Chapter 5

© Copyright 2005 by Diana Mylek

Raymond arrived at seven to see the boat. “Is that it, out in the parking lot?” He asked before even greeting Emily.

“That’s the boat,” she replied, allowing him inside.

“When you gonna let me take it out for a spin?” Raymond called to Lacey.

She was doing her nails. “How about a cold day you know where?”

“Aw, come on Lacey.” He sat next to her on the couch. “We’re friends, almost in-laws.”

“Since when?”

He laughed pleasantly. “You know I love your sister. I just like to keep her guessing.” He winked at Lacey.

Lacey winked back. “Yeah, it’s so funny when you make her wonder what she does to make you treat her like garbage.”

Emily gave her sister a dirty look. “Maybe another time, Ray. We were just learning how to use it today anyway.”

He shot her a look. “You went out on the boat? After I told you not to?”

“I…well sure, I couldn’t let Lacey go alone.” She stepped back timidly as his eyes narrowed and he rose from the sofa. He stopped when he noticed the glare on Lacey’s face. His face changed to a mask of concern.

“It’s just, I worry about you, Em. You’re not used to doing men’s things…If I lost you…”

“You would have to do your own laundry,” Lacey quipped.

“Lacey!” Emily moved to Ray and put her arms around his waist. “Thank you for your concern. We’ll go some other time.”

Lacey snorted in disgust and stomped out of the room.

“What’s eating her?” Raymond sneered and gave Emily the same face. “And why didn’t you call? I’ve been paging you all day.”

Emily frowned. “My pager didn’t beep once. I wonder if it’s broken.” She dialed her pager number and a beep sounded from under the couch.

“Oh, no wonder,” she said, retrieving the pager. “It must have fallen out of my purse.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to clip it to your clothes?” Raymond snatched it out of her hand and clipped it to her shirt. “I want to see this on you at all times, Emily.”

“I can’t, at work,” she reminded him.

He picked up his coat and pulled her by the arm. “Get your coat on. We’re going to get you a cell phone.”

“Now?” Emily asked. “It’s after seven.”

Pushing her toward the door, he glowered, “Mall’s open till nine-thirty. I’m not going through another day like this.”

Emily hurriedly donned her coat and shoes as she rushed out the door with him. She returned home an hour later with a flip phone, a new number, and a screaming headache. He had badgered her the whole time, choosing the phone, the service contract, and options, saying she wasn’t smart enough to decide these things for herself.

“Hide your pager under your clothes, and turn it to vibrate,” instructed Raymond. “That way you can have it on you at work. And when I page you, I expect to be called, got that?”

“Yes, Raymond,” she answered quietly, wishing she could lay her head somewhere.

“And I’ll be checking your bill. You don’t use this for anyone but me, understand?”

“Who would I call beside you and Lacey?” Emily wondered.

He laughed a short, mean spirited snort. “That’s right, you don’t have any friends. No one thinks you’re worth the trouble. If it wasn’t for me you’d be totally alone.”

Emily thought about Stuart and his kindness to her when she hooked his sweater. Raymond would have punished her for weeks, but Stuart laughed it off, and spent the rest of the day doing nice things for her. She didn’t feel stupid and ugly around him, and he almost made her believe she wasn’t as bad as Raymond told her she was.

“Hey, Birdbrain! Back to earth,” said Raymond. “Let’s go to my place. I’m starving.”

Emily only wanted to go home and sleep. “I’m tired, Ray, and I have church in the morning.”

“So you can spend all day on a boat with your sister but you can’t spend a few hours with me.” He sniffed. “I see how you are.”

“No, honest, Ray. I’ll cook for you tomorrow. Really.”

“It’s okay. I know who’s more important.”

Emily sighed. “Okay, Ray. Let’s make dinner, and then you can drive me home.”

He turned the car on again. “Good. I’ve got pasta. But don’t put so much garlic in it this time.”

