Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chapter One

Dawn pulled her broken down, green Ford into the parking space in front of a big Victorian house. After turning off the engine, she turned to get her bags. The last day of school was always interesting. As much as she loved teaching, Dawn was looking forward to a nice quiet summer vacation. Getting out of the car, she put her purse on her shoulder and turned back to muscle the box out of the back seat. The front door of the house opened and someone started coming down the sidewalk at a trot.

"Dawn!" Claudia yelled almost on top of Dawn before she could react. "I missed you so much!"

After a quick hug, Dawn finally got a chance to ask. "How did you get here?"

They hadn't seen each other since Claudia and Austin's wedding six months ago. Claudia had been adjusting to married life and Dawn had been busy with her teaching.

"We brought everybody," Claudia bubbled happily. "Kristy's brother and his wife bought a house up in Maine. They need help fixing it up as a Bed & Breakfast. Kristy invited all us to come along." She ignored Dawn's questioning look. "Liam and Scott are coming too. Adem even wants to pay us."

"How am I going to fit you all in my apartment? I only have two rooms and a bed and bath."

"We girls get the bedroom and we can stick the boys in the living room or the bathroom." Claudia grabbed a bag and headed for the door. "Come on. Liam is going to be so glad to see you."

Picking up the box Dawn followed her into the house.


As soon as Dawn walked into her apartment, she was mobbed. Kristy was talking excitedly about their trip, Austin was asking how she was doing, Scott was taking the box from her, and Claudia was trying to ask her where she should put the bag. Liam was nowhere to be seen.

After they got Kristy calmed down and everything from the car onto the couch, Liam appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. "Dinner is served," he announced.

They all filed into the kitchen, except Dawn. She didn't make it to the door before Liam was blocking her way. "I am going to have to be paid for this dinner, you know." With that he gave her a hug and said, "It is great to see you."

"It is great to see you too." Dawn replied with a sweet smile. "I'm starved. You wouldn't believe how much energy kids can have."

They squeezed into the kitchen to get some spaghetti before it disappeared.

"How are the newlyweds doing?" Dawn asked as she squeezed between Scott and Liam at the table.

All conversation stopped as everyone suddenly became very interested in their dinners.

"Okay." Dawn said putting down her fork and looking around the table. "What is wrong?" Dawn's gaze settled on Claudia.

"They disagree about where they are going to live." Everyone's gaze shifted to Scott.

"You promised!" Kristy protested.

"There's no need to fight." Liam said to his food. After an uneasy silence, in which Kristy glared at Scott and Claudia pushed her food around her plate, Liam said, "We can discuss this later."

"Yeah," Scott agreed and changed the topic by asking Dawn, "When does school end?"

"Today was the last day." Dawn looked across the table at Claudia. "Tell me again, why are you guys here?"

Claudia looked up at her with a smile. "We are going to work on Kristy's brother's house in Maine."

Kristy picked up it up. "We were told to bring anyone interested in helping. I was talking to Claudia and she suggested that we make a group thing out of it. Adem and Jessi can use all the help they can get. Austin and Claudia flew in from Colorado. Scott drove over, and we met Liam in Pennsylvania right after his graduation. You were next on our list so we drove up here and dropped in."

"We leave for Maine as soon as you can go." Claudia's eyes shone with excitement.

"I thought you were going to Italy," Dawn commented, a bit puzzled.

"No," Austin said, "That is where we are going for our honeymoon in the fall."

Then Kristy popped the question that saw on all of their minds. "So, are you coming?"

Dawn tried to act indecisive, but it didn't work.

"She's coming." Liam announced. "I can tell by the look in her eyes."

Kristy cheered before Dawn interrupted the celebration. "I am going to have to pack. How long are we going to be there?"

"Two months." Claudia answered before Scott interrupted to ask where Dawn kept her extra blankets. Beds were made and the chaos of settling down for the night began.


Silence settled over the apartment at about midnight. The clean apartment was now covered with things moved to make room for the beds.

Liam fell asleep first. He had curled up on the couch after the first round of Balderdash and had gone out like a light. Scott explained that finals had really done him in. Scott and Austin had to make do with the floor because Dawn wouldn't let them wake Liam up. The girls were the last asleep, since they talked until around 12:30 A.M.


