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Posts tagged ‘Scars and All’

A-Z Challenge: N is for Nila Siddell

N

“Julian’s heading over this way.”

Nila Ascott forced herself not to look the way her friend, Adreanna Hamlett was gesturing. Julian Siddell was probably coming to see Adreanna anyway, not her. And if he was, it probably wasn’t for any good reason. None of the white boys in Kurztown ever came near her with good intentions. “Let’s just go,” she told Adreanna. “We can meet the others at the diner.”

Adreanna squeezed her hand as if she understood. She probably did. She saw the way the others treated Nila. The Ascotts weren’t the only black family in the town. But, pretty close. And she took the brunt of the town’s ignorance. “Julian’s different. He’s never joined in with the others.”

He hadn’t, at least not to her face. But, that didn’t necessarily mean anything. Especially if his friends were with him. Not the ones she saw him with on the weekends, like Joel Holland and Patrick DiSalvo, they were decent to her, too. But, the ones he played baseball with after school, like Jakob Morrey and Caleb Sharrock, were ones she did her best to avoid. They didn’t always keep their mistreatment to taunts, either.

“Nila.” Julian’s voice was smooth behind her, and she couldn’t help but turn now. Only Patrick was with him. That had her relaxing a little bit.

“Julian, Patrick,” she greeted both of them, but she was already starting to fidget. She wasn’t afraid to walk down the street of her own town. But, just standing here talking made her nervous.

“Can I talk to you?” Julian asked her.

She swallowed and glanced over at Adreanna. “Uh, we were just heading to the diner to meet Diana and Natalie.”

Patrick’s eyes lit up a bit at that. “I’ll walk there with you, Adreanna,” he told her.

They weren’t leaving her with any excuses. But, Julian smiled softly at her. “We can follow right behind them if it makes you feel better.”

She knew Julian was a decent guy. He wouldn’t do anything to her right out here on the street. “It’s okay,” she said. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

He scratched at the back of his head and glanced away. She’d seen him do that in class, too, when the teacher called on him, and he wasn’t completely sure of the answer. She always thought it made him look a little sweet, it was even more endearing now.

“I actually wanted to ask you something,” he corrected.

“Okay,” she said, glancing from the corner of her eye. “What did you need to ask me?”

He was quiet for a moment, and they were already nearing the diner. She was about to turn to him when he blurted out, “Will you go out with me? We could get dinner, maybe catch a movie?”

He ended it on a question, as if he wasn’t quite sure. She wasn’t, either. “Why, Julian?”

“Why not, Nila?” he asked, one side of his mouth pulling up into the smile she loved to see.

“You know what people will say about you dating me?”

“I don’t care,” he said, turning fully to her. “I’ve wanted to ask you out for a long time. If they’ve got a problem with it, they can-”

She didn’t need to hear the rest of whatever he was going to say. “I’ll go to dinner with you, Julian.”

***

Nila stood at the doors, waiting for Julian to come out of the school after his practice. Usually she saw him during the day, but it seemed like he’d been avoiding her. She didn’t understand it. They’d gone out for dinner several times, and they’d spent almost every evening talking. Why the distance now?

She’d hung back when the rest of the players had come out. Why wasn’t he with them? Usually he was. Something wasn’t right, and it didn’t leave her with a good feeling.

Finally, she saw him coming, his hat pulled down low on his head, leaving his face in shadows. Nila stepped forward. “Julian.”

He jerked back, his eyes meeting hers for just a moment before dropping again. But, it had been enough. “What happened to your face?”

“I thought you would have gone home already,” he said, starting to walk past her.

He didn’t even attempt to answer her question, the sidestep obvious. She reached out for his sleeve. He stopped but didn’t turn to face her. So, she moved around in front of him and pushed his hat back on his head. And drew in a sharp breath. “Did you use your face as a glove at practice today?”

His lips quirked up, but then he winced. “Didn’t happen today,” he said. “And wasn’t baseballs hitting me.”

She ran her finger lightly along his jaw, where the worst of the bruising seemed to be centered. “It’s because of me, isn’t it? No one wants you dating me.”

He reached up and wrapped his fingers lightly around her wrist, bringing her hand down to his lips. “No,” he said. “Don’t say that, Nila. It’s because Morrey and Sharrock are dickheads, and no one else will stand up to them. But, there was no way I was going to let them talk about you like that.” He brought her hand down and pressed his lips to hers. “I love you, Nila. My mom loves you, and trust me, she doesn’t say that about everyone. My brother likes you. That’s all that matters. If the rest of the town has a problem with it, they can go to hell.”

Nila let out a little laugh then wrapped her arms around his neck. “I don’t want you fighting for me, Julian. Not like this. We can stand against them another way.”

“As long as we’re standing together.”

“Always,” she told him and hoped that time limit, or non-limit, never changed.

Note: For anyone who has read snippets from Scars and All(Book 2 in my Kurztown series), these are Cassie’s parents. So, this is sometime in the middle-ish ’80s. By the time Cassie and Doren get together, the town is at least a bit more tolerant.

A-Z Challenge: J is for Joel Holland

J

Joel Holland walked into the kitchen and wrapped his arm around his wife’s waist. She had both hands submerged in the soapy water, but she still turned her head and smiled at him. Sometimes it surprised him how easy things were even after more than twenty years of marriage. “Where are the boys?” he asked.

“Jeff had football practice, then he was going over to Greg’s house to sleep over. Jarrett’s in his room. Painting, I think.”

Joel couldn’t quite stop the twist of his mouth at that. He still hadn’t figured out how two of his sons had such an artistic streak. Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with that, he supposed. “Neither Susan or Doren are coming home this weekend?”