She cooked him the pasta, and he told her it was good, except not enough garlic and the noodles were overcooked.

“Sorry,” she said, rinsing out the pans and finishing the dishes. It was late and she was so very tired. “Can you take me home now?”

“I just finished eating, for crying out loud,” Raymond whined. “Why don’t you just stay the night?”

“You know I would never do that,” Emily replied. “We’ve discussed this before.”

He slipped up behind her and kissed her on the neck. “You could change your mind.”

“Raymond!” Emily shook him off.

He laughed. “Prude. You won’t hold out forever.”

“I’ll hold out until I’m married. No sooner.” Her faith demanded it, and she would not compromise for him or anyone. She was much more worried about displeasing God than Raymond, at least in this area.

“Fine, then you better get used to long nights alone. You ain’t marriage material, Emily.”

“What about us, Ray?”

He shrugged. “I haven’t decided yet. I don’t like to buy a car unless I test drive it first, if you get my drift.”

She bit her lip. There would be no compromise in this area, no matter the cost. But if he didn’t want her, who else would? Suddenly sad, she gathered her purse and coat.

“I need to go home.”

“I said I’d take you in a while.”

She sighed and sat on the arm of the chair. Once he started watching television, he might forget all about her, he often did. It was freezing outside, and a cold rain fell. Raymond turned the volume on the television set louder. Emily put on her coat and slipped out of the apartment. Cold rain would be more preferable than spending hours waiting for him to take her home.

Emily was drenched and shivering uncontrollably by the time she entered her apartment. Lacey was long asleep, so she quietly removed her wet clothing and started a hot shower. It helped, but by morning she was nursing a cold. By afternoon, she was bedridden.

“I thought you were fine when we came home from the lake,” Lacey said, feeding her sister chicken soup.

“I was,” Emily replied. “But I…got caught in the rain last night.”

Lacey slammed the spoon down in the bowl, splattering broth on the comforter. “You walked home again! Why didn’t you call me?”

“I knew you would be asleep.” Emily wiped at the spill with a napkin.

Lacey knew it was futile to argue with her sister about Raymond, but she couldn’t let him do these things to her! Why couldn’t Emily see him for what he was, a con artist who used her for his own convenience? Please, God, Lacey pleaded silently, help her to break free of this man. Whatever it takes, Lord, please. Before something bad happens to her, or before he does something to hurt her. Help, Lord.

“You’re not going anywhere today or tomorrow,” Lacey decided. “I’ll call your boss in the morning.”

Emily was too ill to argue. She laid her head on the pillow and pulled the covers around her. Lacey put the chicken soup aside, and wiped her sister’s fevered brow with a cool cloth. When she was satisfied that Emily was comfortable, Lacey turned out the light and went into the living room, closing the door behind her.

The phone rang as Lacey was cleaning Emily’s dishes. She wiped her hands dry and sat on the sofa as she answered.

“Let me talk to Emily,” the voice on the other end of the line demanded.

“I don’t think so, Raymond,” Lacey said angrily. “She’s in bed deathly ill from walking home in the rain last night.”

“Yeah, right. Let me talk to her.”

“You were too much of a jerk to drive her home.”

“She left on her own. Are you going to give the phone to her?”

“No, I told you, she’s sleeping!”

He sounded angry now. “I’m coming over and she better be there.”

Lacey grasped the phone cord. “You do, and I’ll call the police.”

“For what?”

“I’ll think of something.”

He scoffed. “Aren’t you supposed to be a Christian?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be a gentleman?”

“At least I don’t pretend to be something I’m not, princess.”

“You don’t fool anyone either,” Lacey returned. “Leave her alone, she’s sick.” Lacey slammed the phone down, then remembering it was cordless, picked it up and turned it off. It’s not the same when you can’t hang up on anyone, she thought angrily.

The phone rang again.

“I mean it!” She shouted into the receiver.

“Mean what?” Asked Eric.