Dawn woke up at 3:00 A.M. After staring at the ceiling for a few minutes she got up to see if the coffee pot had been turned off.
Stepping over Claudia's head she crept into the living room. The scene before her was disarray. Scott was tightly rolled up in his blanket with nothing showing, except his feet. Austin was sprawled out on the floor, his legs going in opposite directions. Liam lay on the couch. He had kicked off his covers and stretched his legs off the end. His hair stood on end. In order for her to get to the kitchen she had to step over Scott's bare feet, around Austin's hand, and over Liam's quilt.

"Mind handing me my quilt?"

Dawn jumped and looked at Liam. "What are you doing awake at this hour?" She hissed at him.

"Bugging you," he said smiling up at her without opening his eyes. As she picked up the quilt, he sat up and made room for her on the couch. When she handed him the quilt, he pulled her down beside him. "Besides, I haven't gotten to talk to you."


Claudia awoke to the smell of hash browns and pancakes. The smell almost made up for waking up at this outrageous hour. Rolling over she slammed the snooze button on the alarm.

"Morning, sleepy head," Dawn greeted her as Claudia pulled the covers higher.

"Who set the alarm clock?" She growled. "This is a vacation and that means no schedule."

"We have to leave at ten," Dawn began, "if we are going to make it to Maine by nightfall."

Claudia groaned. "You are always scheduling things."

"Liam figured this one out." Dawn pointed out with a smile. "I just keep everyone on time and semi-cheerful." Smiling she tossed a pillow at Claudia. "Besides, you always look so lovely in the morning."

Claudia reacted by launching a pillow at Dawn's bent head. Before long it was a full fledged pillow fight. Scott came in to announce breakfast and got hit in the head. Kristy was already jumping on one of the twin beds and hitting everyone who came within reach.

Dawn tried to escape out the door, but Claudia just followed her. Calling for help she ran across the room and hid behind the couch. Austin, who had been cleaning up the beds, intercepted Claudia's feet when she tripped over him and landed on the couch. Meanwhile Dawn had snuck around the couch and was making a getaway through the kitchen door. Liam was the only thing between her and the kitchen. Just then Claudia got loose and dove for Dawn, catching Dawn's heel Claudia hit the rug. Dawn flew into Liam who just barely caught his balance.

Austin helped Claudia to her feet, while Liam and Dawn untangled themselves.

"One of these days someone is going to get hurt." Kristy said as she tossed her last pillow at Scott who wasn't paying any attention.

"Austin, you had better turn over those pancakes before they burn." Liam held out the spatula towards Austin.


After an hour of chaos, they were packed, sort of. They had decided that Scott's van would work better than Dawn's old Ford. Austin was assigned loading duties and Scott helped.

After a long debate over who was going to drive they set off with Scott in the driver's seat and Kristy next to him with the map and directions. Claudia took the back most bench by lying down and complaining loudly about how unreal the hour was. Austin, Liam, Dawn settled down to a game of license plate ABCs.

"What highway is this?" Claudia asked an hour later as she popped her head over the back of the seat.

"I have no idea." Dawn answered over her shoulder.

"Route 1," Liam offered without breaking off his conversation with Austin. They had been discussing the recent fraud committed by a competitor in Austin's industry. "Wouldn't that loss effect the companies EPS?"

"The amazing thing is that the income statement and balance sheet do not reflect their losses. Gibson Architects Inc. has picked up three of their contracts mid-construction. Those were huge contracts too."

"Have you any idea what they are talking about?" Claudia asked Dawn.

Dawn shook her head with a smile. "What is scary is that Austin understands it as well as Liam," she observed.

"Ack!" Claudia dived back into her pillow.

"What?" Austin broke off mid sentence. Liam turned to meet Dawn's mischievous grin.

"What did you say?" Liam demanded. Dawn just kept grinning and shook her head.

"What did you tell my wife?" Austin playfully glared at her over Liam's shoulder.

"Not telling." Dawn turned around and began to ignore them.

It did not work. Liam poked her ribs to which... "Aaaaaaahhh!"

"Hey what is going on back there?" Scott yelled from the front just as Dawn dived over the seat and onto Claudia. Mass hysteria ensued.

"Do I have to pull this car over?" Scott was yelling quite loudly now, because both girls were screaming as the guys pursued them. Austin managed to drag Claudia over the seat and into the one Liam had just vacated. Liam slipped into the back seat so he could more safely tackle Dawn, who was still screaming.

