Read In Between Online

Authors: Jenny B. Jones

Tags: #drama, #foster care, #friendship, #YA, #Christian fiction, #Texas, #theater

In Between (10 page)

BOOK: In Between
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“I’m talking to you! Did you hear what I said?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

Tweeeeeet! Tweeeeeet!
Coach Nelson dismisses the rest of us to the showers.

As I’m contemplating the countless joys of showering in front of strangers, a frizzy haired girl I recognize from Algebra II class walks beside me.

“Mondays are hard, but it does get easier.”

“Yeah, today . . . was . . . tough.” I’m still trying to catch my breath.

“Just don’t get on Coach Nelson’s bad side, or it’s even worse.”

Worse? How can it be any worse? If today is a demonstration of how she treats those she likes, I’d hate to see the torture she reserves for her enemies.

“So Angel isn’t one of Coach Nelson’s favorites, I take it?”

“One of her favorites?” The girl laughs. “She’s her daughter.”

Chapter 15

“S
o, how was
your day?”

This from Mr. Scott—er, James.

The three of us, James, Rocky, and yours truly, are sitting in the breakfast nook in the kitchen as Millie busies herself at the stove preparing dinner. We’ve been sitting in awkward silence for the past twenty minutes—me pretending to do my homework; Rocky gnawing on some rag doll that’s had the life slobbered out of it; and Mr. Scott, who once again has his face in the paper, this time reading the stock report.

“Um, it was okay.”

“That good, huh?”

And then this amazing thing happens. James puts the daily news down and looks at me—like he’s really interested.

“Yeah, that good.” I hate to ruin the moment and not give him any details, since he was participating in this conversation, but what am I supposed to tell him? Hey, James, today I wrote a haiku, met Frances Vega, who is the most perfect perky person in existence, sat through Algebra II with kids like me who have math issues, had history with a teacher who probably knew your Moses dude, ate lunch on a toilet, met Angel and her merry band of eccentrics, and put on five pounds of new muscle mass in a single class of PE. Good day.

“Who was your student buddy who showed you around today?” Millie stirs something on the stove that smells beyond good. I offered to help earlier, because it seemed the right thing to do, but she shooed me away.

“Her name is Frances Vega.”

“Oh, Frances!” the Scotts sing in happy unison.

“She’s wonderful, Katie. Don’t you think Frances is wonderful, James?”

“Wonderful. Great, great kid.”

Yeah, she’s super duper. Spectacular. Fabulous.

And she’s everything I’m not—good student, head of her class, well rounded, smart, sweet, good dresser, beautiful. Need I go on?

My two foster parents look at me, expecting me to comment on the golden child, Frances Vega.

“She was nice.” That’s all I’ll give them.

“Francis would be a great friend. She goes to our church. She’s very involved in the teen ministry. Right, James?” Millie pops a carrot in her mouth and begins to rinse her lettuce with vigor.

“Absolutely. Great girl.”

Yes, I think we’ve already established that Frances is great. I guess it’s going to be up to me to change the subject. “I also met another girl, Angel Nelson.”

James clears his throat. He and the Mrs. exchange a look.

“Millie, is she Audrey Nelson’s girl?”

Hmm, I’m not hearing the same enthusiasm here as I did for Frances.

Millie stops chopping her lettuce. “I think so. Katie, is this girl Coach Nelson’s daughter?”

“Yeah, she is. Funny thing—Angel and I were in PE today and this crazy coach is trying to kill us with squats and push-ups, right? So then we both start talking about . . .” The Scotts look a little serious. I don’t think they’re going to appreciate the punch line to this story. “Well, anyway, I found out Coach Nelson is Angel’s mom.” Never mind. I don’t want to waste the irony on them.

“Does Angel still have the purple Mohawk?” James’s voice is as dry as a saltine.

“Yeah? So what?” What is that supposed to mean, Preacher Man?

“James—”

“Does your church not accept people with purple hair?” It slips out before I can stop it.

James Scott’s face turns a shade of pink. “Of course we do. We accept anyone, Katie, just like Christ did. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”

“He didn’t mean it that way, honey,” Millie soothes as she rips apart some spinach leaves.

“Is your God not into people with purple hair?” There I go again. I’m taking up for Angel Nelson and I don’t even know her. But I know her type. Her type is my type, so James might as well be criticizing me.

“Katie, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. God is into purple hair, yellow hair, no hair. I’m the one being judgmental here. It’s just that Angel Nelson has been in and out of trouble in the last few years, and I’m slightly concerned with you spending time with her. And that has nothing to do with what the girl’s hair looks like.”

James takes off his glasses and cleans them with his shirt. He lays his hand over mine, which is resting on the loathsome algebra book.

“We just want you to be as safe as possible here and make good choices—especially in friends.”

I’m oddly touched by James’s fatherly gestures. This is the most attention he’s paid to me since I’ve been here. Sometimes I don’t even know if he remembers I’m here. You can’t just order up a kid and then forget about her.

“Well, Angel seemed nice to me. It’s hard to make friends, you know?” I’m laying down the sympathy card, I know.

“Oh, honey, of course it’s hard to make friends at a new school. James, get the plates, would you?” Millie leaves her post in the kitchen and stands beside me. “Maybe Frances could introduce you to some people, too? She knows lots of kids around here.”

Frances, Frances, Frances!

“Everybody needs a chance. Maybe you’ve underestimated Angel. Just because she’s not president of every club at In Between High like your girl Frances doesn’t mean she’s going to be wearing prison stripes and making license plates before she’s eighteen.”

