Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chapter 59



Izzy and Nick were already at Grammarcy's, tucked away in a small booth in the corner, when the rest of them arrived.  Nick had both of his hands surrounding Izzy's and she was smiling and blushing a pretty pink at whatever it was he was saying to her.  He thought that the pink was a perfect complement to her dark hair and pale skin, the blue blouse she wore accenting the color of her eyes

Izzy loved Nick's accent, which he allowed to come through a little more as the two of them whispered in the corner booth.  She found it charming if difficult to understand at first, but he was patient and explained everything that she had trouble with.  She was almost disappointed when he began dropping the accent.


"Why do you do that, Nick?  I think your accent is charming."  she said earnestly.


"Ah, cher, not so many here or in other places I've lived, do.  N'awlins is... like another world.  A colorful, exotic world filled with all sorts of people, smells and places."   He laughed deprecatingly, “Some of 'em not as nice as others of course."  he sighed wistfully. "But I do miss it."  he continued.  "I've been thinking when I'm of age and after I've got some money saved, I'll go back.  At least just to visit."


"It sounds like heaven, the way you describe it.  Why did you and your parents leave?"


"I was pretty much living with my Maw Maw and Paw Paw til I was eight.  Then they and some of their friends died in a boating accident on Lake Borgne.  No one was ever able to find the bodies.  The police looked and looked, they had hounds on the shores, and boats and everything looking for them.  It was thought that the current brought them out into the Gulf of Mexico and, well, if that were so there wasn't much left of em but bones after the fish...  Oh!  I'm sorry Miz... Izzy!  I didn't mean to upset you!"


He looked into her blue eyes to see that they had turned moss green and were turning to hazel as he watched.


"Don't be sad, Izzy.  It happened a long time ago, and I went to live with my parents afterward.  Ma mere and pere only stayed because of Maw Maw and Paw Paw, so when they were officially declared dead we sold a lot of stuff, gave more away and packed only what we needed.  We rambled around and made money by doing odd jobs.  Pere is a jack of all trades, Mere does laundry and sewing, and me, I do lawn work and such to earn a few dollars.  Only just recently I talked to the manager at Aerophor and he has some grunt work he thinks I can do til I turn of age and graduate, and then I can be trained so that I can work the big machines.  So all's not as dark as it seems."


"What about your brothers and sisters?"


"Only two of my brothers are still to home.  The others are older and they got jobs and either stayed in N'awlins or moved with us til something likely presented itself.  One stayed in N'awlins, one dropped roots in Alabama.  One went to Tennessee and one went out Jacksonville way."


"What do your brothers do?"


"One, Andy,  works carpentry, an' he makes furniture.  Goes out into the woods and takes likely pieces of wood to turn into knick knacks and such.  He only takes stuff that fall natural like, 'cause of storms and such,"  he reassured her,  "He don't... doesn't... chop down healthy trees.  Nice sturdy pieces.  He sells 'em by the roadside on Saturdays."


"The other one, Cordell, is our mechanic.  You got somethin' needs fixin' he kin do it.  Don' madda if it's a truck engine or a toasta, if it's broke he kin fix it."  Nick said with some pride, his accent ebbing and flowing. 


"Nick, can I ask you a personal question?"


"Why were my grandparents raising me?"  he countered with a grin.


Izzy smiled back.  "Yes,"  she replied.


"I was the youngest of seven kids, and there was just no room for me.  Mere and pere lived in a one bedroom apartment.  They slept in a bed in the living room, and they put the other kids in bunk beds three deep in the larger room.  There wasn't room for even a crib, so they asked my grandparents to take me.  They came over a few times a week to visit me and brought my brothers and sisters, and I knew I'd sort of been fostered out and that it hadn't been anything personal.  They just couldn't afford to rent a bigger apartment, and mawmaw and pawpaw lived in a small house that wouldn't fit all of us any better than the apartment had."


"So they made up the attic room for me and that's where I slept.  It was really nice though!"  he assured Izzy at the girl's wrinkled nose.  "It was cool up there in the summer and warm enough in the winter.  Plus gran was a rabid knitter and crocheter... are those real words?"  He laughed,  "Anyway, mawmaw was always making something, blankets, sweaters, scarves, gloves.  I coulda lived outside in Alaska in mid winter and been snug as a bug in a rug with nothin' but her blankets."


The waitress arrived at the table and asked if they were ready to order yet, breaking Nick's spell on Izzy, who smiled and grinned again.


"Just a burger and fries... oh, and a cherry Coke, please?  Thank you." said Izzy.


"I'll have the same but may I please have a little mynez on the side?"  Nick asked politely with his charming smile.


"I'm sorry, a.. a l-little what?"  the waitress stammered.


"Ah... a little plate or cup with a little mynez on it, separate from the rest of the order?"  Nick smiled again as he explained.


"I'm sorry, man I don't know what mynez is." she admitted, blushing uncomfortably.


It was Nick's turn to look uncomfortable.  "Mynez."  he looked pleadingly at Izzy for her to understand but she was equally lost.


"Catsup, mustard, mynez..."  he tried again.  He really couldn't understand what the problem was.


"Mayonnaise!" Izzy said happily.  "Is that it, Nick?"


Nick looked back and forth between Izzy and the waitress trying to contain his irritation.  "Yes'm, that's what I'd like."  he said.  He was a little put out that these people couldn't understand plain English.  He didn't hear any difference between the way he'd said it and the way Izzy  had said it and wondered for a minute if they were putting him on.


Izzy could see that Nick was upset and she put a hand over his balled up one which rested on the table. "Don't feel bad, Nick." she said quietly after the waitress left to put in their order,  "Why, when I'm with the others, they're always saying things that I have to have translated, just like there're going to be some words and such that are common in Canada that no one here is going to get until I explain them.  It's all good, OK?"  she asked, looking earnestly into his ever so blue eyes. 


He looked up from beneath his lashes and looked into her now hazel eyes, and smiled.


A jolt of electricity seemed to go through her, from the nape of her neck down to... oh my goodness, she thought.  She released his hand a little too quickly, making Nick wonder what was wrong.


"Static electricity."  she explained hastily, her eyes turning from hazel back to that intriguing moss green. 


Nick smiled again, putting her at ease.  He loved looking at Izzy, to him she was like a book, a mystery novel, and each page was more fascinating than the one before. 


He loved the way her hair fell across her shoulders, the stunning way her eyes would change color with her mood.  Her sister, who was undeniably pretty, was what he considered to be paper thin.  Izzy had curves.  She wasn't overweight, but she had the perfect figure by his way of thinking and he found it hard to keep his eyes off of her.  He'd missed her in those weeks that he'd cut himself off from them so stubbornly.  What a fool he'd been.  How lucky he was that she and the others were forgiving sorts.


The food came and went mostly untasted, as the two of them seemed to have eyes only for each other.  Izzy shy.   Nick amazed and enraptured.


"This is as big a gumbo ya-ya as the cafeteria was."  he said, raising his voice to be heard above the general chaos that was the normal after school rush.


"A what?"  Izzy said, not knowing what it meant.  He'd said it once before but they hadn't had time for him to explain what it meant.


"Noisy."  Nick  responded.  "Is there... Is there a place we could go to talk where it's a little more quiet?"


"I know just the place, come on."  Izzy said with a mischievous smile.  "It's the perfect place, unless someone else is there, but I doubt it."


"Dor... Bella!"  she called to her sister using the still unfamiliar nick name,  "We're going to the gazebo."  she said, once again grateful that the guys had shown her and her sister that quiet little retreat.


"Izzy..."  Bella warned.


"Just for quiet conversation!"  she said in her own defense.  "It's just too crowded and noisy here is all."


"Make sure you're home on time or dad'll be on you like bees on honey, Honey."


Izzy grinned, stuck out her tongue at her sister and turned to leave with Nick. 


Milo noticed Bella's concerned expression.  "Don't worry, they'll be fine.  If it'll make you feel better we can go there in a little while and check up on them.  All right?"


"All right."  Bella said, relaxing just a bit.  "I know Izzy won't do anything wrong, but Nick is kind of a loose cannon.  I mean, he wouldn't talk to us for weeks after... well, you know.  I worry about his temper."


