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Home > Making Faces(7)

Making Faces(7)
Author: Amy Harmon

“Son?” Elliott's voice was loud enough for Mike Sheen to hear it through the phone, and his heart seized, afraid of the words that hadn't been spoken. “She's okay, Brosey. She's okay. She's coming here.”

Ambrose tried to speak, to thank his dad for the welcome news, but was unable to reply. Rising to his feet, he handed his phone to his coach. Then, overcome, he walked several steps and sat down once more. Mike Sheen told Elliot they were on their way to the house, snapped the phone shut, and put his arm around the shaking shoulders of his star wrestler. There were no tears, but Ambrose shook like he was overcome with fever, like he'd been stricken with palsy, and Mike Sheen worried for a second that the emotion and stress of the day had made him genuinely sick. After a time, the manic shivering eased, and together they left the room, flipping off the lights behind them and closing the door on an agonizing afternoon, grateful that on a day of unprecedented tragedy, they had been granted a reprieve.

“My dad's worried about Ambrose,” Bailey said. “He says he seems different, and he's distracted. I've noticed that even though he works as hard as he always has in practice, something's off.”

“Wrestling season only started two weeks ago.” Fern defended Ambrose even though she didn't need to. Ambrose had no bigger fan than Bailey Sheen.

“But September 11th was two months ago, Fern. And he's still not over it.”

Fern looked up at the grey-streaked sky hanging heavily above their heads, tumultuous with the predicted storm. The clouds were churning, and the winds had just started to kick up. It was coming.

“None of us are, Bailey. And I don't think we ever will be.”

3: Create A Disguise

Fern wrinkled her nose at the childish missive and looked at Rita's hopeful face. Fern was not the only one who had noticed Ambrose. Maybe because he was so involved with wrestling, constantly traveling and practicing with very little downtime, he hadn't had many girlfriends. His unavailability made him an even hotter commodity, and Rita had decided she was going after him. She showed Fern the note she had written for him, complete with pink paper, hearts, and lots of perfume.

“Um, this is fine, Rita. But don't you want to be original?”

Rita shrugged and looked confused. “I just want him to like me.”

“But you wrote him a note because you want to get his attention, right?”

Rita nodded emphatically. Fern looked at Rita's angelic face, the way her long blonde hair swung around slim shoulders and perfect br**sts and felt a pang of despair. She was pretty sure Rita already had Ambrose's attention.

“She's such a beautiful child.”

Fern heard her mother speaking from the kitchen, talking to Aunt Angie who sat by the screen door watching Bailey and Rita sitting in the swings in Fern's backyard. Fern needed to use the bathroom, but had come in through the garage instead of the screen door so she could check on the turtle she and Bailey had captured by the creek that morning. He was in a box filled with leaves and everything else a turtle could ever want. He hadn't moved and Fern wondered if maybe they had made a mistake to take him from his home.

“She almost doesn't look real.” Fern's mother shook her head, pulling Fern's attention from the turtle. “Those bright blue eyes and those perfect doll features.”

“And that hair! It's white from root to tip. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it,” Angie said. “And yet she's brown as can be. She's got that rare combination of white hair and golden skin.”

Fern stood awkwardly in the hallway, listening to the two women talk about Rita, knowing that her mother and aunt thought she was still in the backyard. Rita had moved to Hannah Lake that summer with her mother, and Rachel Taylor, a pastor's wife to her core, was the first to welcome the young mother and her ten-year-old daughter. Before long, she was arranging lunch dates and inviting Rita to come play with Fern. Fern liked Rita. She was sweet and happy and willing to do whatever Fern was doing. She didn't have a very good imagination, but Fern had enough for both of them.

“I think Bailey's smitten.” Angie laughed. “He hasn't blinked since he laid eyes on her. It's funny how kids are drawn to beauty just like the rest of us. Before you know it, he's going to start demonstrating his wrestling skills and I'm going to have to find a way to distract him, bless his heart. He begged Mike to let him participate in the wrestling camp again. Every year it's the same thing. He begs, he cries, and we have to try to explain why he can't.”

There was silence in the kitchen as Angie seemed lost in her thoughts and Rachel prepared sandwiches for the kids, unable to protect Angie from the realities of Bailey's disease.

“Fern seems to like Rita, doesn't she?” Angie changed the subject with a sigh but her eyes stayed fixed on her son swinging back and forth, talking non-stop to the lovely little blonde beside him. “It's good for her to have a girlfriend. She spends all her time with Bailey, but she's going to need a girlfriend as she gets older.”

It was Rachel's turn to sigh. “Poor Fernie.”

Fern had turned to walk back down the hall toward the restroom but stopped abruptly. Poor Fernie? She wondered with a jolt if she had some disease, a disease like Bailey's that her mother hadn't told her about. “Poor Fernie” sounded serious. She listened intently.

“She's not pretty the way that Rita is. Her teeth are going to need some major work, but she's still so small and she hasn't lost most of her baby teeth. Maybe when all her permanent teeth grow in it won't be as bad. At the rate she's growing, she's going to be in braces when she's twenty-five.” Fern's mother laughed. “I wondered if she would be jealous of Rita. But so far, she seems unaware of their physical differences.”

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