"He is going to pull over if you don't stop." Liam snaked an arm around Dawn's waist and pulled her abruptly in to the seat next to him. She stopped her noise with a gulp.

"Much better," Scott commented from the front seat. Over his shoulder to Kristy, he added. "Now if they will just behave for another hour, we can let them loose on your brother and his wife."

Kristy just shook her head.

By some miracle, the remaining trip passed in relative quiet. At least until their destination came into view.

"Hey everybody," Kristy pointed out the window. "There it is." They had been riding through woodland for the last half hour. Now just rising slightly above the trees about a half mile from the road, a black-brown roof could be seen. As the van rounded a curve, a massive stone archway announced a break in the four foot stone wall lining the road. "Turn here," Kristy instructed.

Obediently Scott turned right onto a steep winding driveway wide enough for two cars to pass easily. As the van began to labor its way up the slope, Austin said, "I am glad we are not staying until the winter. This driveway would be murder to shovel."

"As it is, it looks like it needs repaving," Liam commented as the van hit a series of pot holes. "By the way, Kristy, how is your brother financing this venture?"

"His last season box office hit is paying for most of it." Kristy was interrupted when Dawn spotted the house.

"Oh, it is gorgeous!" Dawn exclaimed.

Claudia looked at her with surprise and swung around to take a second look. "It's a dump," she observed. "It looks awful."

"Yeah," Dawn replied, "but it has a ton of potential. Kristy, why didn't you tell me it was so big?"

"Ten bedrooms, not counting the living space for the owners," Kristy turned around in her seat with a puzzled look on her face. "I was positive, I wrote you about it."

"No," Dawn turned so she could keep looking as they rounded the last turn in the drive. "I definitely would not have forgotten this."

"So," Liam asked as she gawked. "Is it the size, or style that you like?"

"The size," Dawn turned to face him. "Why?"

"Just wondering?" Liam replied and busied himself with hauling out his bags.

As soon as the van came to a halt in the parking lot to the left of the house, a man appeared at the front door of the house and immediately headed down the drive to greet them. Before even reaching them, he called, "Kristy!"

Kristy promptly dropped the bag she had just pulled out of the van and ran to him. She was greeted with a big hug.

"That better be Adem." Scott muttered to Liam as they continued to pull luggage out of the van.

Liam glanced up at him in surprise. "You haven't met her family yet?"

"I've met her family, but not Adem." Scott explained as he swung Claudia's duffel bag onto his shoulder. "He was off in the Congo last Easter shooting an action flick. I don't remember the name. Anyway, he couldn't make the family get together." Turning he grabbed the last bag and dropped it to the ground.

Their greeter looked the part of Kristy's twin brother. He had the same brown hair just a shade darker than hers. Their eyes were the same rich blue and crinkled the same way when they smiled. Otherwise, he was almost opposite. Kristy was slim and light and this guy was big and built like a rock, everything about him said solid.

"Hey everybody!" Kristy approached with the stranger's arm around her shoulders. "I want you to meet my brother. Adem, these are my friends." She pointed them out "Claudia and Austin, they got married this spring." Austin caught his bride's hand with a glint of possessive pride in his eye. "Dawn, my maid of honor, and her fiancé, Liam, their getting married soon, I think. And," Kristy dragged her companion forward as she finished, "My fiancé, Scott."

Scott was awarded a warm smile. "I am pleased to finally meet the famous Scott Illic." Scott dropped Claudia's bag so he could shake the hand Adem offered. "She has not ceased talking about you since your engagement."

"I am glad to hear it." Scott returned Adem's grin. He was warming up to the guy already.

"Just follow me," Adem grabbed the nearest suitcase and turned in the direction of the house. "I'll show you where you can park your stuff and then I will give you a tour."

Everyone filled their arms with luggage and rushed to catch up with Adem. That is everyone except Claudia and Austin.

"I don't feel so good," Claudia protested.

"What hurts?" Austin asked in a concerned tone. He was picking through the remaining suitcases. "Is your lunch not settling well?" Claudia nodded rubbing her stomach. Selecting the three heaviest, he suggested, "Maybe you are just car sick."

Claudia followed his lead and picked up a pillow and a sleeping bag. "Maybe I will feel okay in a few minutes." Together they headed toward the house.

No comments: