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Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman

Part 3

With a contented sigh, I turned over, pulling the covers up a bit more, a smile on my face as my dream continued.

Ring, ring, ring.

Browns drawn, I tried to sink deeper into sleep, my mind not registering the real life interruption.

Ring, ring, ring.

My eyes shift, nose crinkling in distaste.

Ring, ring, ring.

Eyes pop open.

"Shit!" Suddenly very awake, I reached over and grabbed the phone, bringing it to my ear. "Hello?" There was a pause, and I was just about on the verge of being pissed off when I heard her speak.

"Um, is Brooklyn there?" The voice wasn’t familiar to me, and sounded far away, unsure.

"This is she. Who is this?" I glanced over at the bedside clock, my eyes narrowing when I saw it was almost two in the morning on a Tuesday night.

"This is Cody Thomlin. Rhonda’s daughter." I sat up, suddenly very worried.

"Yes, of course. What happened? Are you okay? Is your mom alright?"

"Yeah, I’m sure she’s in bed. Um, do you know where the police station is?" Again my eyes narrowed, this time in confusion.


"Can you come by and, oh, bring a hundred bucks with you?"

"What? Wait, what happened?" I heard the girl sigh.

"I got arrested."

"I figured that. Why?"

"Fight. Me and the boys were hanging out at the park when Jimmy’s girlfriend showed up. The bitch never liked me, and popped me. If you think I’m just going to stand there and let that hag beat on me, you’re crazy."

"Okay, okay. I’ll be there in a few minutes. Sit tight, and don’t go anywhere." I heard her snort.

"Are you kidding me?"

"Oh. Sorry. See you soon."

I hung the receiver up, fully awake now. As I slipped into a pair of sweats and a sweat shirt, I thought about my friend, Rhonda. My love and appreciation for her and all that she had done for me was the only reason I was even bothering with this. I had no idea how I’d break this to Rhonda, or even if it was my place to.

Shaking my head to clear it, I stuck a baseball cap on my sleep-messy hair, grabbed my car keys and wallet, and hurried to the garage.

As would be expected, the streets of Portland were dead. Even the kids had better things to do at nearly two-thirty in the morning. Well, apparently not all the kids. What the hell were they doing out this late, anyway? Did Rhonda know her daughter was out to all hours of the night?

The lights of the PPD came into view, and I had the pick of the litter for parking spots in front of the building, save for a few odd-ball police cars parked in a cluster at the north end. Clicking the automatic locks in place, I hurried inside, my heart in my throat. I had never been to the police station before, and certainly not to pick up a criminal.

No, now Brooklyn stop it. This girl is Rhonda’s kid. Find out the details before you start to judge.

"Can I help you, ma’am?" the desk officer asked.

"Yes, I’m here to pick up Cody Thomlin."

"Okay," she turned to her computer and typed something in, then grabbed the handset of her phone. "Bring up Cody Thomlin." After typing in a few more things, she turned to me. "Do you have an I.D., ma’am?"

"Uh, yeah." I opened my wallet, and flipped open the compartment where my license was. She took it, and yet again began typing information.

"The bond is a thousand dollars. You can either pay the entire thing now, or ten percent." She looked at me expectantly.

"Oh, uh, I’ll pay the hundred."

"Okay." Her fingers ran across the keyboard yet again. I bent down to write out a check when I heard a door open. I glanced up and saw Cody appear, holding her sweater in her hand. She looked awful; her cargo pants had a few spots of blood on the knee, her tank was torn across the stomach and covered with dirt. My eyes raised to her face, her half-hooded eyes, full of contempt, yet red-rimmed. A shiner blanketed the underside of her right one, and several scrapes and what looked to be scratch marks littered her cheeks and forehead. With a sad sigh, I turned back to my check, quickly signed my name, and tore it from the book, handing it to the officer.

"She’s free to go." She said to me, then looked at Cody. "You were notified when your court date is?" The girl nodded. The officer turned back to her work, and I turned to my charge.

"Well, let’s go."

She said nothing as she made her way toward the door, and I led us toward my car.