Lacey gasped. “Uh, how much I love that boat,” she recovered. “I can’t help but shout.”

Eric laughed but sounded unconvinced. “I guess that answers my question. I called to see if you were satisfied with your purchase.”

“Oh, yes, very much,” Lacey assured him.

“Any more offers? Dad wants to know.”

She laughed. “Tell him we’re up to two now. My manager sent flowers and an invitation to dinner.”

“Smooth,” Eric said.

“A reduction on my rent would have made a better impression.”

He agreed. “So, was your sister disappointed that she didn’t catch any fish?”

Lacey shook her head, though he couldn’t see her. “I don’t think so; I’ll have to ask her. She did say she had a great time. But she seems to have caught a cold and she’s sick in bed right now. I’m a little worried.”

“She was so cold out there. Stuart said he tried to warm her as best he could, but I guess she got sick anyway.”

“No, she was fine when we returned from the lake. She went out later in the evening, and walked home in the rain.”

Eric sounded surprised. “At night?”

“I told her she should have called me but she said I was asleep and she didn’t want to wake me.”

“I hope she feels better.”

Lacey was touched by his concern. “I’ll take her to the doctor if she gets worse. Right now she’s sleeping comfortably.”

She and Eric talked a while longer, about his family, his three sisters and one brother, about Lacey’s parents, who were traveling the states in a motor home, and about his and her jobs. When Emily stirred, calling to her sister, Lacey said she needed to go.

“Thanks for calling, Eric.”

“Uh, wait—,” Eric said quickly. “How about dinner Friday night? And not at the restaurant?”

“I would love that,” said Lacey with feeling. “Call me again this week?”

“Sure,” he replied. “Tomorrow okay?”

She told him it was, and hung up the phone, then rushed to her sister’s side.

Emily struggled to sit up in bed. “My pager’s beeping. I need the phone…”

“Oh, no you don’t,” said Lacey, forcing her sister back on the pillow. She took the pager and turned it off, then made Emily comfortable.

“Sleep, Em. You need that more than anything right now. I’ll take care of everything else.”

Emily nodded and drifted back into sleep. Lacey carried the pager out of the room with her, and instead of placing it in Emily’s purse, opened the living room window and threw it as far as she could.

Stuart decided to accept the Hook family’s offer Sunday, and accompanied them to church, followed by dinner at the household. It was a standing offer, the same every Sunday, but today was the first time since Kate’s death he felt like attending church. He couldn’t bring himself to sing the Lord’s praises with the anger he felt at God for taking her. Now, with his heart feeling the first balm of healing in the form of Emily’s touch, a fissure was opened in his soul, and he was aware again of his need for God, and the relationship they once enjoyed. He missed God, His strength and comfort, and the companionship of the Father, whom Stuart had pushed away in his grief. How much better I would have felt if I ran to Him instead of from Him, he wondered. The load of grief was overwhelming, but God’s word says to cast my cares on Him. When I cast my fishing line, I throw it as far as I can. What if I did that with my troubles?

When the invitation came at the end of service, Stuart, who was loath to bring any attention to his self, went forward and knelt. This is for you, Lord, he prayed silently, to show you I am sincere, and to ask you for two things; forgiveness for blaming you, and to strengthen me so I can trust you again.

The Hook family waited for Stuart, before heading to the massive house where a hearty dinner waited, as was their custom every Sunday. All of the Hook children and grandchildren gathered to eat, talk, play, and find companionship in each other. Often they teased Eric, asking the baby of the family when he was going to settle down and give his mother more grandchildren. Stuart laughed as Eric endured his weekly inquisition and ducked questions when he was asked the same.

“We think there is finally some hope, with this little lady who bought the bass boat,” Al said to Stuart.

“He seems awfully fond of her,” Stuart agreed. “I wasn’t sure if it was the boat or her, but if he marries her he’ll get both, so I guess it will work out either way.”