“Well, we never said she was prison bound. Really.” Leaving me with one good eye roll, Millie is back to her salad preparations.

Time to get on their good side. I get up and grab glasses to set on the table. Four days here and I’m already proving myself useful, right? “So, anyway, Angel mentioned she and some of her friends were going to do something Friday night and I was invited. Cool, huh?”

“I don’t know, Katie.” Millie hesitates. “You’ve barely settled in here.”

And here’s where I work some Katie Parker magic. “I couldn’t believe it when she invited me. I mean, me. New girl, you know? I’ve just felt so lonely here, and to think this girl wants to be my friend. It’s more than I could’ve hoped for.”

“Give us some details. What would you be doing, going to her house? The movies? You know we’re going to need a lot more information.” James says all this in his best protective-father voice. That’s not an immediate no, though.

“I’m not sure. She just mentioned it today. I’ll find out. It’s probably something like watching movies or, you know, hanging out—girl talk and all.”

“We’ll see.” James does not look too convinced.

“Do you think because she has a Mohawk she’ll probably want to go steal a car or spray paint the water tower?” Although spray paint to
that
water tower could only be an improvement.

“No, of course not.”

“James and I are not that judgmental, Katie. Just find out more information and we’ll talk about it, okay?”

Millie, I am finding, is the peacemaker. She just wants everyone to be happy and content. And to eat their vegetables.

“Now, let’s eat. I’ve got spaghetti, French bread, corn, salad, and for dessert, my special chocolate mousse pie.”

“Millie is famous for her spaghetti sauce.”

“Oh, yeah?” It’s gotta be pretty hard to beat the stuff out of the can if you ask me. Actually, I thought that’s all there was. So you can make spaghetti sauce yourself? My mom really deprived me. Next they’ll be telling me you can make pizza too.

“Yes, I won the blue ribbon at the county fair last year for best spaghetti sauce.”

“And for best chili. Don’t forget the chili.”

We eat this prize-winning spaghetti and I hesitantly drink it all in—the conversation that’s getting easier, the incredible food that didn’t come out of the microwave or a box, and this feeling of being a part of something, even if it’s temporary.

“Heard from Mother today.” Millie says to her husband as we finish up dessert.

“Oh, and how is she?” James helps himself to seconds.

“Fine. She’ll be home in a few days.”

“A few days?”

“Yes, it was a very short cruise. Just a four-day trip, I think.”

“More like the ship had to turn around and drop Maxine off for the sake of the other passengers,” James cracks, with a wink at his wife. “Instead of motion sickness, they had Maxine sickness.” He catches my eye. “Believe me, there’s nothing you can take for that.”

His face breaks into a sly smile, and I hear Millie’s soft giggle. They’re kind of cute like that. And so far it doesn’t even nauseate me.

But other times I catch an undercurrent passing between them. Some sort of tension or something. I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel like—I don’t know. Like there are things Millie wants to say to James or vice-versa, but they talk about other stuff instead—such as people at church, how dry the grass is, getting an oil change for the car, or blue-ribbon recipes. Okay, so I don’t have it all figured out yet, and I can’t really explain it, but I know I’m onto something here. It’s not always giggles and jokes with Mr. and Mrs. Scott.

We begin to move to the living room when the phone rings. Millie heads for the phone as I zero in on my new favorite overstuffed chair in front of the television. Maybe it’s Mrs. Smartly calling for me. I can tell her about my first day.

“What do you want to watch, Katie? Are you a sports fan?”

I look at James like he’s just asked me to kiss Rocky, and I’m about ready to fire off a comment about my distaste for all things sports when Millie’s kitchen conversation interrupts.

“Hello? Hello? Are you there? Amy? Amy, can you hear me? It’s Mom, Amy.” And then a full minute of silence. “Amy, just tell me where you are. Can’t you talk to me? Hello . . . ?”

Moments of nothing.

And Millie hangs up the phone.

James’s eyes are glued on the TV, but he’s not watching it, and he doesn’t move a muscle. He doesn’t go to Millie or seem inclined to inquire about the strange call.

What is
this
about? Why would their daughter call and then not talk?

“I’m going to take a bath and read upstairs.” Millie calls from the kitchen, and I hear her make her way up the stairs.

Things are not all as they seem here in the Scott household, and I, Katie Parker, intend to get to the bottom of it.

Chapter 16

A
h, another glorious
morning at school. I survived my first biology class. It seems I got here just in time for pig dissection. Lucky me.

“Hey, Katie! Katie!”

Vincent’s girlfriend and Angel are crossing the courtyard together. It’s kind of nice having someone want to talk to you at school. Well, when that someone isn’t hanging over the bathroom stall.

“What’s up?” Angel high-fives me, and I nearly miss it. I didn’t know we were at the high-fiving point in our relationship.

“Hey, the Scotts said I might be able to come over Friday night. They just wanted me to get the finer details.”
And they’ll probably want to bug your house and run a surveillance operation while I’m there, if that’s okay.

“The Scotts? Your foster parents?” Angel’s friend stares at me.

“Yeah, James and Millie Scott.”

“The preacher? Pastor Scott? You’re living with a preacher?” Angel is totally unimpressed.

“Um, yeah.” Why does her attitude bother me? “I requested Angelina Jolie, but she was all booked up.”

It’s like
I
can slam the Scotts, but they can’t.

“Well, that is interesting.” Angel looks at her friend, whose name I think might be Dawn or Donna or Destiny or something. “I’m having some girls over for a sleepover Friday night. Not much to say about it. It’s all on the up and up. So, how about it?”

BOOK: In Between
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