"So, where’s the other girl?" She brought her hand up, pointing her thumb back toward the police station. "Is she in as bad of shape as you?" I unlocked the doors, and she got in, grabbing her seatbelt. I got in behind the wheel.

"Worse," she muttered.

"How did this happen, Cody? Why were you out so late?"

"Are you part of the Spanish Inquisition, or what?" She looked out the side window as I got us moving.

Stunned, I was silent for a moment. Okay, so I’d leave that to Rhonda. Maybe I’d try to stick with safer questions.

"So, why does that girl dislike you so much?"

"Which girl?"

"Is there more than one? The one who thought your face was a steak to be tenderized." She smirked, but did not look at me.

"She thinks me and Jimmy have something going on the side."

"Do you?" She looked over at me like I was nuts.

"Fuck no. Me and Jimmy have been fiends since we were kids, and he’s my best friend. I’d do anything for him, but date him."

"Ah. Got it. Okay, go on."

"So, she sees all of us hanging, and decides it’s a good time to get her ass kicked, and some old asshole who lives around the park calls the cops."

"Is this the skate park?" She nodded, turning back to the window.

"Chick needs to learn how to chill out."

"Maybe she’s learned her lesson."

"Shit, I doubt it. This isn’t the first time she’s jumped me, sure as hell won’t be the last."

"Is there somewhere you need to be, Cody?" She shook her head.

"Folks think I’m out with Jimmy."

"Will it make things worse if I take you home?" I glanced over at her in time to see her shrug.

"I’m not sure." I sighed, thinking for a moment.

"Okay, I’m going to take you to my place, okay?"


I was silent for a moment as I thought of what to say to the girl. There was so much anger inside her; she damn near radiated the heat. Finally deciding to give her some space, I concentrated on the road, feeling the sleepiness begin to seep in again. I didn’t even want to try and guess what time it was, and didn’t want to think about how I’d get through my day tomorrow.

Pulling into the driveway, I opened the mechanical garage opener, and pulled in. When I glanced over at my passenger, I was surprised to see she had drifted off, her head back against the headrest, eyes tightly closed.

I stared at the back wall of the garage, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel. Had I done the right thing to get involved with this? God, what will Rhonda do? I glanced over at her again, not sure how to wake her. To my relief, I didn’t have to worry about it. Blue eyes slowly fluttered open and she looked around, squinting as the garage light shined into her eyes.

"Come on, Cody." I unbuckled myself, and got out of the car, hearing her door open as well. I found the house key, and opened the door that would lead to the short hall that would take us into the living room. "Let’s get you cleaned up." She followed me up the stairs, her hand running along the railing of the spiral staircase, trying to keep herself upright, was my guess.

I flicked on the light in the bathroom in my room, where all my medical supplies were, and turned to see her leaning against the bathroom door.

"Sit." I pointed to the toilet lid. She sat, looking up at me.

"I’ll pay you back the money," she said, her voice low, tired.

"Don’t worry about it." I grabbed the peroxide and cotton balls from the cabinet, and the bacetracin from the medicine cabinet above the sink. I bent down in front of her. "This is going to hurt." I poured the peroxide on one of the cotton balls, and brought it to her cheek. To her credit she barely flinched. "Just keep your nose clean." I threw the bloody cotton ball away, and grabbed a new one, working on the cut at the corner of her mouth. "So, why did you call me?"

She shrugged. "You were the only adult I could think of that would have a hundred bucks." She glanced up at me. "Besides, my mom would have had a fucking cow."

I began to apply the antiseptic.

"Listen, Cody. This trip wasn’t completely free for you." I stood, twisting the lid on the small tube of ointment, and putting it back in the cabinet. I turned back to the girl. "You only get one get out of jail free card. And, you have to tell your mom."

Angry eyes looked up at me.

"What?" She stood, giving me pause for just a moment before I got myself calmed down. I looked her in the eye.

"This kind of stuff doesn’t just get shrugged off."

"God, you’re all the same!" She pushed out of the bathroom, and stood in the middle of the room. "You want me to go home or what?" Taking several deep breaths before I could face her, I turned.