“What about you, Stuart?” Asked Susan Hook. “My husband tells me there was a lovely young lady who accompanied her sister when she bought the boat.”

“There was.”

“And…” Mrs. Hook looked at him expectantly.

“She didn’t have a boat of her own so I turned her down.”

Eric laughed heartily. “She hooked him, literally. With a lure and those blue eyes. I haven’t seen Stuart smile like that since…Kate’s passing.”

Stuart grinned good-naturedly. “True. Her name is Emily.”

“Do you hear that, dear?” Susan said to Al. “Two girls in one day! We might have both of these men off our hands this year.”

“A little premature, mom.”

“Not in this family,” she reminded him. “There are no long engagements and we only give our hearts once. You are a Hook, dear; it’s in your blood. And you, Stuart are an honorary Hook. I expect no less from you.”

“Yes, your highness,” Eric teased. His mother was right about the family history of short engagements; his own parents set a record. But she was wrong about giving his heart only once—he had loved Kate, though no one ever knew it. And though he thought he would never love again, he learned this weekend he had the capacity. Whether anything happened with Lacey or not, he at least knew he was ready.

Stuart said no more about Emily; it was too early to make assumptions and he barely knew her anyway. But what he did know of her, he liked immensely. And he desperately wanted to find out all he could about this woman who captivated him so, who started the healing his heart needed so badly.

Later in the afternoon, Stuart returned home to his silent house, and prepared to once again work on the boats, but the phone rang before he made it to the door. It was Eric, telling him that Emily was sick. At first, Stuart was guilt stricken that he hadn’t done enough to keep her warm, but Eric explained that she was fine when she came home, but had been caught out in the rain later. Stuart wondered if her car had broken down and she had to walk, but Eric said he didn’t know.

“Is she laid up?” Stuart asked. “Real sick?”

“All I know is that she’s sick in bed and Lacey’s taking care of her,” Eric said.

“I’ve got to do something,” Stuart declared. “I’ll call Thelma, she’ll know what to do.”

“I’m sure it’s just a cold, Stuart. She’ll be fine.”

He wasn’t convinced. He had too many losses in his life; he couldn’t risk another one. As soon as he could, he went to Thelma’s and explained his predicament.

“I’m worried, Thelma. But I can’t just go over there.”

“You can’t. I can.” She bustled around the kitchen gathering medicine and comfort food. “Call Eric and tell him I need a ride. And go get some flowers for Emily while I’m waiting for him.”

Stuart ran out the door to his truck and returned in fifteen minutes with red roses and more chocolate than he had ever eaten in his life. Eric had just arrived and was helping Thelma carry things out to his Dodge Dakota, his amusement at Stuart’s concern showing on his face.

“This is just a cold, Stu. What would you do if it was pneumonia?”

“I’m going along,” he said to Thelma.

“You’ll do no such thing,” Thelma stated. “She won’t want to be seen at her worst. That’ll bother her more than being sick. We’ll call you later. Go home and wait.”

Stuart didn’t like her orders, but he knew better than to disobey. “I’ll be waiting for your call,” he said as she climbed into Eric’s truck. She waved to him and left Stuart standing in her driveway, but when he got into his truck, there were cookies on his seat.

Emily slept for hours, and Lacey used the time to read her boat manual, learning all about the company that manufactured it, and where the fuses were. If she weren’t so worried about her sister she would have fallen asleep reading. At seven, the doorbell rang, and she leaped to answer it, ready to do battle with Raymond. To her surprise, it was Thelma and Eric, carrying goodies.

“Thelma! How did you find me?” Lacey gasped as she opened the door.

Thelma pointed behind her. “Eric had your address, and we saw the boat in front of your building. Stuart sent me to take care of Emily. He’s just sick about her being, well…sick.”

Lacey stepped aside to allow Eric and Thelma inside. “Stuart’s not here?”

Eric handed Lacey a package. “Thelma wouldn’t let him. She said women don’t like to be seen at their worst.”