"I think a lot of his temper had to do with fear and uncertainty, rather than him being a bad sort."  Amadeo conjectured thoughtfully.  "Some people just don't handle tension or stress well.  My family are naturally loud, but my brother Dan used to be worse when he got nervous.  The more nervous he got the louder he'd get.  That was, until he met his wife. How much more tense can you get than being new in a school and thinking you've blown your chance to make friends?"


"And he didn't get loud or violent, or pick fights,"  Angelo reminded her softly in her ear, "He did just the opposite.  I really believe that Izzy is safe with him.  It's a gut feeling."  he said with a smile.  "If we have to worry about anything with Nick it's more him running off and disappearing than anything else."


He blushed as Amadeo arched an eyebrow at him.  That sparkle was in his man's eyes and the corner of his mouth was quirked up slightly.  If they'd been somewhere private he'd have shown his appreciation for that look in several ways.





"Well Cordell came out nearly as bad as I did for names."  Nick continued as they walked along the path toward the gazebo.  Mere and Pere.... mom and pop..."


"Don't change what you call them for me.  I love the way you talk when you're not worrying about it."  Izzy smiled.


"Nah, it's best if I do as the Romans do.  Makes it easier to blend in."  he smiled back,  "That's why maw maw and... I mean grandma and grandpop never learned us French.  They knew that outside of N'aw... New Orleans we'd probably never run into anyone who spoke our partic'lar brand of French, or any French for that matter, and that would make things harder.  I picked up as much of the language as I could just listening to the people around me on the streets.  But I'm not... what's the word?"


"Fluent?"


"Yeah, that's it, thanks.  Anyway, before I forget what I was saying, our parents insisted that all of us have one Americanized name and one French name."  he continued as they reached the stone gazebo and sat on the narrow ledge.


"Cordell is French, isn't it?"


"I dunno, I seemed to meet a lotta Cordells so could be, but that was his American name.  His French name is Chevalier."


"Those are both nice names."  Izzy replied, confused.


"Yeah, they are, but I wish my parent's had done for me what they did for him and made my middle name by first name.  Cordell hates Chevalier as much as I hate Xavier, but when he was in school he was only ever introduced as Cordell.  Whenever I end up in a new school, no matter how many times I asked teachers and such NOT to use my given first name, they always did it anyway and boy you could hear the kids laughin' all the way down the hallway."  Nick said with a grimace.


"That used to happen with Dora... I mean, Bella... I'm never going to get used to that new nick name, I don't think.  She's always been Dora,  Adorabelle when I'm mad at her."  she laughed.  "She used to take a lot of ribbing over her name until she just pretended that it didn't bother her, even trying to come up with stuff that rhymed with it.  Eventually people not only got tired of making fun of her name, they got tired of HER making fun of her name and they'd tell her to cool it every time she did it."


"We all just called her Dora at home so that's how she started to introduce herself."


"And you outed her in front of ever'one at the diner 'cause you were mad at her."  Nick stated with a grin.


That pretty blush rose to Izzy's cheeks again.


"Yeah," she replied ruefully,  "I'm afraid I have a bit of a temper, and instead of using my hands I use my tongue.  My mother and father have had the worst time getting me to think before I talk when I'm angry."  she lowered her voice and grinned, her blush becoming deeper,  "You'd think after the number of times they tried to get that lesson up to my head through my backside I'd have learned it by now."  she giggled self consciously.


Nick chuckled.  "Now I know what to do to you if you ever blurt out my first name."  he joked.


Izzy grinned wickedly, stood up and and went to the doorway of the gazebo.  "Nick's real first name is Zaaaaaveeeeeaaaairrrrrrrrr!"   she shouted.


"You, my little praw-leen, are gonna regret that!"  Nick said with a mischievous glint in his eye and  a feral grin as he got up slowly and stalked the girl, who shrieked playfully and ran to the overgrown arbor.  She gently pushed aside the curtain of overgrowth and slid in, trying to control both her breathing and her laughter as she heard Nick walking to and fro outside, looking for her and calling her name.


Suddenly he went quiet.  She couldn't hear his movements and he'd stopped calling her.  She wondered if he'd given up and was a little put out that he'd done it so quickly.  After a few more minutes of waiting inside she gently pushed aside some of the overgrowth.  He was nowhere to be seen.


In a fit of pique and prepared to give him a  piece of her mind when she caught up with him she left the arbor and began to head for the edge of the park and the side walk to make her way home.


Seemingly out of nowhere, Nick came on silent feet and grabbed the girl around the waist. 


"Now I've got you!"  he exclaimed, unnecessarily but evilly and with a matching grin.


He carried her back to the gazebo, sat down and put her on his lap.  Instead of spanking her as she'd  thought he was about to do, he began to tickle her.  Strong arms surrounded her and she had very little wiggle room.  She kicked her feet in an attempt to get loose but he captured hers under one of his and continued to tickle.


She was about to holler when he covered her mouth with his and kissed her, deeply and thoroughly. 


She stopped squirming.


He released her with one arm and put a gentle, loving hand up to her cheek and kissed her again, fully expecting the girl to haul off and slap his face so hard his ears would ring for a week.


She tentatively kissed him back.  She knew she should be outraged. She knew she should be angry.  She knew she should be insulted and defend her modesty.  She knew she should tell him off and insist that she wasn't that kind of girl.  But she didn't feel like it just now.


She liked the feeling of his arm around her.  She liked the feel of his warm hand on her cheek.  She liked the feeling of his thighs under hers, a firm foundation.  She liked the feeling of electricity that was running up and down her body from her head to her heels.


They broke the kiss.


"What was that?"  she gasped softly.


"Just think of it as a lagniappe.  Sugar for my sugar." he said softly.  "You are mine, aren't you, Izzy?"  he asked in that same soft voice, blue eyes looking into hers.


Somewhat breathlessly but firmly she replied,  "I'm yours, Nick, and you're mine.  But I want you to know right off that I'm a decent girl... I'm not..."  she hesitated, unable to say the words.


"I know you are.  We won't go any faster than you're comfortable with.  All right?"  he said, entranced by sparkling, ocean blue eyes.  "As long as I can call you mine, that's all I need."  he said gently, bending his head down to capture her soft lips in another kiss.


Milo and Bella turned quietly and left, grinning at each other and looking for their own quiet place 'to talk.'



********************************************************************************************************
NOTE

N'awlins Slang from the Cajun Dictonary


"N'awlins" 
"New Orleans"--It's faster that way!

Creole
- Decendents of French, Spanish, and Caribbean slaves and natives; has also come to mean any person whose ancestry derives from the Caribbean's mixed nationalities.

Gumbo Ya-Ya
- Translated: everybody talking all at once; i.e., at a loud party.

"It don' madda" - Translated: "It doesn't matter."

Lagniappe (lan' yap) - Something extra that you didn't pay for--thrown in to sweeten the deal--like a baker's dozen.

MY-Nez - Translated: "mayonnaise"
Praline (praw-leen)
a candy patty made of sugar, cream and pecans.







Chapter 58


Milo gave Izzy, who was obviously distressed, a sympathetic look, then did a double take.  Her eyes were no longer blue but more of a moss green.  He didn't say anything to her for fear of embarrassing either her or himself but he made a mental note to ask 'Deo and Angelo about it on the way home.  He wondered if it had been a trick of the light that had made her eyes look blue.  


While Izabella was very pretty, there was something about her sister that kept drawing his eye and he caught himself staring more than once.


"Keep staring,"  Dora said with a little acid in her voice, staring back at Milo pointedly,  "I might do tricks."


Milo blushed but didn't back down.  "I'm sorry Dora, I don't mean to stare but your eyes are amazing.  I apologize if I'm staring but I've never seen that shade of green before."  he said softly, looking into her eyes as he spoke.


Taken off guard, Dora blushed, that pretty pink suffusing her cheeks again.  Her mouth worked slightly as she struggled to find a retort.


"Bold."  she replied.  She'd been trying for an affronted tone but only managed to sound pleased.


Milo smiled at her.  Her eyes widened as she saw the dimples in his cheeks.  She'd thought he was a good looking guy... but his dimples... she was sure that if she touched them with a finger the tip would disappear.  She smiled back shyly. 