"No. I want you to go to bed. You’ll find if you take a right out that door, go around the stairs, and there’s a guest bedroom just on the other side to the right. Do you need anything to sleep in?"

She shook her head, seeming to calm.

"Good night, Cody."

"Night," she grumbled, and was gone.

I walked to the door of the solarium, looking out the wall of windows, seeing the pitch black of night beyond.

* * *

I squeezed my eyes shut as I sat up in the bed, the burning sensation making me want to just flop right back down and go back to sleep.

Not a chance.

I had a big day ahead of me, and couldn’t miss it. Then I remembered my houseguest, and felt bad for a second as I thought about checking the house to make sure all was well. Instead, I headed toward the bathroom where I got the water started as I went to the bathroom, closing my eyes at the release. No matter how much or how little I drank before bed, I always seemed to have to pee a river the next morning.

Flushing, and the water at the right temperature, I threw my tee and underwear off, and climbed under the hot spray, a moan escaping my throat as the water chased away the early morning chill. As the water rushed over me, my hands smoothing my hair back, face raised to the spray, I thought about how I’d act with Cody. Hopefully in the light of day she’d relax a little, and realize that I was not the enemy, and in fact thought she deserved a chance.

* * *

"Cody," I looked at the girl, but saw no movement. She was laying on her side, the covers half on the floor, half on her, her hair covering half her face. "Cody," I reached out, putting my hand on her shoulder, gently nudging her. I got a groan. Glancing at the clock on the dresser, I saw that though I would not be missing a day of work, I’d certainly be late for one.

I took a step back as she turned over onto her back with a moan, a hand coming up to rub her eye when she shot up.

"Ah, shit!" This, of course, caused me to back up further, my hand on my heart as I silently willed it back into place. The girl felt her face, feeling the bumps of her war wounds, forgotten after a night of dreams.

"Well, I guess that what happens when you try and rub a black eye." Her eyes fluttered open, and she looked at me, her hand still on her face. She looked around the room, trying to get her bearing, then closed them.

"Yeah, guess so."

"Listen, I have to go to work. Feel free to sleep, or hang, or whatever it is you said you do." She looked at me again.

"You have to go to work after last night?" I nodded. "Dude, you got to bed at like three in the morning."

"It’s called being an adult, Cody."

"No, more like being an old person."

"I’m only 25."

"There’s a difference?" she muttered as she threw the covers off her. "Just let me get dressed, and I’ll be out of here."

"It’s okay, Cody, really." I headed toward the door, ready to leave and give her some privacy.

"No, I’ve been enough of a burden. Two minutes."

"Alright, and you’re not a burden." A smirk was her only reply as I turned to leave. I headed downstairs to make some coffee. I didn’t know if she drank it, but I knew I certainly needed some.

The pot barely beginning to brew when, true to her word, Cody appeared around the corner. I had to fight the smile as she definitely looked worse for wear. Maybe she’d learn the lesson instead.

"Do you drink coffee?" I asked, indicating the pot that would be finished in about three minutes. She nodded. "I have cream in the fridge, and sugar in the lazy Susan. She shook her head.


"Brave soul. Grab a cup for us both off that tree, will you?" She turned to see it on the cabinet next to the stove, and grabbed two, looking at them before she handed me one. "Hungry?" She shook her head. I had the feeling that she wasn’t telling me the truth, but I didn’t have time to sit here and get it out of her. As it was, I should have been at work nine minutes ago. What the hell was I going to tell Rhonda?

I pulled up in front of the Thomlin house, and turned to Cody who already had her hand on the handle to open the door, and escape what I’m sure she saw as prison. She stopped and turned to me.

"So, what makes you think that I’ll actually tell my mom?"

Struck by the question, I just looked at her for a moment.

"Because I trust you to." She looked at me for a moment longer, then was gone.

* * *

"So, what about him?" I looked where Keith pointed, and sucked my bottom lip in to chew on it as I pondered for a moment.

"Eh, maybe a seven. Seven-and-a-half at best."