“I know this is true,” Lacey laughed. “Come on, Thelma, I’ll take you to Emily.”

They left Eric in the living room while they tended to Lacey’s sister. Eric popped a few cookies in his mouth and searched for milk to drink, taking his treats into the next room and turning on the television. The doorbell rang again, but Lacey didn’t come out of the room so Eric went to the door for her.

“Can I help you?” He said to the small, angry man at the door.

“Who are you?” The man demanded.

“Who are you?” Eric answered, giving him a dirty look.

“None of your business, unless you’re trying to steal my Emily.” The man attempted to enter, but Eric blocked him.

“You’re Emily’s boyfriend?” Eric asked in disbelief.

“What’s it to ya?”

“She never said…” Eric began, and stopped. Why didn’t Emily say anything about him? He looked at the man…shorter than Eric by far with a chip on his shoulder a mile wide. Eric knew his type well; he saw all sorts of men at his store. This man obviously bullied Emily, which would explain her timid nature. But if Eric guessed right, he would not be able to do the same to someone bigger than him. Eric decided to call his bluff.

“She doesn’t want to see you. There’s a new guy in town, and he’s not afraid of a scrappy little thing like you. You’ve been replaced, pal.”

“WHAT?” The man sneered, his eyes narrowing. “She ain’t got anybody, I’m the only one who puts up with her.”

“Want to make something of it?” Eric challenged, rolling up his sleeves.

The man thought about it, then backed away saying angrily, “We’ll see about who gets Emily. She ain’t gonna take care of you either, she’s a prude! You’ll find out for yourself. But you ain’t rid of me. Watch your back, creep!”

“I’ll watch yours instead,” laughed Eric as he closed the door.

Lacey walked into the living room. “Who was that?”

“Door to door salesman,” Eric said. “Not a very nice one, either.”

“On a Sunday?” Lacey shook her head. “They have no respect for the Lord’s day.”

Eric mumbled his agreement.

“Emily’s worse. I don’t know what to do.”

“Thelma will. She can do anything.” Eric put his arms around Lacey. “She’ll be fine.”

But Thelma came out of the bedroom and said Emily needed a doctor’s care. “I can only do so much. She needs to get some antibiotics in her before she gets any worse. I think we should take her to an emergency room.”

“I’ll drive,” said Eric. “You get her ready.”

She was too weak to walk, so Eric carried her to his truck, putting her in the back seat with her sister. Emily lay her head on her sister’s lap and breathed laboriously.

“It’s his fault, the jerk,” Lacey said tearfully, and Thelma knew she wasn’t talking about Stuart. “Why can’t she break away from him?”

“She has to find for herself what he is,” Thelma said. “He’s got her believing that she’s undeserving and stupid. Until she gets away from him she won’t realize it.”

“But he controls her, Thelma. I can’t get her away from him long enough to give her a chance to see. She thinks she can’t get anyone else, that she deserves the way he treats her.”

“No one does,” Eric said. “If she can’t see it, then it’s up to you to show her.”

“I try, Eric. I tell her all the time, but he plays with her mind. Last night he made her walk home in the rain! He orders her around, and he tells her all the time how worthless she is. And she believes him! That’s what bothers me the most. I can’t stop it!” She cried into a tissue.

“We have to pray that God opens her eyes,” Thelma says. “And that she sees she is worth loving.”

“Yesterday, she was so taken with Stuart, I could tell. I hoped she would see that not all men are like Raymond. But when we came home, he was here waiting, and she was under his control again.”

Thelma knew exactly what Lacey meant. “It’s abuse, plain and simple. He’s beaten her down until she believes his lies. But she can’t see that, and she won’t until she finds a better way to live.”

“She’s a Christian, Thelma,” Lacey said and blew her nose. “And yet she still lets him hurt her.”