The other guys exchanged quick glances, hiding smiles behind their hands.  Izzy gave her sister an affectionate look.  The girl drove her to distraction sometimes but it was moments like these where the sweet, vulnerable Dora shone through.  She couldn't help but be a little jealous though, that Dora had made such a quick conquest.


Izzy's thoughts strayed back to Nick.  If anyone had been looking right at her they'd have seen her eyes turning hazel with concern.  She worried about him.  She didn't know him and wondered if he would end up being like one of the boys in her old school who had taken criticism very badly and had been caught by one of the teachers, punching himself in the head in the boy's room.  He'd been transferred out eventually, but he'd been charming and fun to talk to, and Izzy had liked the boy.  She hoped once again that he was doing better in whatever school he'd gone to.





The next day went rather quickly.  As Amadeo had predicted the twins had no problem making friends, although the 'popular' crowd still hadn't approached them.  Izzy thought that was just as well.  She liked the group of people who had seemed to adopt her and her sister from the beginning.  They hadn't had to pass any 'tests' or behave in any way other than the way they always did to be accepted.


Sharon, Michele and Sarah, some of the girls who had been part of the crowd at Grammarcy's the day before, met the two girls at the front door of the school, smiling and filling them in on the latest news.


Felix, who had tried to convince his parents that he could never go to school again, walked up to the group with Aiden, who kept a grip on his friend's sleeve to keep him from running in the other direction.  Michele glanced up and said "Hi Aiden.  Then she turned shyly toward Felix, looking at him from beneath her dark lashes and said,  "Heya, Felix."


Taken off guard by the brown eyed girl's attention, Felix replied, "Ah... ah... ummm, heya... 'Chele." he murmured.  He could feel a flush starting up his neck and burning his ears.  The girl ducked her head to hide her own blush and turned her attention back to the girls.


"We should probably head in, don'tcha think?"  she said, leading them quickly into the school, leaving the boys to follow or stand as they chose.


Felix looked inquiringly at Aiden who raised an eyebrow, one corner of his mouth quirking up in response.


Squaring his shoulders, Felix smiled and lead Aiden into the school.







September was gone and  it was half two weeks into October.  They saw Nick in classes and the cafeteria but he hadn't spoken to or acknowledged anyone in the group or even in the school, seeming content to sit by himself at a table, apparently doing homework between bites of his lunch.  He reminded Amadeo of Angelo just months before.  The only difference being that at first people had tried to join him at his table and he'd glared at them until they left.  He wasn't a large boy, but the way he carried himself was intimidating and people soon stopped trying to include him.


'Deo noticed how Izzy's sparkling blue eyes would lose their sheen and change color whenever she looked at the lone boy.  He found the phenomenon fascinating but it also worried him that she still felt guilty over what she'd said and done weeks before.  Halloween was coming up and he didn't want the image of the lone boy at a table to detract from her enjoyment of the holiday.


He rose from the very crowded table and made his way toward the other boy.  He sat down across from Nick and began to talk quietly.   Nick did not look up or acknowledge that anyone was at the table with him, but Amadeo could tell from the set of his shoulders and the increased grip on his pen that he heard every word.


"Nick, you're welcome to join us at the other table if you like.  You always have been and you always will be.  Izzy feels badly about what she said but she can't stand the smell of cigarette... none of us can.  And forgive me for being blunt, but frankly you were acting like an ass."  he continued.  The other boy's gaze finally shot up to focus angrily on Amadeo, who returned Nick's direct gaze placidly.


"You don't need to be a tough guy unless that's what you are, and from what I can see, that's not the real you.  You don't need to be a smart ass unless that's what you are, and again, I get the feeling that that was just an act you were putting on."


"What do you know?"  Nick replied, looking down at his notebook with his pen poised but not writing anything.


"I know what it's like to be new and scared, so does Angelo, but that's a story he can tell you himself someday if you ever want to hear it."


"When I first came here I was five years old.  We moved from Italy.  I left my grandparents who moved back when we did."  he said.  "I left my aunts and uncles and cousins, all of my friends, and everything I knew.  The kids here at first were pretty cruel, making fun of me and my family, our accents, refusing to let me play with them, telling me to learn English and stop speaking as though I had rocks in my mouth."


Nick glanced up, understanding, as he'd worked long and hard to tone down his New Orleans accent for the same reasons. 


The fact that the boy was looking at him and that the hostility seemed to be gone from his face, Amadeo continued.


"One neighbor lady, and her husband and kids, eventually came to our door about a week after we moved in.  They were carrying plates and bowls full of food.  My mother nearly cried at the gesture and set the table for a party.  We all had a very nice time of it.  Mrs. Witt and her family thought our accents were lovely and had no problem understanding our English as we'd been speaking that nearly as often as Italian as we grew up, since mom and dad had been born and raised in Pennsylvania."


"A few days later a little boy and his mother came knocking at the door, explaining that Mrs. Witt had told her that a new family had just moved in.  The woman apologized for just dropping in rather than sending a letter first but she said her son was very excited when he heard that there was a boy his age just down the street and he was eager to meet me.  That was Milo, and we've been close as brothers ever since."


Amadeo paused to see if Nick were going to say something.  The other boy remained silent but 'Deo knew he had his full attention.


"What I'm saying Nick, is that I'm here with that plate of fried chicken.  I'm knocking on your door because we're eager to get to know you."  he continued, still in that quiet tone.  "It's up to you whether you want to  open the door or not.  Now,  I only want to ask you a question, and please try not to get  upset with me, all right?"


Nick gave Amadeo a distrustful look but gave a curt not of his head.


"Do you smoke because you like it, or because you were trying to be tough and fit in with what you hoped would be the cool crowd?"


Nick glanced guiltily down at his notebook.  The boy's lack of a verbal answer was all the answer Amadeo needed.


"We may not be the cool crowd but we want to be your friends, and you're welcome to join us.  That's all I wanted to say.  Thanks for hearing me out."  Amadeo said as he stood to leave.


"Amadeo."  Nick said quietly, eyes still on his notebook.


'Deo looked the other boy expectantly. 


"Are you sure the others aren't going to hate me?"  he asked in a shaky voice.  "For being such a jackass?"


"No one is going to hate you.  Just be yourself."  Amadeo reassured him.  "Look, we're right there whenever you want to come over, OK?"  he said, turning to leave.


"Amadeo."  Nick said again.


Once again Amadeo looked at the boy and waited patiently.


"Think I can go over there now?  I mean, can I go over there now... with you?  I'm a little..."  he trailed off.


Amadeo reached across the table and helped Nick put his books and notebook back in this satchel.  "Come on, Nicholas."  he joked, "Let's get you out of the freezing Tundra."


"Ugh, just Nick please?  Nicholas makes me think I'm in trouble."  he smiled self consciously.


They had just reached the other table when a fight of sorts broke out between the twin sisters.


"That's enough out of you, Adorabelle!"


"You said you wouldn't call me that!"  Dora shouted back.


"Adorabelle Theophilia!"  Izzy said with some heat.


"If you'd been born first that would have been your name!  It's hardly my fault that our parents insisted on naming me after both of our grandmothers!"  Dora said, tears welling up in her eyes.


"What is Izzy's middle name?"  Sharon asked, curiously.


"Abrianna,"  Dora said petulantly.  "Izabella Abrianna.  Five minutes earlier and she'd have been stuck with my name!"


"I like your name."  Milo said softly, once again catching and holding Dora's gaze.  "I like unusual names, besides," he said, opening a notebook and grabbing a pen from his satchel,  "How'd you like this as a middle name,"  he continued, writing something on the paper.  He turned it so that everyone could see.  The name Jedrzej was printed on the paper.  "Try pronouncing that!"  he said with a grin.


Several of the kids made attempts, making Milo grin wider and wider at each mispronunciation.  "Believe it or not, it's pronounced Yenjay.  Go figure right?"  he laughed. "How about you, Nick?  Got any juicy secrets for us?"  Milo asked the other boy, effortlessly pulling him into the group and the conversation.  "What's your middle name?"  he asked as Nick took a seat between him and Izzy.