"Well, a seven is all that’s needed, right?" I looked at him, then poked him in the ribs.

"No, you’re not going to sleep with him, Keith." He chuckled, then put his arm around me, enjoying our game as we waited in line at the theater.

"Okay, and him?"

"You don’t like redheads."

"Yeah, but his butt alone is at least a nine."

"Well, I don’t judge guys on their butts for quite the same reason that you do, so I’ll have to pass." Keith brought out his wallet and paid for our tickets, then we headed over to the snack stand. It had always been our custom that he’d pay for admission, and I paid for popcorn. Somewhere I think I got gypped in this deal.

"You know what’s not fair in our game?" he asked as he contemplated the menu board.

"What’s that?"

"We can’t rate girls."

"Why not?" I asked, also trying to decide what I wanted. He looked at me.

"What do you mean, why not? I’m the only one who has a fence post up my ass."

"Yeah, but it doesn’t mean I can’t rate them just because I don’t want to sleep with them." He smiled.

"Really? We can go both ways?"

"Just for you, my dear, Keith, I will be a bi-rater."

"You, sister, rock." He squeezed me in a one-armed hug, and we walked up to the counter to order. As we walked toward the theater with our armload of munchies, Keith turned to me.

"Why weren’t you at work Wednesday?" I looked at him, confused.

"I was there."

"Really? I tried to call to take you to lunch, but you didn’t answer your phone or call me back." We found our seats, and sat down, Keith immediately digging into the hot, buttery popcorn.

"Oh, I went home to nap."


"Yeah. Long story." I didn’t feel it was right to go into details, and betray Cody. It wasn’t my mistake to tell. "I had something to do late Tuesday night, and was exhausted Wednesday."

"Everything okay?" I could tell he wondered why I was being so vague.

"I can’t really talk about it, Keith. I wouldn’t feel right. It involved one of Rhonda’s daughters."

"And the saga continues."

"Yeah, something like that."

The lights went out and I laid my head on Keith’s shoulder. One great thing about him was that he enjoyed chick flicks as much as I do.

* * *

I sat at my desk, looking over the new ad campaign for a local business that sold mufflers and other car parts. I scratched my head as I brought out my red pencil, ready to start marking.

"Hey, sunshine." I glanced up, seeing dark, smiling eyes looking at me over the top of my cubicle.

"Hey, Kristine. What’s up?"

"What the hell is wrong with Rhonda today? She’s firing mad! And I do mean firing; Bitts just lost his job."

"Well, it’s about damn time. The guy was an ass." I circled a misspelling that I just happened to glance at.

"Maybe you should go talk to her. You seem to be the Rhonda fixer."

"Yeah, whatever." I tossed the pencil onto the desk top, and stood. I glanced over down the main aisle that ended in the closed door that was Ron’s office. "Okay, wish me luck."

I headed out to the aisle, nosy people glancing at me over the top of their own work stations. I smiled at a few, and glared at others. I felt like I worked in a hen house sometimes.

Raising a hand, I knocked on Rhonda’s door with two sharp raps.

"Yes?" came from the other side. I turned the knob, and walked in, closing the door behind me, lest the busy bodies learn even more than was already none of their business.

My boss and friend looked up, glasses perched on her nose. I smiled.

"Hey, Ron. What’s happening?"

"What do you mean?" She turned away from the computer she’d been typing on, and removed the glasses.

"Well, I hear there was some bloodshed this morning, and just making sure none of it was yours." She smiled, shaking her head and sitting back in her chair.

"Sit. Nope, just some house cleaning." I looked at her, and could see she’d either been crying or hadn’t had much sleep the night before. I was shooting for the latter.

"Are you okay?" I asked, my voice quiet, letting her know that I was in friend mode now. She shook her head, pushing some bangs out of her eyes.

"Not really, no."

"What happened?" I was concerned now.

"That kid of mine." She tossed the glasses that she’d been playing with onto the desk blotter, and picked at some lint on the sleeve of her suit jacket. "She was arrested a week ago, apparently."

I felt my stomach clench. Was I to follow Bitts?