Diana shook her head. “Doren’s taking Amy out to dinner tonight after his game. We probably won’t see him until Thanksgiving.”

“That’s not far now.” Pride nearly swelled his chest to bursting for his oldest son. And not just because he’d practically been a star since he walked out on the football field in high school. And even if he didn’t understand why he was pursuing an art major in college.

His wife dried her hands before turning to him. “And Susan said Kendall was planning to go over to the campus to visit her this weekend.”

That had a grin spreading across his face. “Those girls. They always have been inseparable, haven’t they? At least Sue’s going to school closer than Doren.”

“Yeah. Joel, about Sue and Ken.” His eyes narrowed, and he wasn’t sure he liked the worried look in her eyes. But, before she could elaborate, the phone rang from the other end of the counter.

He brushed a kiss over her lips then moved away to answer it. “Hello.”

“Is this Joel Holland?”

Something cold slithered over him, and he didn’t understand it. Just a solicitor. It had to be just a solicitor. “Yeah, that’s me.”

“This is Candace at Lock Haven Hospital. Doren Holland was brought in earlier tonight. He has you as an emergency contact.”

Everything came crashing to a halt. No. No,no, no. That couldn’t be right. “You’re wrong,” he said. “He’s not. My son was taking his girlfriend out tonight. Why would he be there?”

“There was an accident, Mr. Holland. Your son-” But, he wasn’t listening anymore. He looked up at Diana, saw the fear reflected back in her eyes. “Get the boys, Diana. And call Susan. We have to go.”

“What’s going on?” Diana asked.

He hadn’t even waited for the woman on the other end to tell him. Now, he ran a hand through his red hair. The same red hair he’d passed down to his oldest son. “There was an accident,” he finally said. “Doren’s in the hospital.”

“No,” she gasped. “How…how bad?”

“I don’t know.” He didn’t even know if the woman had said. “But, we need to get there.” He could feel it. This was bad. Something that could possibly change their lives forever.

***

Joel stood outside the parking garage and stared up at the hospital. It was late, and the street was mostly quiet. Still, he couldn’t seem to make his feet move forward to cross it.

“Are we gonna go or not, Dad?”

Jeff. Always with the attitude. Sometimes he didn’t have any idea what to do with him. But, still, he’d seen the fear in Jeff’s eyes when they picked him up from Greg’s and told him Doren was in the hospital. He’d always looked up to his big brother.

“We’re going,” he said, but still his feet didn’t move.

Diana put a hand on his arm. “Come on,” she said. “Maybe it’s not as bad as you’re fearing. We need to go in and see.”

He nodded, but it still felt like his steps were weighed down. When they got inside, Diana did the talking and pulled him along, until they were in a waiting room. At the nurse’s station, they had said a doctor should be by to talk to them. But, that was it. No hint of what the damage was. Of if he was even still alive.

No. He put a stop to that thinking right now.

“Sit down, Joel, please,” Diana said. It was only then he even realized he’d been pacing. He dropped into a chair, but he couldn’t stay still. His foot tapped out a quick beat, his fingers drumming along on the arm of the chair. Even that wasn’t enough. He was just pushing up from the chair again when a doctor stepped into the room.

He looked around the room before his gaze settled on them. “You’re the Hollands?” he asked softly. Gently.

That practically knocked all the air from Joel’s chest. No, no, no. That was the word that had repeated so many times in his head tonight. Diana squeezed his arm and stepped forward. “We are. What’s going on? My son? How’s my son?”

“He’s come through the surgery,” the doctor said.

Joel still couldn’t draw in a full breath, but he forced himself to ask, “Surgery for what?”

The doctor’s eyes narrowed. “They didn’t tell you when you were notified?

“I…I don’t know,” Joel stammered.

The doctor smiled sympathetically as if he understood. Maybe he did, had seen this from patient’s families before. When he had to inform them…No! He’d said Doren came through surgery. That had to mean he was okay. “What happened?” he asked.

“Your son was in a car accident. His right leg was crushed. He had to be cut out of the vehicle.” Joel heard Diana gasp beside him, but he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. The doctor continued. “There were some other injuries, his seatbelt probably saved his life, but it also inflicted some damage. He has some head contusions as well.”

Joel didn’t even want to know what ‘some damage’ meant. “Can I see him?” It didn’t matter what the doctor said, he had to see Doren for himself.

“He won’t wake yet. His body took a lot of damage.”

“I don’t care. I need to see my son.”

The doctor nodded. “Someone will show you the way.”

Joel squeezed his wife’s hand then released it to hear down the hallway. He hesitated outside the door, suddenly unsure if he could handle seeing this. He knew he couldn’t once he stepped inside and saw his son laying on the hospital bed. His leg was elevated, looking like it was swollen nearly twice its normal size. Which was probably why it wasn’t in a cast. It looked a mess, even though the doctor said they’d repaired it. He hadn’t quite realized what crushed would mean. His face was bruised, and there was an ugly raw mark from the side of his neck down his chest, disappearing under the hospital gown he wore.

Joel dropped into the chair beside the bed and took his son’s hand. He had always fixed things: the front porch steps, Doren’s bike the first time he’d wrecked it, the little fights that cropped up between the children. He didn’t see any way he could fix this, though.

“Oh, God, Doren,” he cried, bending his head over his son’s hand. “God, I’m sorry.” His shoulders shook as he cried over his son’s broken body.

Note: In case anyone is too worried about Doren, he does get his own story about six years after this. Though, the fact Joel can’t fix this breaks something in their relationship for a while. But, it’s something they have to deal with in that story(which I’m hoping to have out either late this year or early next year), especially when his younger brother is in a similar position.

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