Nick grinned and blushed slightly.   "My middle name is Nicholas."


"Your name is Nicholas Nicholas? That's actually kind of cool."  Sharon laughed.  "Very unusual."


"No, my first name is... well I try to forget it, actually."  He continued, blushing a little more.


"You can't possibly think that your name is worse than Theophilia!"  Dora joked.


"Don't even get me started on my middle name,"  Angelo said with a grin.  "It took years for me to grow into mine."  he laughed.  "Come on, Nick, fess up, it can't be that bad."


Nick took the paper that Milo had written on and wrote a name before turning it for the crowd to see.


"Xavier!  That's a great name!"  said Sharon.


Nick huffed a sigh.  "If you all ever come to my house you'll hear it a lot, except my folks don't pronounce it Xavier."


"How do they pronounce it?  Yenjay?"  Milo joked.


Nick smiled appreciatively at his new friend.  "It's pronounced Zah-vee-air."  he said with a grimace.


"That's so exotic!"  said Michele.


"What does it mean?"  asked Sarah.


Nick shook his head.  "It's not nearly as exotic as it might sound."


"Oh come on!  Mine means noble,"  said Dora.


"Mine is Benedetto, it means blessed."  Angelo offered.


"My middle name is Mavis, after my grandmother."  Michelle said.  "But I don't know what it means."


"Mine is Priscilla,"  said Sarah.  "Makes me think of some lady in a long gown and a  bustle carrying a parasol."  she laughed.


Nick chuffed a laugh.  "OK, OK fine." he said as though giving in,  "Just don't laugh, all right?"


"We promise,"  came the rejoinder.


"Xavier, no matter how you pronounce it, means 'new house'."  he admitted with a grin, waiting for the laughter.


"Yours still sounds exotic,"  said Dora.  "No one needs to know what it means.  Beats Adorabella by a mile."  she continued wryly.  "It fits me like a circus tent."  she groused.


Milo looked at her with an odd expression.   "I don't think that Dora fits you either."  he said thoughtfully.  Before she could become angry at him he said,  "Dora is kind of a hard sounding name, know what I mean?  Did you ever think of calling yourself Belle, or Bella?  It's French, I think, which is pretty exotic.  It's softer sounding.  And it means beautiful.  And you are."  he said with a soft smile.


Adorabella stammered for a moment.  She had no idea what it was about this boy that left her speechless.  To her horror, rather than 'Thank you.', which is what she intended, she said,  "Mom always says it's who you are on the inside that matters.  Not what you look like on the outside."


Izzy put a hand to her forehead in frustration.  "Just say thank you." she whispered to her sister from behind her hand.


"Thank you."  Bella said, blushing.


"You're pretty when you blush."  Milo said with a little smile, enjoying the game he'd just made up, and her pretty pink complexion.


"So, what were you arguing about?"  Amadeo asked.


"I don't remember."  said Bella, smiling at Milo who smiled back.


Bella's cheeks grew pinker as her smile grew wider and she ducked her head, trying to hide both.


While Bella and Milo flirted, Nick leaned toward Izzy and whispered,  " 'M sorry, Miz Isabella, for being such a cooyon.  Can you forgive me?"


Izzy looked up at the dark haired boy and held his gaze.  She had no idea what cooyon meant but she knew he was apologizing and that he was sincere.


"It's OK, Nick.  It's hard being new.  Dora... Bella," she corrected herself with a smile, "And I were petrified, and at first when we saw all those guys looking at us," she said, nodding toward 'Deo and the others,  "It was a bit unnerving.  But they turned out to be some of the best friends we've made.  I... I'm glad you decided to forgive us and come back... to forgive me, for being so rude." she said shyly.


"It wasn't you, Miz Izzy, it was all my fault.  I was thinking if I acted like all that the other student's'd respect me.  Instead I made a jack... um... well it didn't work is all."


"We missed you all these weeks."  Izzy said quietly.


"I missed you... all."  he replied with a tiny smile.  "Thank you for lettin' me catch that second bus."


"I'm sorry, I more or less figured out what cooyon meant, but you lost me with the bus."  she giggled.


"Just a sayin' in N'awlins,"  he said, allowing his accent to come to the forefront,  "It only means if you miss one opportunity you go on out and catch another.  I thank you all for lettin' me catch that bus.  My dad whopped me upside the head when I told him what happened, and every day when I came home in a bad mood all mama'd say was 'God don't like ugly.'  When Amadeo came over to talk to me I realized I'd been bein' just about as ugly as I coulda been, and I wasn't hurtin' anyone but myself.


Izzy said something in response but he couldn't hear over the noise of the other kids.  He smiled and leaned down to whisper in her ear,  "It's a gumbo ya-ya here, wanna go where it's more quiet and talk?"


Izzy grinned at the term  and was just about to say yes when the bell rang for classes to resume.


"After school then, Miz Izzy?  That place... Grammarcy's?" he asked with a shy smile.


"Only if you stop calling me Miz Izzy.  Deal?" she asked, holding out a hand to shake.


Nick took the hand between his two and gently kissed the back of it.  "Deal."  he said quietly.  He'd said it very quietly, but the entire table heard it, stunned into silence at the sight of the two of them somehow speaking softly in the midst of all the ruckus.


Everyone gathered up their things and scurried to get to their next class on time.  Nick stopped for a moment, watching Izzy leave.  "Cher, mo l'aime toi."  he whispered.   

(Dear, I love you so. )


Milo took his eyes off of Bella for a moment to appreciate her sister's happiness.  Her eyes were blue.  He blinked and looked again.  Still blue.  He resolved once again to talk to Angelo and Amadeo about it later.  He hated to think he was going crazy at the age of seventeen.


*****************************************************************************************************
NOTES

Catch when catch can - take it while you can get it

Chere Mo Lemme T'oi / Cher, Mo L'aime Toi- Dear, I love you so.
If You Miss One Bus Catch Another- Opportunity can knock more than once.

"N'awlins"  "New Orleans"--It's faster that way!
Cooyon- Foolish; silly

God don't like ugly- Stop your negative ways!


Slang from : Creole Slang

Adorabelle Theophilia Gauthier - Adorable/beautiful, loved by God
Izabella Abrianna Gauthier     - God's promise, noble
Xavier Nicholas Bouchard      - Bright (new house), victorious











Chapter 57


The Friday night after school began, Jim called Ethel's house and asked to speak to her.


"Ettttttthhhhhheeeeeeelllll!  Phhhhoooooonnnnne!"


"Who is it?" came the voice from the distance.


"It's a boy."  Came the wry reply.


"Hello?" she asked moments later, curious.   None of the guys ever called to ask for her and she wondered which one it was and why they hadn't asked for Bruce as they usually did.


"Eth, it's Jim."


"Oh!"  she said, putting the picture of him that she'd been looking at behind her back as though he might see it.  "Hi... Jim.  What's up?"  she asked, trying to be casual while her heart beat rapidly.


"Ethel, I know we've been hanging out for a while... I really like you, and... I was wondering... if maybe... you and I could... maybe... hang out.  I mean... If you and I could be like... friends. Dang!  I had this all worked out in my head."  He muttered.  "Jonah is always telling me I'm a numbskull."


Then aloud and once again to Ethel who couldn't help but to smile at Jim's dilemma but hoping he'd get to the point soon, he said "A couple.  Like me and you... together... like...  dang!"


"Like a boyfriend and girlfriend?"  Ethel asked quietly.


"Yeah!  Like that!"  Jim nearly yelled.  "Do you?  I mean... want to?  You know?"


Ethel put the phone back up to her ear  and with a wide smile said "Sure, why not?"  She took the phone away from her ear again as Jim let out a whoop. 


"Then, this weekend, all right?  You and me?  A movie maybe?  Or Grammarcy's?"


"Sounds great, Jim.  I'll see you then."  she replied with a wide grin, somehow managing to keep her voice level.


"Great!  This weekend... Baby."  he said, testing the waters.


"This weekend.   Bear."  she replied before hanging up the phone.  She gave out a little squeal of delight and laughed when she saw her mother leaning in the doorway, arms crossed, wry smile on her face.


"I knew it was going to happen eventually, but just not so soon."  her mother said, giving her daughter a little hug.  "Just be careful sweetie... don't..."  she hesitated.