"Yes. She said some girl attacked her, which I don’t know if I believe for a minute. They were probably drinking, knowing that crowd she hangs out with." I wasn’t sure what to say, not sure what Cody had told her mother, and I really didn’t want to sit here and lie to my friend. "I guess some friend of hers bailed her ass out of jail." She sat forward, pointing a pen at me. "I tell you, Brooklyn, had I known, her ass would have rotted in that damn jail cell. Teach her a lesson." She sat back again, dropping the pen. I could tell she was about ready to explode, but was just keeping her cool while at work.

I thought back to that night, and what I had told Cody about telling her mother. I had to admit, I was genuinely surprised that she had followed through with it.

"She has to go to court in a few weeks to clear all this up." She pulled me from my thoughts.

"Really? Will you go with her?"

"Hell, no! I am not about to support this shit." She stood and walked to the window behind her desk. "Goddamn it, Cody," she said, her hands on her hips. She sighed. "I don’t know what to do with her, Brooklyn. She won’t stay with school, has no job, nor any prospects for a job." She turned back to me, her eyes filled with pain. "I honestly don’t know what to do with her."

"Maybe it’s not your place to do anything, Ron. She is an adult."

"Yes, but she’s living under my roof. What kind of example does this show for Jake?"

"Well, to be honest, I think you and Tom will give him most of that. Cody is young and stupid, Ron. Yeah, it sounds like she messed up,"


"But, I wouldn’t give up on her yet. She’s got a big shadow to try and duck out of." She turned to me, brows drawn in confusion.

"What do you mean?"

Well, look at Jodi. She’s the quintessential daughter – responsible, dutiful and ambitious. That’s not an easy course to follow for someone who maybe is a late bloomer."

Rhonda looked at me for a moment, as though she were either contemplating me or what I had said. I really hoped she had heard me, but I doubted it.

"I’m going to get back to work." I walked over to her and hugged her. "Keep your heart rate down, Ron. Won’t do you any good to lose it now." I smiled at her, and she smiled weakly back.

When I got back to my desk, I picked up the phone, and dialed seven familiar numbers.

"The Palette, this is Keith speaking."

"Hey, hon, it’s me."

"Hi, me. How are you?"

"Great. Hey, were you still looking for an assistant?"

"Well, of course. Especially now. We’re swamped."

"Well, I have a candidate for you. Interested?"

"Sure, but who is it?"

"Cody Thomlin."

"Wait, this is the girl who can’t stay out of trouble, right?"

"Come on, Keith. Give the kid a chance." He was quiet for a moment, and I could hear him playing with a pencil, just as he always did while on the phone.

"I have some very expensive stuff in here, Brooklyn."

"I know. I really don’t think that will be an issue, Keith."

"How do you know? I really need someone I can trust, not some disturbed kid."

"Come on, now you’re getting dramatic. You sound like she just got out of the loony bin last Tuesday. Just talk to her."

"You tell her to be here by noon Thursday, and we’ll see what happens, you got me?" A huge grin spread across my face.

"You’re a doll, sweetie. Thank you. See you tomorrow for lunch?"

"Yep... I’ll be there."

* * *

The phone rang twice when it was picked up.


"Hey, Ron. Is Cody there?" My boss paused for a moment.

"You want to talk to Cody?"


"Oh, okay." I heard her put the phone down, and called out her daughter’s name. Within a few seconds, I heard a click, and a hello.

"Hi, Cody. This is Brooklyn Fletcher." She was silent for a moment. "I work with your mom,"

"I know who you are."

"Okay, that’s a good start. Well, I hope you don’t mind, but I heard you were looking for a job, so I called a friend of mine who owns an art gallery, and is looking for an assistant. I have no idea what it pays, but it’s got to be better than your wages now, huh?" She snorted.


"Have you ever heard of the Palate’s Palette Art Gallery?"

"On Owens, yeah I know it."

"Good." I wound the phone cord around my fingers. Talking with this girl was like pulling hen’s teeth. "So, you manage to get there by noon Thursday, and I’d bet you’ve got a job."