“She needs to learn the difference between meek and weak,” Eric commented. He took Emily to the emergency entrance at Mercy Hospital, and helped her into a wheelchair. While the women took her inside, he parked the truck and called Stuart, explaining what was happening and where they were. He also told him about Emily’s boyfriend.

“I met him, and was not impressed,” Eric said in an understatement. “If you really like her, Stuart, you’re going to have to convince her she is deserving of love.”

“How do I do that?” Stuart wondered.

“Just be there for her,” Eric suggested. “She’ll figure it out for herself. And keep her away from that creep.”

“I intend to do just that,” replied Stuart. “I want her all for myself.”

Eric said he would call if there was any news, and went to be with Lacey. They waited a long time while Emily was treated, then the doctor came out to the waiting room and informed Lacey that they would keep her sister for a day or two, depending on how well the antibiotic worked.

“She has fluid in her lungs, which is indicative of pneumonia,” the doctor said. “But we’re treating her and I think she’ll come through fine.”

“So should I stay with her tonight?” Lacey asked.

“If you want, we can let you stay in her room. She might want you there.” He went to give orders to move her to a room. Lacey turned to Eric and Thelma.

“I’m so thankful that you were here with me, but I guess there’s nothing more for you to do.”

“I’ll take you home, Thelma,” Eric said. “Lacey, if you need, I’ll come back and stay with you.”

“Thanks, Eric, I mean it, but I have a long night ahead, and you have to work tomorrow.” She stood and hugged both of them. “I can call to let you know how she is.”

“I’ll come back anyway tomorrow,” he said. “You’ll need a ride home to shower and get your car.”

He was too thoughtful, Lacey sighed. She would really like to keep him around. She walked him and Thelma out to his truck and thanked them again for their help. Eric took her hand and held it tight, then let go and left with Thelma.

I should have kissed her, he thought, but reminded himself this was not the place, or the way he wanted their first kiss to happen. There was always tomorrow.

While Lacey was waiting for Emily to be put in a room, she called her parents. They were somewhere in Arizona at a campground filled with travelers just like them, senior citizens traveling across the United States in motor homes.

“Mom?” Lacey said. “What’s that noise in the background?”

“We’re having a hoe-down,” replied Mrs. Blessing. “Your dad dancing with the women. I stopped to rest.”

“I just called to tell you that Emily is sick, mom. She’s in the hospital with pneumonia.”

“Oh, no! I’ll call your dad and we’ll head home right away.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary. She’s responding to the antibiotic, and they think she’ll only be in a few days.”

“How did this happen?” Sheila asked.

“Raymond made her walk home in the rain.”

Lacey could feel her mother’s outrage through the phone. “If your dad and I ever meet this…horrible man, we’ll knock him into next week!”

“If I don’t first,” Lacey said. “He’s got this hold on her, but I’m praying she’ll break free of him.”

“Praying is fine, dear but fists speak louder than words. Your dad will not be pleased.”

“We can’t just beat him up, Mom.”

“Oh, no?”

“Anyway, I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know how Em’s doing.”

“You do that, Lacey. Dad and I will be waiting for your call.”

Lacey went to the room that Emily was in. There were two beds, and the nurse said Lacey could occupy one tonight. She was grateful, and wished she had some reading material with her since it looked like Emily was going to sleep for a while. The nurse told her the gift shop was still open and Lacey said she would go there for a magazine, but asked that no visitors be allowed in Emily’s room while she was gone. Raymond probably didn’t know where Emily was, but Lacey didn’t want him around in any case.

He didn’t bother them, and Lacey fell into a troubled sleep, waking every time a nurse came in to check Emily’s vitals. Finally, morning came and her sister stirred.

“Emily,” Lacey whispered. “Do you know where you are?”

Her sister moaned but did not answer. The nurse entered and checked on Emily.

“Is she not fully conscious?” asked Lacey.

“She’s sedated,” the nurse replied. “It would help if you talked to her.”

