Authors: Melody Carlson
Tags: #General Fiction, #(¯`'•.¸//(*_*)\\¸.•'´¯)
J, YOU HAVE TO HELP ME
Eliza’s voice sounded urgent over the phone.
“What’s happening? Where are you?” DJ and the other Carter House girls had gone out to the school parking lot and noticed that Eliza’s car was gone. “We’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Mrs. Seibert sent me home. But not until she called my mother.”
“She told her the whole story and my mother totally freaked.”
“That’s kind of understandable, Eliza.”
“I suppose…but now Mom’s on her way over here. Well, not here-here, but to Louisville. I’m at the airport right now, waiting for a four o’clock flight so I can meet Mom at home—and hopefully smooth this thing out.”
DJ grimaced to think of how her grandmother must be feeling about all this. To find out that Eliza had deceived her by not informing her parents about Palm Beach, combined with the humiliation of the Wiltons possibly blaming Grandmother
for being irresponsible, well, it wouldn’t be pretty. “You said you needed my help,” DJ reminded her.
“That’s right, I do!”
“I need you to smooth things out with Mrs. Carter, DJ.” Eliza was talking fast again, but her voice sounded shaky. “I need you to make her realize that it’s okay for me to come back to Crescent Cove. And I need her to help me convince my mom that everything’s fine. You’re the only one who can do this. Do you understand?”
“I guess…I mean, if it’s even possible.”
“Besides that I need you guys to keep my campaign for prom queen going. I already left a message for Daisy to keep everything like normal. There are only four days until the election and—”
“Do you seriously think you’ll be back in time for—”
to be back! You know how much this means to me!”
DJ wanted to point out that being crowned prom queen seemed minor compared to everything else at the moment, but she was pretty sure that would hurt Eliza’s feelings.
“Are you still there, DJ?”
“So you’ll do that for me?”
DJ made a desperate face toward her friends as they waited with curious faces. “I’ll try. I mean, I can’t promise results. But I’ll do my best.”
“I know you will.” Eliza’s voice smoothed out now. “I knew I could trust you.”
DJ wanted to tell Eliza her plan sounded not only hopeless but slightly nutty as well, but she couldn’t. “So…how are you feeling?” she asked hesitantly.
This didn’t sound believable to DJ. “Really? You seemed pretty undone at noon.”
“I think I was in shock.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. By the way Casey and Rhiannon managed to get that page removed from MySpace, and Mr. Van Duyn lodged a complaint and has already started interviewing the suspects.”
“Good. And if they catch whoever did it—either Madison or Haley—maybe the election will change to a two-way split and help me to win.”
DJ could not believe Eliza was so stuck on this. “Are you sure you’re up for the stress, Eliza? You seemed really upset and—”
“Mrs. Seibert says it’s just PTSD.”
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
“She gave me a booklet to read.”
“Well, you should read it.”
“I started to and I have it with me. I’m actually hoping I can use it as ammo against my mom. But, hey, they’re starting to load first class now, so I better go. But promise me you’ll do what I asked, okay?”
“I promise to do what I can.”
“And I’ll see you in a couple of days.”
“Yeah…” DJ felt doubtful. “Have a good flight.” They hung up and DJ just looked at her friends.
“What’s going on?” Taylor demanded.
DJ gave them a quick rundown. “Despite everything, Eliza is determined to be back for prom.”
“Good for her,” Taylor said.
“Huh?” DJ felt confused.
“It might be good for her to finish this thing. Otherwise it’ll be like Madison or whoever did that page won and like Eliza ran away scared.”
DJ wasn’t so sure. “Well, Eliza wants everyone to keep working on her campaign.” DJ pointed to Taylor. “And I’m enlisting you to help me talk to my grandmother. We’ll have to get her support for Eliza to come back.”
“Hey Casey!” called a guy’s voice. They all turned to see Seth jogging toward the parking lot and waving. “Wait up.”
DJ tried not to act irritated as Seth came over and faced Casey in what seemed a threatening way. “I thought you were going to wait for me, Casey.”
“I wanted to make sure Eliza was okay,” she answered stiffly.
“Then why was your phone turned off?” he challenged.
She shrugged. “Because we’re not supposed to have it on during school hours?”
“FYI. School’s out, Casey.”