"Yeah, maybe," she said, her voice flat, totally non-committal.

"Okay, well, anyway, I better get going."

"Okay. Later." The phone was hung up, and I stared at my handset, shook my head, and hung it up.

* * *

I chewed on my pencil as I read over the ad I had just been given, flipping it around in my fingers so the tip was on the page, and marked an error.

Ring, ring, ring,

"Brooklyn Fletcher,"

"Who is this power-house you sent over to me?" I smiled, recognizing Keith’s voice. "What time did you tell her to come to the gallery?"

"By noon, why?"

"She was waiting outside when I got here this morning at ten till eight."

I grinned from ear to ear. "So you gave her the job?"

"I’d be stupid not to. She’s in the back right now organizing supplies. She seems very quiet, and quite willing to take instruction. I’m not real sure what her mother is talking about."

"Who knows. Thank you so much, Keith. I really, really appreciate you giving her the chance."

"Any time, sweetie. You keep sending me workers like this, I’ll be able to retire and let them do all the work."

We hung up with a smile still on my face. Go you, Cody. I had done my good deed.

* * *

"Come on, kiddos, get everything cleaned up." I clapped my hands a few times to get everyone’s attention. My last class of the day began their duties to get the studio looking as it did when they got here, the small space filled with noise of laughter, children talking, and running water. I glanced over at the door and saw Jodi standing there, patiently waiting. I raised my hand, and she smiled.

It took a few minutes, but finally all my little budding artists were gone, and I could give her all my attention.

"How goes it with the world of the modern rug rat?" Jodi asked.

"It goes well. Some of these kids are actually amazing artists." I pointed toward a drying shelf where some real works of art were just about ready for me to fire. I turned back to Rhonda’s daughter. "So, are you back for another lesson?"

"Me? Oh, no. I think once was enough." She grinned.

"Well, I didn’t think you did so badly. Heck, I bet your work could have been displayed in a museum of modern art."

"Is that what you say to all the girls who’s work you can’t recognize what it’s supposed to be?"

"Well," I scratched my head, trying to think of what to say to that. "I guess you got me."

"Gee, thanks." She rolled her eyes, and I laughed.

"I’m just kidding. I thought you did well for your first attempt, and I don’t think you should stop."

"Well, I’m thinking I’ll stick with something that I know more about." She brought her purse up from her side, and reached inside. As she did, I took in her slightly more casual clothing; jeans, even with worn knees, and the ever-present button up shirt. Finally she brought her hand out, and opened it for me to see. Inside was a bracelet made from two pieces of woven leather thong with beads of glass and metal entwined and a small clasp at one end.

"Wow, Jodi. That’s beautiful." I took it from her hand, and looked at the intricate work braid work.

"I did that last night while I was reading my chapter for Monday’s test." She looked down at it, suddenly looking shy.

"You did this while reading? Just, whipped it out?" She nodded.


"Wow. I’m doubly impressed."

"Let’s see how it looks." She took it from me, and unclasped it, taking my wrist in hers. Oh, okay. Once it was in place, she connected it, and turned it so the clasp was facing down. "Very nice."

"Is this mine?" I looked up into her eyes, and she smiled, nodding.

"Of course. You let me make some sort of clay object, so I figured I’d make you something in my craft."

"That is so sweet. Thank you, Jodi." I reached for her, and gave her a small hug. "So you came all this way to give me this?"

"Well, that and to ask you if you were interested in grabbing some lunch." Jodi put her hand on her hip as she waited for my answer.

"Uh, sure. Luckily for you I don’t really have anything going on until later." The twin smiled and nodded.

"Wonderful. Are you finished here?" I nodded. "Then let’s go."

I followed Jodi out into the warm, early March afternoon. The sun was bright, and I actually had to dig my sunglasses out from my purse. Sliding them on, I turned to her.

"So, where are we off to?"

"Oh, I don’t know." She unlocked the door to her car, and we both got in. "I was thinking maybe 23rd Avenue. Catch some lunch and some light shopping?" She looked at me, her key poised to enter the ignition. "Do you like to shop?"