“Em, you’re in the hospital,” Lacey said. “You have pneumonia; you caught it when Raymond made you walk home in the rain. He made you get sick.”

Emily made a sound.

“Stuart sent you roses, Emily. He’s worried about you. I think he likes you. He’s a kindhearted man, Em. He also sent chocolate, but you can’t have any until you are awake. Do you hear me? When you wake up and start to improve you can have chocolate, but not till then.”

Emily began to toss her head and thrash on the bed. Lacey looked at the nurse in alarm, but the woman only laughed and congratulated Lacey. You’ve found the motivation for Emily to wake up and fight this thing. Is it Stuart or chocolate?”

“Definitely chocolate,” laughed Lacey. “Nothing else motivates her like that.”

“Keep telling her then,” said the nurse. “We’ll have her out of here in no time if she takes charge of her illness.”

Around noon, to Lacey’s surprise, Stuart and Eric stood outside the door of Emily’s room. She invited them in, explaining that Emily was still sedated, but they visited with her anyway. Stuart brought her a large teddy bear that he left at the foot of the bed, and told her to wake up so they could go fishing. They all agreed that Emily looked frail, but her color was improving. Eric asked Lacey if she wanted to go home and shower, and Lacey never hesitated, finding her purse and coat.

“I feel like a walking ball of slime,” she said. The nurse entered and said they were going to do some lab work on Emily, and would they wait outside?

“Why don’t we take you to your apartment to change?” Eric asked. “I guess this would be the perfect time.”

Lacey reminded the nurse not to let anyone in the room.

“Do you want me to stay?” Stuart asked.

“No, they won’t let you in anyway. And if she wakes up while you’re there, she’ll start shrieking about her hair not being combed. That could set her back a week or two.”

He laughed. “She looked just fine to me.”

“Men just don’t understand,” Lacey sighed.

They went back to the apartment, and Lacey showered while the men waited in the next room. Eric found some cookies and snacked while Stuart looked at the pictures Emily kept: her parents and sister, other family members. He could smell the perfume from her room, it smelled just like Emily. And her apartment was decorated in the typically feminine way, flowers and pictures. Kate never bothered to decorate, or even match cups and plates. She was more interested the marina and her customers to be bothered with the living quarters. Stuart was embarrassed when Emily mentioned his mismatched dishes. If she and Stuart became close, he would buy matching dinnerware and furniture. Anything she wanted.

The doorbell rang, and Lacey called out for them to answer it. Stuart did, since he was closest. It was Raymond, if the description Eric gave him was correct.

“Oh, you again,” grunted Eric as he approached. “I thought I told you to get lost.”

Raymond pushed at Stuart, but he wouldn’t move. “Where is she?”

Stuart held his ground. “Who is this?”

“That’s the guy I told you about,” Eric replied. “The little creep.”

Stuart took a step forward, pushing Raymond back. “You need to leave before you get carried out.”

“Not till I see Emily.”

“Ain’t gonna happen, pal.”

“Emily!” Raymond called.

“Go away!” called Lacey.

“You can’t fool me; that’s her sister.”

Stuart shook his head and grinned. “He’s too smart for us, Eric. Guess we’ll just have to hurt him.”

“Yep,” agreed Eric. They both pounced, but Raymond was out the door so fast he was a blur. Stuart followed him outside.

“Don’t come back again, if you value your life. We’ll be watching for you.”

Raymond sneered at him. “I don’t have to come back, she’ll come running to me. She needs me.”

Stuart raised his eyebrows. “For what?” He asked derisively.

“You’ll see,” Raymond answered, slamming his car door shut. He sped out of the parking lot, and Stuart went back inside.

“What does she see in him?” he asked Eric.

“Go figure,” Eric replied. “I’ll let Lacey fill you in on what I missed when we talked.”

HEY! and don't forget to e-mail Diana Mylek to thank her for submitting her piece or if you have a comment! She would really like to hear from you.

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