She shrugged again. “I was worried about Eliza, okay?”
He laughed. “Yeah, right.”
DJ stepped next to Casey. “I’m heading home now. Case, are you ready to go?”
“I’ll give her a ride,” Seth said.
“Casey?” DJ locked eyes with her, but Casey just turned away.
“I can ride with Seth,” she said quietly.
“Are you sure?”
Seth glared at DJ. She could only imagine what he wanted to say to her. She knew what she’d like to say to him. Instead, she just glared back.
“See you girls around,” he called casually. Then he reached for Casey’s arm and led her over to where his car was parked near the street.
“He is really starting to bug me,” DJ said once they got into her car.
“Why does Casey put up with him?” Kriti asked from the backseat.
“Good question,” Rhiannon said.
DJ just bit her lip and drove. But as she drove, she prayed for both Casey and Eliza. Both girls seemed headed down a crash course. DJ prayed that both of them would wake up and figure things out before it was too late.
“I appreciate your concern for Eliza,” Grandmother told Taylor and DJ as they sat in the sitting area of her bedroom suite. “But I don’t see that I can do anything about the situation.” She frowned as she fingered the edge of a pale green silk scarf. “Eliza was dishonest with me and now her mother is furious. I can hardly imagine that Mrs. Wilton will agree to allow Eliza to return to Crescent Cove.”
“Not even for graduation?” DJ asked.
Grandmother just shook her head.
to come back,” Taylor persisted, “and it would probably be
for her to come back.”
Then Taylor launched into her theory about how Eliza shouldn’t let them beat her.
“That’s right,” agreed DJ. “It’s like she’s being punished twice. First she gets hurt in Palm Beach and now she has to miss out on prom and graduation as a result. That’s just not fair.”
“And what about the Mother’s Day fashion show?” ventured Taylor. “It seems like Mrs. Wilton should want to come and watch Eliza participate in that.”
Grandmother nodded sadly. “Yes, it does, doesn’t it?”
“So can’t you at least try to talk to her mom?” DJ pleaded.
“For Eliza’s sake,” added Taylor.
“Eliza will be miserable if she doesn’t get to come back here.” DJ stood. “If you really care about her, Grandmother, you’ll do what you can to help her now.”
“Of course I care about her.”
“Then help her.”
Grandmother closed her eyes and sighed in a slow, tired way. “I keep asking myself why I ever decided to take on all these girls…why I ever thought I could do something like this…what I must’ve been thinking…” The way she spoke sounded like she was talking to herself.
DJ and Taylor exchanged glances.
“And at my age…what made me assume I could be of any use to wild, young girls? Some of my friends have accused me of being insane. Some said I’d bitten off more than I could chew. Even the general has questioned me at times. Maybe they’re all right…maybe I am—”
“It hasn’t been easy for you.” DJ went over to stand by her grandmother, placing a hand on her shoulder. “But I know you really care about us. And I don’t think you should blame yourself for everything. I mean, some of the girls have made some bad choices, but they’d probably do the same thing if they were home with their parents. Maybe even worse.”
Grandmother’s eyes opened wide.
“I have to agree with DJ, Mrs. Carter,” Taylor said firmly.
“It’s not your fault that teenage girls can make messes of their lives, Grandmother,” DJ said defensively. “We see girls at school who live in perfectly normal homes and they do stupid things too.”
Grandmother looked surprised. “Do they?”
“Of course.” Taylor nodded. “And I was doing some pretty stupid things before I even came here. And look at me now—I’m doing much better.”
“Yes, you are.” Grandmother smiled slightly.
“And how about Rhiannon,” DJ added. “She had no place to go and you made her feel welcome.”
Grandmother stood now. “That reminds me. Some things arrived today.” She rubbed her hands together eagerly. “I haven’t told her yet, but Rhiannon’s been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology—
with a full scholarship.”
DJ let out a happy squeal. “Oh, that’s fantastic!”
“See,” Taylor told her. “You must know that never could’ve happened if you hadn’t been helping her.”
Grandmother nodded. “Yes, that’s true.”
“Rhiannon’s going to be over the moon!”
“I want to surprise her at dinner,” Grandmother said with renewed excitement. “I already asked Clara to make something special for dessert. So you girls don’t tell her.”
