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Chapter Twenty Six

"I know it's not what I promised, but if you could at least muck out the stalls..."

"Addy, don't worry," I said. "I don't mind. Really." I took her hand. "I'm so happy you're okay."

She smiled. The stress lines that had been evident on her face since I had come had disappeared. "It's a miracle. I mean, I would have loved this child regardless, but Daniel was right. Kevin and I aren't exactly young. I didn't want to leave a burden on either boy."

"I don't think they would have ever considered her a burden," I said softly. "There was just a lot of emotions that night."

Addy slid her hands to her stomach. "I know, but I've never been able to stop worrying about everything. Everything ahs to be my problem."

My eyes widened in surprise. "I know exactly what you mean."

She nodded. "I know. You know Al, you remind me a lot of myself. Except, I have to admit that I was a little more reckless at your age."

"I'm...reckless," I said awkwardly. She laughed.

"You're not going to be reckless if you work all the time."

"I have a day off every week," I argued.

"And what do you usually do on your day off?"

"Well, once I went to visit the teens at the center. The other times Brenna's wanted me to play with her. Or Shel--"

"Exactly." I shrugged. "I'm hopeless," I said with a laugh."

"Hey Addy, Kevin wanted me to come in and see if you wanted anything."

We both turned to look at Joe. His fake was smeared with dirt; he was sweating like a pig.

"No, dear. Thank you."

Joe nodded. "No prob."

We were quiet until we heard the sound of the front door. Addy sat up.

"It's so quiet now that Dan isn't here. Joe's attitude's gotten so much better."

"Addy, I know Joe's been nasty to Dan, but Dan seemed a lot angrier than usual," I said.

She nodded. "I know. He needed this trip. Things haven't been easy for him at school. It's not easy being a gay teen in a small town that still acts like it's 1950."

"Why don't you move?" I asked. Addy looked at me increduously.

"This is home."

"But if you moved to Lexington, you could have a huge ranch. You could get more horses and expand your program and--"

"I know it sounds stupid Al, but I can't leave this place."

She sighed, her head sinking into her pillow. "Bedrest is driving me nuts. They said a few days. Now it's two weeks."

"They're just being cautious," I said gently, noting how quickly she changed the topic.

"I know. I'm just not a patient person."

"It'll go by fast," I assured her. I stood up. "I better get to those stalls."

"Then enjoy your afternoon," she said.


"I insist. Go out to the lake and spend a few hours by yourself. Promise?"

I nodded. "Promise."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Three hours later, I slipped off my shoes and socks and enjoyed the feel of the grass on my feet as I headed towards the lake. Joe was still helping Kevin on the barn addition. My brother was going to go back to school a wall of solid muscle. I really didn't want to hear my friends talking about how good-lookin' he was.

It was gross.

The sky above me was a perfect shade of blue and all around me there was nothing but nature. As I walked, I thought about Addy. She was hard to understand. In the few times she had come to Florida, she had always had a hard edge while bantering with my dad. But here, I saw the same lack of self-identity that I had. It depressed me.

I didn't want to be the type of girl that was terrified to leave home. I liked to think that my trip to Kentucky proved it; but it didn't seem like enough.

My thoughts still lingered on my inability to be rebellious as I got to the edge of the pond. I knelt down and rolled up my jeans. The water was cool, but refreshing. I stretched forward, dunking my hands in the water and spreading my fingers out wide.


The lips were almost right on my ear. I screamed and almost lost my balance. An arm grabbed me, keeping me from falling in. I clutched my one working device. It would be another few days before Mason got my replacement.

"I'm sorry."

I looked up, feeling faint. I met a pair of dark blue eyes and a crooked smile.

The boy looked to be about sixteen or seventeen. He was wearing a pair of swimtrunks...nothing else. His chest was perfectly flat and defined. His hair was blonde and had a 'just-rolled-out-of-bed' look.

My mouth dropped open.

"I didn't mean to scare you," he continued. He had a southern drawl that reminded me exactly of Mason's little twang. I gawked. He ran a hand through his hair.

"I'm Adam. I think I saw you with your boyfriend at Wal-mart awhile back."

I closed my dry mouth, my mind working furiously. Wal-mart? Boyfriend? I blanched. I had completely forgotten the boy in the overalls.

"Brother!" I blurted. I felt mortified. Especially without one of my devices, I was sure my voice sounded horrible. Sure enough, he looked confused.

"Brother?" he said.

I allowed the saliva to return to my mouth and wet my tongue.

"That was my brother," I said. "Just my brother."

I expected him to get up. The deaf girl couldn't even talk right. Instead, Adam grinned. "Well, I'll be."

I didn't know what he was going to 'be,' but at that point he could have been anything. He didn't seem in a hurry to leave. I nodded.

"You going swimming?" he asked. He dipped his long, tan (muscular!) legs into the water and looked at me expectantly.

"Swimming?" I repeated. What was with me and one word phrases? I shook my head.

"Aw c'mon, it's a great day to swim."

"Can't," I said. Damnit. I swallowed again. "I can't."

"You can't swim?"

"No! I can swim, it's just..." I touched my device. "I have to take this off and then I can't hear and--"

"You don't need to hear to swim, do you?" he asked.


I watched as he slipped off the bank into the water. He emerged a few seconds later a few feet away.

"Come on in!"

"I-I don't have a swimsuit!" I called out as loudly as I dared.

"Who needs one?" he yelled back.

My hand clutched my shirt; my mouth fell open again.

Who needs one?