"Ma?  It's gonna be a burger.  In public.  Don't worry, OK?"  Ethel said with a  smile, hugging her mother.  Then she whispered,  "You raised your baby girl right.  I won't do anything stupid."


Mrs. Barstow hugged her oldest daughter tightly and kissed the top of her head.  "I love you."  she whispered.


"Right back atcha."  Ethel  replied, returning the hug and kissing her mother's nose as she used to do when she was little.






Summer was over.  Their parents had bought them their school clothes and supplies, and they were back.


Jim sighed as he walked up the pathway toward the front doors with the guys.  Only the first day of school and he felt as though time were standing still.  He had finally asked Ethel to go steady with him and he found it frustrating that he could only see her afternoons after he'd finished his homework, and on weekends.


"How many more years of this guys? I don't know if I'm gonna make it.  Sometimes I feel like I'm just gonna bust if I have to sit through one more science class."


"Cool, then we can study you as one of the few cases of spontaneous human combustion."  Dennis said jokingly.


"Thanks, you're a pal."  Jim said wryly.


"Any time."  Dennis replied with a smile.


"Whoa!"  Felix whispered,  "Wow, check that out!  Who are they?" he said, gesturing with his chin toward two unfamiliar girls who stood by the brick work leading to the front door.


"No idea," replied Charlie.  "I never saw them before!"


"Let's go say hello."  Said Angelo immediately.


"Don't you think a horde of people converging on them like this will scare them?" Charlie countered.


"I hardly think we're a horde."  Aiden said somewhat breathlessly as he took in the red hair on one of the girls.  He wondered if it smelled like sunshine on fresh hay.


"Eight guys, two girls... two really amazing looking girls if my eyesight isn't going on me."  Dennis said, awed, staring at the darker of the two.


"I agree,"  said Amadeo.  "Eight guys, some with their tongues hanging out, could scare them rather than make them feel welcome.  We have plenty of time to get to know them."  he said rationally.


The two girls were worth staring at.  Except for their coloring they were almost identical.  The girl with the long straight brunette hair had sparkling blue eyes, and the girl with the auburn hair had equally startling green eyes which almost seemed to disappear into their whites in the harsh sunlight, and which made her fascinating to look at.


While the guys were busy gawking, the girls had noticed them.  They looked at each other, shrugged, then turned toward the front doors to the school and disappeared inside.


"OK, guys,"  Amadeo said, smiling.  "Close your mouths and lets go inside.  I'm sure we'll find out who they are."


"And I saw them first so they're mine."  Felix said, forcefully.


"If they like shrimp."  joked the up until now silent Milo.  He was in love.  Seriously in love.  He just didn't know which one of them he loved the most just yet.    The red hair on the first one would make some beautiful children mixed with his blonde hair, but the blue eyes on the other would be a perfect compliment to his.


"In your dreams."  Jim said.


"You're spoken for, so hands off!"  Charlie reminded him.


"Hey, no one said I couldn't look."  Jim grinned.


"Yeah?  Well let's see what Ethel has to say about that, then, shall we?"  Dennis said slyly.


"Say a word and and I'll turn you into a doughnut, midget."  Jim said, half jokingly.


"The kind with chocolate frosting on top?  Go for it, big boy!"  Charlie said.


"Ahhhh shuddup.  First bell is gonna ring any minute and I don't wanna get in trouble the first day back."  Jim groused. 


After a few seconds of thought he smiled.  He loved Ethel's soft, dark brown eyes and her long dark hair that was naturally straight.  He loved that she wasn't stick thin like some of those other girls out there.  None of the other guys knew it but when she let her hair down it was almost to her waist.  He knew though.  Let them fight over the two new girls.  He had the most beautiful one out there.


Between first bell and during announcements the door to their home room opened quietly and three teens, escorted by Mr. Cobrane, entered the room, standing quietly by the door until announcements were over.


When the class saw the group at the door there was a collective gasp from males and females alike.  The two girls were really very lovely, and their features were even more noticeable in the gentler florescent indoor lighting.  The lone male had every girl daydreaming as soon as they laid eyes on him.


His hair was dark brown, almost black, and looked wind swept, a lock of it falling over his smooth forehead.  His eyes were as blue as the sky.  His jawline was masculine but soft at the same time.  His dark eyebrows were arched naturally, making him look slightly inquisitive and amused at the same time.  His teeth were white and even.


The boy grinned even more widely, but the two girls seemed startled at the class' reaction.  None of them said or did anything until announcements were over, at which point Mr. Cobrane brought the teens further into the room and stood them before the class.


"These are three of our new students this semester, this is..." he began, gesturing toward the auburn haired girl.


"Dora!"  she said quickly and nervously, smiling widely, shooting an apologetic look at Mr. Cobrane.  "Dora  Gauthier.  Pleased to meet you."


Mr. Cobrane's eyebrows rose at being interrupted but he didn't correct the girl for the moment.


"And this is her twin sister, Izabelle."  He introduced the second girl who stood quietly with a gentle smile.


"Izzy for short."  said the dark haired girl with a little wave to the class in general, but which Felix liked to believe was aimed at him.


The boy spoke up and said,  "And everyone can just call me Nick."  he said with an unusual accent, sounding both Southern and something else.  He smiled at the class with his even, white teeth. "Nick Bouchard."


"Children, this is your homeroom teacher Mr. Mason, who is also the geography teacher.  Now, second bell is about to ring.  There are three seats there in the third row, those will be yours for the rest of the semester."


"I wish you a good day, children.  Mr. Mason." Cobrane said with a little bow in the other teacher's direction.  He then turned gracefully and left the room, closing the door gently behind him.


Milo watched admiringly as Cobrane left, and swore to himself that he was going to be just as suave as Mr. Cobrane when he got old, too.


"Everyone, I'd like you to say hello to your new classmates before the bell rings."


"Hi!"  "Hellllloooo!"  came the enthusiastic greetings.


The girls, who had claimed their seats blushed a little and with self conscious smiles, waved at their class mates.   Nick dazzled them all with a grin.


"They may need help finding their classes, so if some of you would help them find their way around that would be very neighborly of you."  hinted Mr. Mason, none too subtly.


Not unexpectedly, Angelo Di Marco and Amadeo Rossi were two of the first to lean over to compare schedules with the three newcomers. 


Mr. Mason still felt guilty that Angelo had suffered for so long, unnoticed, but he admired the boy.  He'd turned the school around where it came to bullying, and things had been a lot calmer since then. 


 He only wished it hadn't come at the price of the two boys being beaten to accomplish it.


"Look,"  Angelo was saying to the two girls of them,  "Your first two classes are with Dae and me.  Then you and Charlie have history... You have Mr. Robinson... he's cool.   We all have lunch together, and after that you have social studies with Jim, and then geography with Felix and  Aiden.  Your last class of the day is Latin... wow, that's impressive."


"Doesn't everyone take Latin?"  Dora asked innocently, confused as to why it would be so impressive.


"Mrs. Ward only takes the honors students for Latin.  To the rest of us Mrs. Ward is like some supernatural being you only hear of but never see, like a will-o-the-wisp."  Jim said in a hushed voice, looking very serious.


The girls looked at him like he was crazy and everyone laughed.


"All he means is that not everyone gets to take Latin, only the ones who show talent for it.  Mrs. Ward refuses to teach anyone after first year who doesn't show the aptitude, so needless to say she doesn't have many students.  I'd been told they were going to phase Latin out all together, but she and Ms. Mastroiano are working together to teach the students Latin through singing.    I heard they're going to put on a talent show this year.


"Angelo!  You should..."


"Nooooo way!  I don't do Latin.  At... all.  Mrs. Ward would listen to me butcher the language in one note and throw me out on my ear.  I'll stick with Ms. Mastroiano."  he said with a grin.


"Anyway, our last class, the boys I mean, is gym, so we won't be able to show you where Mrs. Ward's class is, but I'll betcha between now and then you'll meet some of the other kids and they can show you.  OK?"  Angelo said.


The girls nodded, looking relieved.


Amadeo had been looking at Nick's schedule and found that they had all but one class in common.   "You have Mr. Garcia for Spanish, and you're in honors too, so  instead of study hall on Friday's you'll be in Garcia's room.  We pass right by there so we can show you."


"Heh, this is such a tiny school compared to the one I came from,"  Nick said dismissively,  "I'm sure I won't have any problems finding my way around."


"It can be a little confusing when you first get here,"  'Deo said patiently.  "It's no trouble."


"Nah, don't worry about me, dude, I'll be fine."  he said, taking his schedule and putting it into a text book just as the bell rang.  He got up and gathered up this things.  He looked at Izzy.  "Can I escort you to our first class Ms. Izabelle?"  he said, holding out an arm gallantly.


"Ummm, thank you,  ah... Nick, but I think I'd like to stick with the guys until we get used to the school.  Thank you though."  she said as politely as she could.  Frankly she thought he was being a jerk but she had been raised to be polite even to people who didn't seem to deserve it.


Nick got a strange look in his eye and simply said "Fine."  before he took his fleece lined denim jacket, threw it over his shoulder, and walked casually out of the  room.


"You don't think I offended him do you?"  Izzy asked nervously, her flawless, pale skin going a shade paler.


"If anyone was offensive it was him."  Dora chipped in.  Felix didn't think an angry woman could look pretty but Dora proved the opposite.  Her green eyes flashed and a pretty rose color flushed her cheeks.


"It just occurred to me.  We don't even know your names!"  Izzy remarked suddenly.


"Let's go before we're late for our first class.  I don't think the teachers would give you detention on your first day but why take the chance."  Amadeo said, getting his things together as an example for the others.


They made their introductions as they walked toward Mr. Webb's science class.  "Don't worry if you can't remember everyone's names at first, no one will be offended.  I'm Amadeo.  Everyone calls me 'Deo, or Dae."  he introduced himself with a smile.


"I'm Angelo." was all Angelo said.  Other than his mother and Ethel, his experiences with females was very limited and he was a little nervous.


Dennis, Charlie, Aiden, Felix and Jim all introduced themselves.


"But Jim has a girlfriend so he's off limits." Felix said without thinking.  Everyone did their best not to laugh as Felix's face turned beet red and he held his breath, making his face swell up a little.  "I'll be right back."  he puffed out.  As they passed the men's room he ran in.


"First detention of the new semester goes to Felix Garruson."  Jim remarked, sounding like a sportscaster, at which everyone finally laughed.


"Here we are.  Mr. Webb's class.  Just find a seat."  'Deo said quietly as the bell rang.  The eight boys all sat in a box formation in the center of the room, four and four.  Dora and Izzy sat to the right of them, closer to the doors.  The rest of the class sat down.  Only two seats were empty. 


Mr. Webb was in the middle of his introduction when the door opened and Nick walked in, apologizing for being late without appearing the least apologetic.  


"Sorry.  I'm new here and I wasn't sure where the class;room was."  He said, presenting his schedule.


"Very well then, Mr... "


" Bouchard, sir."


"Very well then, Mr.  Bouchard, have a seat please."


"Thank you."  Nick said, taking the last seat in the back corner of the room.  He smiled and winked at Izzy and gave 'Deo a smug look on the way past.  Izzy and Dora looked at each other as though to say 'Was he serious?' before ignoring him and returning their attention to  their notebooks.


A moment later Mr. Cobrane knocked quietly on the door.  Mr. Webb answered it and a hushed and quick conversation took place.   "Very well then, thank you, Mr. Cobrane."  Mr. Webb said.


"It appears that Mr. Garruson is ill and won't be joining us this morning.  So, shall we continue?"  Mr. Webb asked, continuing even though the class hadn't said a word.

At lunch time, Nick was nowhere to be found.    The girls, however, were surrounded by students, male and female alike, who asked questions in rapid fire, giving the girls almost no time to answer.


"Where are you from?"  asked Sharon.


"Quebec, Canada."  Izzy said.


"Ohhhh how cool!  A whole 'nother country!"  Donna said in a hushed voice.  'How'd you learn to speak English so well?"


"What school did you go to?"  asked Melissa. 


"Did you live in a house?"  Sarah asked.  "We live right down the street from here."


"Do you have any pets?"  Sharon inquired.   "I have three rabbits and a goat."


"Are the classes the same here as there?" asked  Howard.


"Can I show you around the school after classes let out?"  Michael inquired.


Isabelle and Dora looked from one student to the other, trying to take a breath to answer at least one question before another was fired at them but unable to get a word in.  Amadeo was about to remind the group that the girls were probably feeling overwhelmed when a familiar voice chimed in.


"Can I take you out this weekend, Ms. Izabelle?"  came the familiar voice, accompanied by a confident smile.  The kids at the table stopped for a moment and looked at the newcomer.  It was Nick.  "Perhaps I can treat you to a shake after school?"  Nick asked, leaning down and smiling brightly at Izzy.  She recoiled slightly from his breath and wondered how he kept his teeth so white, before politely refusing.


He smelled strongly of cigarette smoke.  Every year it was announced that smoking on school property was frowned upon, and every year a handful of students ignored the rule and found secluded places to indulge their habit.


Nick had either hung up his jacket or set it down somewhere, which was just as well because the September heat made it an unnecessary accessory.


"Actually, Nick,"  said Amadeo in a friendly voice,  "A bunch of us wanted to take the three of you to Grammarcy's after school, sort of a welcome to the neighborhood sort of thing.  Do you have the time?"


"Izabella, will you be there?"  he asked in what he hoped was a casual tone, leaning in close to the girl to give her the full impact of his smile.


Izabella wrinkled her nose but didn't answer.  She tried to back away a bit more from Nick's breath.


Amadeo didn't know the girls well yet, having just met them, but he was pretty sure that Nick was, to put it mildly, barking up the wrong tree.  Izabella didn't seem the least bit impressed with the handsome boy.  He was, however, very impressed with the two girls who either apparently had no clue how very beautiful they were, or who just didn't care.  He'd noticed that the 'pretty' and 'popular' girls hadn't approached the twins yet.


"Izabella?  Will you be there?"  Nick asked straight out and a little angrily, tired of whatever game the girl was playing with him.


Izzy compressed her lips, opened her pocketbook and began rummaging around.  Once she found what she was looking for she smiled at Nick and gestured him away from the rest of the group at the table.


She fought her natural desire to hold her nose and leaned in toward the boy, pressing the stick of gum she'd taken out into his hand, holding it for a moment.  "I find the smell  of cigarette reprehensible and you reek of it."  she whispered in his ear, to avoid embarrassing him.  "We'll be at Grammarcy's, but if you don't lay off the cigarettes and stop acting like a jackass, stay away from me.  Please and thank you."  she said, remembering her manners.


She leaned away from him with a radiant smile, shook his hand and rejoined the others at the table.   Some of them looked at Izzy inquiringly and some came right out and asked her what she said but she only smiled and told them it had been nothing important.  She then switched the conversation to the impending trip to Grammarcy's.


Nick stood there for a few moments, angry and insulted, before turning away, dropping the gum, and storming out of the cafeteria.


The group at the table, and several more students from surrounding tables watched as he left, all dying to know the story but not knowing the girls well enough to approach and ask.  More than one made plans to go to the kids they did know and get the story from them at some point during the afternoon.


For the rest of the day Nick appeared in classes on time.  He didn't flash his very white smile or acknowledge any of his classmates, appearing fascinated by the teachers and all they had to say, and taking notes feverishly.


After school he was nowhere to be found, so the considerably larger group went without him.


"I feel really bad."  said Izzy to her friends when they'd pushed several tables together and sat down.  "I was really rude.  My parent's would not have been the least bit happy about how I handled that, but he was just being so obnoxious!"  she said, hoping that they would understand.


"Give him some time to calm down."  Amadeo said gently.  "The choice is entirely his.  If he prefers to smoke and hang out with the kids who smoke, there's nothing we can do.  There's a chance that what Izzy said reached him.  If so then we'll be seeing him."


"Do you think he likes me enough to stop that nasty habit?"  Izzy asked.  "I mean, he is a good looking guy..."