“And you’ll call Eliza’s mother?” DJ asked hopefully.
“In the morning.” Grandmother stood straighter. “That will give her and Eliza a chance to talk…a chance for things to calm down a bit.”
DJ hugged her. “Thanks!”
“And the other things that arrived today were for you two girls. They came via FedEx from New York.”
“Dylan’s dresses?” Taylor asked hopefully.
“They’re in your room.” She looked from DJ to Taylor, then back at DJ. “Thank you for that little pep talk, girls. I needed it.”
“Thank you,” said DJ.
“And don’t let the cat out of the bag with Rhiannon,” Grandmother reminded them as they left.
As it turned out, the packages from New York didn’t contain the dresses. But they did contain the shoes and fabric swatches.
“These are fabulous,” Taylor said as she strutted around in the suede burgundy Jimmy Choo T-strap sandals.
“The note says that Dylan is working out a deal with Jimmy Choo,” DJ said. “They’ll be in his next show.”
“Yay for Dylan!”
“And he needs us to take these shoes back with us when we go to New York this summer.”
“No problem.” Taylor came over to admire DJ’s metallic silver sandals. “Aren’t you going to try them on? They’re gorgeous.”
DJ glanced at her dirty flip-flop – shod feet and shook her head. “Not yet.”
Taylor laughed. “I’m sure the Jimmy Choos appreciate that.” She looked more closely at DJ’s feet and made a face. “Man, you are so in need of a good pedicure.”
“It just hasn’t made my priority list.”
“Well, you better get it on there before Saturday.” Then she strutted off to the bathroom as if she were walking down the runway.
Soon, there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” DJ called as she put the lid back on the shoe box.
Rhiannon came in, holding up a sparkly dress in various shades of orange. “Have you heard from Casey? We were supposed to do a fitting today, and Kriti said she hasn’t seen her yet.”
DJ frowned when she glanced at the clock by her bed, which showed it was almost five. “If Seth was just bringing her home, you’d think she’d be here by now.”
“Maybe they went for coffee or something,” Taylor called from the bathroom.
DJ looked more closely at the dress in Rhiannon’s hands. “Hey, this is really pretty.”
“Thanks—I wanted to get it hemmed today. I still have to finish mine.” Rhiannon noticed the shoe box on DJ’s bed. “Jimmy Choos?” she said in surprise.
“Dylan sent them for us, along with fabric swatches for our dresses.”
“Oh, please, let me see!” Rhiannon begged.
As DJ opened the box and peeled back the tissue, Rhiannon gushed, “Oh, DJ, that shade of aqua is going to be gorgeous on you!” She took out the shoes and held them up. “Oh, these are so beautiful.”
“And see mine,” Taylor said as she emerged from the bathroom to model her shoes.
“I can’t wait to see the dresses—did Dylan send sketches?”
“No,” DJ told her. “I guess he wants to surprise us. The dresses are supposed to be here by Friday.”
“Wow, that’s cutting it close.”
“I don’t think Dylan will let us go to the prom with only shoes and swatches,” Taylor said in a teasing tone as she held up her fabric as if it were a tiny wine-colored dress.
DJ laughed. “Like that’s going to happen.”
Rhiannon sighed as she reverently set DJ’s fabric swatch back with the shoes. “I just
Rhiannon looked sad. “But I’m worried that God might be trying to tell me something.”
“Huh?” DJ was confused.
“About what?” Taylor asked.
“Maybe it’s too shallow to want to be a designer. I mean, there are people starving in the world and—”
“Some of the best designers donate lots of money to help those in need,” Taylor pointed out. “I just read an article in
that said they donated—”
“But maybe it’s wrong for
to want to do something like that.”
“Like what?” DJ asked. “Donate money?”
“No, not that. But maybe it’s wrong that I want to work in something as superficial and shallow as fashion.”
“Why is that wrong?” demanded Taylor. “Because you
it and because you’re
at it? What if God gave you a special gift like that for a reason?”
“What kind of reason?” Rhiannon looked hopefully at Taylor.
“So you could design something fantastic for me to model?” Taylor chuckled.
Rhiannon frowned. “See what I mean…shallow.”
“So do you think it’s shallow for me to want to model?” Taylor asked.