Grant, man, you must be blind.” Doug just shook his head and laughed. He didn’t tell him that Carol had told him a few weeks ago about the two of them.
“So why isn’t your boyfriend here?”
“Her boyfriend?” Sally asked Annette. “What boyfriend? She doesn’t have time to go out with anyone. She is always baby sitting.”
“Where do you think she was met him?”
Nicole’s mouth dropped. “You’re dating Doug?”
“NO!” Stephanie blurted out.
“She’s seeing Grant Williams.”
“I am not seeing Grant. He is just a friend.”
“Who you spent almost 2 weeks with on the road.” Annette added.
“Oh my God.” Sally was just shocked. Nicole held up her drink. “You go girl.” Stephanie just blushed at this conversation.