"He's one of those good looking guys who knows he's good looking and gets by on his looks rather than personality." Melissa, who had accepted the open invitation, said dismissively.  Sharon and several of the other girls who had tagged along nodded agreement.


"He might just be scared."  Dennis said.  "You know,"  he continued, blushing a little at the looks sent his way, "I mean, he wanted to fit in and he didn't care who he fit in with as long as it was someone."  he finished, biting into his burger to avoid having to say anything else.


"Or," Charlie conjectured,  "He was just trying too hard to fit in with everyone.  It's just not possible."  he said.


"It's like my father says, you're not going to like everyone, and everyone isn't going to like you.  Be yourself, and stick with the people who accept you for who you are, otherwise you'll drive yourself crazy trying to be everything for everyone."  Milo chipped in.


"Do you think that's it?"  Izzy asked,  "He's trying to be everything for everyone, rather than who he is?  And then here's big mouthed Izabelle making him feel like a fool."  Izzy berated herself, pushing her fries aside.


"The only one who made him look like a fool was him."  Dora objected, taking a sip of her cherry Coke.  "If he's part of the smoking crowd then he's fine.  He has friends.  Or potential friends, anyway.  I mean, he wasn't out there smoking by himself."


"Or maybe he was."  said Amadeo thoughtfully.   "What if he went out there hoping to be part of the smoking crowd and they didn't accept him?  What if he was out there smoking by himself?  I mean, he came in alone, and he didn't go to the table that the smokers hang out at when he left."


Dora looked uncertain, the pretty rose blush rising to her cheeks again.  "Izzy?"  she asked, looking at her sister.


"I feel horrible now."  Izzy said, sadly.  "I hurt him.  I embarrassed him."


"Maybe you hurt him,"  Angelo said quietly,  "But you didn't do anything to embarrass him.  If he was embarrassed it was at his own behavior, not anything you said or did.  If he was embarrassed it was because he knew you were right.  You didn't do a thing, outwardly, to embarrass him.  We were all watching, and all it looked like was you leaning in to whisper to him and then shaking his hand."


"You even smiled at him."  Melissa said.


"Yeah,"  agreed Milo.  "It was him stomping out that was a cause of any embarrassment, not anything you did.  OK?"


"Do you suppose I should find him and talk to him?"  Izzy asked,  "Explain things a little?"


"Let him calm down and think things through.  He's the one who has to make the decision, you can't do it for him."  Said Aiden.


"He could do like dad."  Dora said quietly.


"Do you think so, A-Dor?"  Izzy said hopefully, wondering if this boy liked her enough to give up smoking.


"We'll find out."  Dora replied, hoping that no one caught her sister's slip of the tongue.  "We'll find out."








Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chapter 56

Everyone was excited and running around with last minute preparations, phone calls back and forth, exuberant voices, so close to adult timbres, suddenly becoming those of children once again.


They were going.  They were finally going.  They were all going!  It had taken months of planning and saving, the kids using their earnings from the summer before,  as well as Christmas and birthday money to fund their trips.


Amadeo was glad now that his father had convinced him to only donate half the money he'd earned last summer to the Veteran's Home.  So now between holiday and birthday money, plus what he'd saved, he was on his way to the July 4th celebrations at the New York World Fair.


Angelo was especially excited not only to be going back to his old stomping grounds, but his new friends were finally going to see where he came from, and meet his old friends whom he'd kept in touch with as best as he could through letters and occasional phone calls.



Fifteen teenagers and eight adults, minus Mr. Di Marco who stayed behind to see to the animals and farm, were going.  At Angelo's suggestion, Mr. Di Marco had hired interested members of the wrestling team to work the farm over the summer so he wouldn't be overwhelmed with the work.


Paul and John, who couldn't say no to the chance of getting back to New York even for a few days with the prospect of seeing the fireworks, went as well.  New York, in their opinion, had yet to be outdone by anyone, anywhere, in their displays.


It had been a close call with Ethel's parents who took an extreme interest in their oldest daughter going on a long trip with a bunch of boys, only a few of whom they actually knew in person.  The only reason she was allowed to 'hang out' with the other boys, they explained, was because her older brother was with her at all times.  They were very concerned when they were told that Jim, her mother said in an exaggeratedly dreamy voice, would be going as well.


Mrs. Di Marco, Carmie and Terri met with them in person and assured them that they would all be there, so their daughter would be well chaperoned and sharing a room with Mrs. Di Marco who, with six boys, had hearing like a fox.


They left on July first, boarded the train that morning and headed out, excited and happy, giggling and chatting among themselves about the wonder that was New York, which Angelo and his mother and brothers had promised to introduce them to.





New York was everything that Angelo had promised and more.  They finally, after several train changes, disembarked in the Grand Central Station, tired but awed at the size and noise.  The other teenagers, who had grown up in a small town all of their lives, thought about their own little home town train station and grinned sheepishly at each other.


Once outside, Jim nearly toppled over trying to see the top of one of the buildings.  Everyone had a good laugh.  Jim blushed and smiled.  He knew he looked exactly like what he was, a hayseed in the big city, but right now he didn't care.  He just wanted to take everything in.


Ethel and several of the others were snapping pictures left and right.  Mrs. Di Marco had to remind them to save some film for the fireworks on the fourth, or be prepared to spend some of their money on more film.  They tried very hard to take fewer pictures, but the city was fascinating.  There seemed to be something new and exciting around every corner.


Mrs. Di Marco, John, Paul, and Angelo, acted as tour guides, organizing taxi rides or walking expeditions to various places.  That Saturday, the Georgia natives finally met Matthew, Mark and Luke, Angelo's older brothers, who had happily agreed to act as taxi drivers and extra tour guides.


Matt and Martina's children, Joshua and Dominic were adorable.  Their skin a light coffee color and their hazel, mostly green eyes, fringed with dark lashes inherited from their mother.  Angelo had explained in advance about his Moroccan heritage and his brother's brown skin so they were prepared, and no one said anything awkward, though to them he only looked deeply tanned, rather than brown.


Most evenings were spent at Matt's or Mark's houses, enjoying the hospitality of their homes and the antics of their children.  The boys agreed that Matt's wife, Martina, was a goddess, making the woman blush and Ethel's eyes to turn a little green with envy.


Angelo's brother Marco, who preferred to be called by the diminutive of his middle name, Iggy; and is wife Natalia and their kids Peter and Matthew, treated them to a day at the beach.


The kids got into a sand sculpture competition among themselves and all agreed that Peter and Matthew's little house with pine trees in front was the winner, hands down.


The teens asked the  Misters Di Marco to drive back and forth over the Brooklyn Bridge,  'Just once please?!'  just so that they could go home and say they'd done it, snapping pictures out of the car windows as they did so.




When they visited the Di Marco's friends in Little Italy, Milo swore he'd never tasted food as good as what he experienced there.  They'd not only visited a few of the restaurants but had also been fed by overzealous Italian mamas who thought the children were all too skinny.


"I'm not telling Mrs. Witt about this though,"  he said quietly to 'Deo.  "If I tell her anything was as good as her chicken she might stop making it and then where will I be?"




Old friends and new got along as though they'd known each other all of their lives, and everyone laughed when Mrs. Rosetti, enamored by Milo's dimples, kept pinching his cheeks.  Milo endured it stoically and good naturedly, theatrically rubbing his cheeks after they left and asking his friends if there was anything left of his face.


After a trip to Central Park, Jim complained that he'd never look at their little park in their little town in Georgia the same way.  Angelo laughed and admitted that he much preferred their little park, earning mock gasps.


The kids from Georgia, until now, had never traveled far from their homes and had never been to a large museum before.  The town about twenty miles away had a small one that mostly dealt with local history, and they'd been there on field trips for school, or day trips with their parents, but they'd never seen so many museums.


At the first mention of the word 'museum' the boys had been convinced that they were going to be bored stiff until they got to the Museum of Natural History.  The adults actually had to start issuing ultimatums to get them to leave.


It was just as bad at the Guggenheim. The teens had giggled at the name at first, but when they went in the artworks fascinated them.  They spent a lot of time admiring the sculptures and would have stood there staring at them, but the guards began to announce that the museum was closing and everyone had to leave.