"Sure. Sounds great." To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t real huge on shopping, but it had been a while, so why not? Plus, she seemed so excited to have come all the way over here, so how could I refuse?

Lunch long gone, we walked down the street, each holding an ice cream cone as we peered into shop windows and commented on things we saw in the trendy shops. Jodi had made for an interesting lunch companion, amazing me again and again with some of the things she knew or at least was familiar with. It was obvious that a great deal of her time was spent reading and keeping up on current and no-so-current events.

"So, yes. I’d say I’d vote for Bush again if he ran," she said, finishing our conversation about the Iraqi situation.

"Would you consider yourself a conservative?" I asked, crunching the rest of my cone, and tossing the paper that had been around it in a trash can we passed. She thought for a moment, then nodded.

"I guess so. I don’t really like to label myself in the way of politics, but if it were between a liberal or a conservative, I’d definitely put myself in the conservative camp. You?"

I shook my head. "Nope. I never answer questions about politics. It’s not safe, and I’ve learned that lesson too many times, and have too many acquaintances that way."

"Oh, come on. That’s not fair." She pushed me good-naturedly. I still refused.

"Let’s just change the subject, how’s that?"

"Alright, alright. What do you think of those?" She headed toward a store that was having a sidewalk sale. She grabbed a pair of pants that hung on a rack; simple khakis with a pleated front.

"They’re alright, I guess. Do you like them?"

"I’m thinking so." She examined them, then looked at the size, scrunching up her nose. "Eh, no. Not my size." Hanging them back up, she began to walk again.

"Do you want to ask if they have your size?" I asked, looking back toward the shop. She shook her head.

"No. In truth, I have several pairs of those. Don’t really need another. Do you have something that you’re practically addicted to buying?" She tossed the napkins she had in her hand from the ice cream shop into a trash can, and wiped her hands on the sides of her jeans. I shook my head.

"Nope. I’m actually quite a frugal shopper."

"Really?" I nodded.

"Sad, isn’t it?"

"Well, yes, but smart, as well." We walked on a little further, mostly in silence. I didn’t understand Jodi, often times seeming to get lost in her own world of thought, growing quiet for a few minutes, then starting to babble on about something. Very different. It was funny, she almost seemed a mix of Rhonda and Cody.

"Well, Jodi, I have enjoyed myself." I said as we reached her car that was parked along the street. She turned to me and smiled as she turned the car on.

"So have I. Thanks for coming out with me today."

"You’re very welcome. Thank you for the invite. It was nice to get out on a beautiful Saturday afternoon."

"I agree. With my busy schedule, I’m so rarely able to get away. Today was definitely a nice change."

She dropped me off at the studio, and I drove myself home.

Again my mind was taken to the twins, and connecting the dots of how Jodi and Cody were possibly related, let alone twins, though fraternal. Cody’s eyes, so startling, and basically opposite of anyone in the family, unique like her. Then you had Jodi’s mind, an amazing organ that never seemed to stop working. She questioned everything, and everyone, trying to understand why everything was why it was. I found that charming, though tiring at times. It was almost like being with a child in the "why" stage. Then there was Rhonda, intelligent, kind, yet she’d work your butt off, but give you the greatest compliment for a day’s work well done.

I had no idea how Tom, who was quiet, yet fun, managed to keep up with all these incredibly diverse women in his life. No wonder he and Jake were so close; someone he could actually relate to.

* * *

Keith rolled off me, his body slick with sweat from the attempt. He rolled onto his back, his shoulder touching mine. I looked over at him, his profile nearly disappearing in the darkness of the bedroom.

"It’s okay, baby," I said, my voice quiet. I wasn’t sure how he was going to react this time.

"I’m really sorry, Brooklyn," he said, his voice just as quiet. "I have no idea what happened. I guess I’ve just been a little stressed and tired."

I turned over onto my side, cuddling up beside him, my head on his shoulder. "You honestly don’t have to explain, Keith. I’m not mad." Quite the contrary, actually. I just, well, just wasn’t in the mood.

"Are you sure?"