Ethel decided to be cremated and scattered in the botanical gardens when she died.  Until then she thought she'd be perfectly happy lying under the flowers and breathing in their scent.  She'd been crushed when Mrs. Di Marco had told her that that wasn't allowed.  She did wonder however, if weddings were allowed on the grounds.


They'd ridden the Staten Island Ferry, and gone to Ellis Island to see The Statue of Liberty close up.


As with the museums, the boys had not wanted to go, and apologized profusely for being so rude once they were there and had seen the New York Skyline and the massive statue. At first they were a little reticent about going to the zoos, their attitude being, if you've seen one animal you've seen them all.  But once they'd seen them they once again didn't want to leave.  Animals they'd only read about lived there.  Animals they hadn't believed really existed were there in flesh and blood.  The platypus habitat fascinated them no end.


All of them admitted that Coney Island was more fun than any of them had ever had in their lives to that point.  They went back to the hotel, sweaty, sticky with cotton candy, sunburned, mildly sick to their stomachs from eating so many hot dogs, and happier than they could ever remember being.


Every evening they returned, loaded down with souvenirs, and all of them had already had to buy more film for their cameras. Especially after a night time trip to Times Square where the sheer number of brightly colored lights and signs dazzled them.


Many of them wondered if they could go back home to their dinky little town after seeing the wonders that existed outside of it, but most admitted after a couple of days that they missed home and that New York, while definitely beautiful, was also overwhelming and they missed their little town and their families.


"One thing for sure, I'm never goin' to Texas."  Jim said.


"Why not?"  was the group's question.


"Man, they say that everything is bigger in Texas.  I don't think I can handle bigger than this."  he'd said, to his friend's laughter.


The last day at the New York World Fair was hot, crowded, and amazing.  Throughout the day Mrs. Di Marco would buy a little of every food available and split it among the children so that they could save some of their money.


The teens smiled and exclaimed over the Unisphere, an open sculpture of the world, surrounded by fountains which cooled off the air immediately next to them.  The antique car ride was a huge success, and the boys loved the Ford Pavilion.  Ethel was fascinated by the airplane exhibit, and they took picture after picture of the replicas of dinosaurs in Dinoland.


They went on the Swiss Sky Ride and the monorail, they watched the blacksmiths and tinkers create amazing pieces.  They visited 'Korean', 'Chinese' and 'African' market places, buying lovely pieces of jewelry or scarves for their mothers and sculptures for their fathers.  Brothers and sisters even got a few toys or souvenirs.


Evening came too soon.  The fireworks and fountain display began at nine.  They were astounding, and the teens watched, their expressions of wonder and amazement once again making them look more like children of five than teenagers. Mrs. Di Marco took pictures of their faces by the light of the display.


Ethel had also slyly taken pictures of the teen's reactions to various things and places which no one knew about until they got back home.  She put together an album showing the animals, buildings, or artwork and their response to it.  They'd all asked her for the negatives so that they could make albums of their own.  She agreed, but only after removing the bulk of the pictures which appeared to be of Jim.


Amadeo had gone with Jim to pick up his pictures of New York the following Tuesday, and found that more than three rolls were pictures of Ethel alone. Ethel looking at the tigers.  Ethel in the gardens, an expression of rapture on her face as she inhaled the scent of the flowers.  Ethel looking out over the harbor with her hair blowing in the wind and the skyline behind her.


Jim had tried to hide them, blushing furiously.  Amadeo just smiled and patted his friend on the shoulder.  They'd been an item for quite some time now, and 'Deo was sure something good was on the horizon for the two of them. 


" 'Dae? I think... I really think... no, I know... I'm crazy about her and I want to marry her." the other boy said with a look of earnestness combined with concern that his friend would object.

"Jim..."

"I've got a job," Jim continued as though pleading his case in court, "I can sell my bike and get a decent car, I think. Do... d'ya think she'd say yes?" he asked nervously.

"Jim..."

"D'ya think her parents would object?" the boy continued nervously, "d'ya think they'd refuse to let her marry me? How do I convince them that we're supposed to be together?"

"Jimbo, you're both only 17..."

"I'll be eighteen soon! And..."

"And you still have to finish senior year, then you'll go to college..."

"But I'm not, 'Dae. I decided that right after I got my last report card and got Cs and Ds. I'm just not cut out for school. I've always known it. My parents are just happy that I'm passing and don't have to repeat my senior year. I can always get another job," he said nervously.

Amadeo thought for a few moments and finally said, "What about her? Is she going to college?"

Jim shook his head, "Nah, she said she's just gonna keep her waitress job at the diner. Her boss said she could be promoted to assistant manager soon if she keeps up the great job she's been doin'."

'Deo bit his lower lip and replied quietly, "Jim, I don't want to rain on your parade, but there's a lot to being married. Your own place. Bills..."

"Well I ain't gonna marry her tomorrow, 'Dae!" Jim replied with a slight frown, "well, I mean, I'd like to but I have to be realistic, we'd have to save up some money and all that... I have a couple hundred dollars saved already that I put aside just for this, and like I said, if I sell my bike... man I hate to do that but..."

Amadeo grinned in relief, "I'm really happy that you understand that, Jim... that's what I was getting worried about."

"Well, like my dad says, I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed but I learned enough watchin' my own folks, and I think me and Eth could make it." He looked at his friend with a silent plea.

"Just ask her."  he said, patting his friend on the shoulder. "It's like you said, you won't be getting married tomorrow, and I think her folks'd respect you for your honesty."

"But what if they say no?" Jim asked worriedly. 

"Only one way to find out, Jimmy Boy." 'Deo said bracingly, putting a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder.

"What about you and Ange?"

Amadeo was briefly caught off guard, "What?"

"Are you guys goin' to college?"

Amadeo managed a smile and replied, "Yeah, he's going to a school for the culinary arts, and I'm going to a business school." He didn't mention that he and Angelo had already arranged for an apartment and were going to room together.

Jim grinned and clapped Amadeo on the back, "Good for you. I'm happy for you. I always knew there was more for you than this little town."

Amadeo laughed, "I happen to love this little town, and I'm going to miss it when I'm gone."

"Are you gonna come back?"

'Deo looked thoughtful for a few moments, "Well," he finally replied, "as much as I love it here, there's not much call for what I'll be going to school for, so, probably not for good."

Jim looked downcast. "You ain't the only one, y'know. A lot of the others've decided to move after they graduate college too. A few of them talked about movin' to New York or California. Some of the others can't afford college either but they're talkin' movin' too. It might just be me and Eth left here."

Amadeo smiled and put a friendly arm around his buddy. "You don't have to stay here, you know. There are a lot of jobs for auto mechanics, and if Eth really decides that she likes being a waitress, there are plenty of those kinds of jobs all over the place."

"Let me ask you a question... if you and Ethel do decide to move somewhere, where would you like to go?"

Jim smiled sadly, "We talked about movin' to Colorado at some point, but between my salary and what she makes at the restaurant... I'm not sure when or if we'd ever really be able to go."

"Nothing is impossible, Jimbo." 'Deo said with a smile, "You and she might be here for a little bit while you save up some money, but it's a nice town, you grew up here, you're familiar with everyone and everything around you. I'd say all things considered that it's not such a bad place to live for a little while longer."

"Ya think?" Jim asked doubtfully, looking up at his friend.

"I think." 'Deo assured his friend.

Jim thought about that for a few moments before breaking into a wide smile. "You're right. It really ain't such a bad little place. I can always find another part time job somewhere so that we can save up that money a little faster.  Thanks, 'Dae."

"You're welcome, Jim." Amadeo grinned, clapping his friend on the shoulder.







AN

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Information about the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair can be found at:



Reference to The American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869. It's mission is to discover, interpret, and share information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe through a wide-ranging program of scientific research, education, and exhibition.

The museum is known for its exhibitions and scientific collections.

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Reference to the Guggenheim Museum

Solomon Robert Guggenheim (February 2, 1861 – November 3, 1949) was an American businessman, art collector and philanthropist.

In his later years he discovered an interest for abstract, contemporary art.

In the 1940s it became apparent that a larger building would be needed to house Guggenheim's art collection, and in 1943 architect Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a museum in New York City. 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opened on October 21, 1959.

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