"Of course! How could I possibly be mad?" I began to trace the small amount of hair on his chest with my finger.

"Well, the teasing and kissing earlier," his voice trailed off.

"And it happens. I’m not worried. What do you say we get some sleep?" He looked at me, a smile on his face, and nodded.

"Okay. Thanks, Brooklyn."

"For what?" He shrugged.

"Just for being you. For being so sweet." He kissed the top of my head and pulled me a little closer to him.

"Well, you know, not everyone can be so perfect." He chuckled.

"Gosh, it must be exhausting."

"You have no idea."

* * *

I always loved the smell of the gallery, the paintings, and the smell of all the wood fixtures. Just an overall pleasing scent.

As I made my way through the exhibits, looking for Keith as I did, I noticed a couple standing in front of a beautiful painting that I recognized as belonging to Fernando George, a local painter and sculptor. The couple listened intently as someone raved about the color used, and the lines of the work. I was stunned to see that person was Cody.

I couldn’t really hear what she said, but it was obvious she was very excited about what she was saying, her hands and arms waving through the air, pointing at the piece of art, or at a nearby painting, then back to the one at hand. The man was nodding, rubbing his chin with his fingers, the wife was looking intently at the painting, almost as if she were trying to see each brush stroke.

My eyes turned back to Cody. She wore a pair of black cargo pants and a white t-shirt, her black Vans dirty and smudged from too many skateboarding trips. Lucky for her, many art collectors would see her as expressing herself.

Finally the man took Cody’s hand, and shook it, causing a huge grin to spread across the girl’s face. She held up a finger to them, then turned to walk to the back of the gallery. As she did, her eyes fell on me, and she stared for a brief moment before disappearing behind the door to the back.

I took Keith’s cell out of my pocket, which he forgot at my place last night. I knew he would never be able to make it a day without it. I had had it with me at the office, and it had already rung three times, so I was dropping it off on my lunch break.

"Hey, you." I looked up to see him walking out of the back room, his eyes and smile on me. "Be right with you." I nodded, watching him head over to the couple. I saw Cody walk out from the back room and head over to me.

"Hi there," I said, a big smile on my face. She nodded at me.

"Keith said I should say hello." She stuck her hands in her pockets.

"Ah. Well, I’m glad you could take the time." I grinned, and she did, too.

"So, like, aren’t you supposed to be at work or something?"

"Well, my jailer actually gives me a lunch hour unlike this dictator here." I nodded toward Keith, then winked at the girl. She shrugged.

"I don’t bother."

"Why not?"

"Don’t care."

"Oh. So, you’re quite the salesman, huh?" I asked, watching Keith carefully take the painting off the wall, and take it behind the counter to wrap it up.

"Eh," she said, looking where my eyes had gone. "They were easy marks. That guy doesn’t know shit about art." She turned back to me.

"And you do?" She shrugged.

"I know enough."

"Apparently. Nice work."

"Yeah, thanks."

"Cody, would you finish the sale, please?" Keith asked, coming up to us. She nodded, and headed behind the counter where the couple was waiting, the guy busy writing out his check. I turned my attention to my boyfriend.

"Here you go, sir."

"Oh, thank you. You’re a doll." He took the cell phone from me, and leaned in to kiss me on the cheek.

"So it looks like she’s doing well."

"Oh, yeah. That’s the third painting she’s sold this week, and by far the largest sale. That man just shelled out three thousand dollars." He said, clapping his hands together. "This will also be Cody’s first commission."

"What?" We both turned to see her walking up behind us.

"Yes, ma’am," He gave her a one-armed hug, which to my amazement, she actually allowed. "You just made three hundred bucks. How do you feel about that?" She grinned, nodding her head.

"Nice. I can handle that."

"Anything over a thousand dollars, you get ten percent." She held her hand up to him, and he promptly slapped it. "Nice going, chief."

"Eh, you’re just jealous," she said, lightly punching him on the arm. I watched this, stunned. Never in a million years did I think this punk girl and Keith would get along so well. He had little to no patience for kids, and from what I’d heard and seen, Cody was definitely one of those.


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