Read Last Dance Online

Authors: Melody Carlson

Tags: #General Fiction, #(¯`'•.¸//(*_*)\\¸.•'´¯)

Last Dance (9 page)

10


WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY
,”
sDJ observed as she drove away from the school with Casey slouched in the passenger seat. “Makes me want to go to the beach.”

“Go for it,” Casey said in a flat tone.

“You want to?”

She just shrugged, but DJ took that for a yes and turned onto the beach road. Before long they both had their shoes off and were walking down the beach. Neither of them said much. They just strolled along, moving out of the way when a wave rolled in too quickly. Finally Casey got tired and they found a handy log to sit on.

“So…how are you doing?” DJ asked.

“You mean besides being knocked up and recently dumped?”

“No…I mean, that too.”

“I’ve had better days.”

“I know…” DJ reached down and scooped up some cool sand in her hand, letting it trickle between her fingers as she wondered what she could possibly say to make Casey feel better.

There was a long silence…the only sounds were the waves and a few gulls screeching.

“What would you do if you were me, DJ?”

DJ considered this. Well, for starters, she’d never be in that place…or would she? She suddenly remembered those few times when she and Conner had pushed things a little far, times when she’d been tempted to go farther, and how they’d finally drawn some lines in their relationship. “I’m not sure what I’d do, Casey. But I think if my mom was alive, I’d tell her.”

“But your mom was cool.”

“Your mom’s cool too, Casey.”

“She’s okay…for a mom…but she’s so caught up in being a perfect church lady that I know she’ll go to pieces if she finds out that I’m pregnant.”

“You might be surprised.”

“I doubt it.”

“But you’ll never know if you don’t give her a chance, Casey.”

“True…”

“You know what?”

“What?”

“If I could trade places with you—I mean, if I could be pregnant and have my mom be alive so that I could tell her I was pregnant—I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

Casey didn’t say anything.

“I know that probably sounds lame, but it’s true.”

“I believe you.”

“Is your mom coming for the Mother’s Day fashion show?”

“I think so. She was trying to decide between that and graduation. She said they can’t afford both.”

“So if she comes…would you tell her?”

Another long silence.

“You know what will happen if I tell her, DJ.”

“What?”

“She’ll insist that I keep the baby.”

“Keep it as in keep it and raise it and everything?”

“No…probably not like that. I mean as in
not
have an abortion.”

“Would that be so bad?”

“You mean, go through a whole pregnancy and give birth to a baby?”

DJ grimaced. “When you put it like that it does sound a little overwhelming.”

“Tell me about it.”

“But I wonder how you’d feel if you didn’t do that.” DJ squinted up at the sky. “I mean…if I were you, I wonder how I’d feel.”

“How do you think you’d feel?”

“I think I’d feel sad.”

Casey just nodded.

“And guilty.” DJ sighed. “And I wonder if that sadness and guilt would last longer than nine months…you know what I mean?”

“Like a lifetime?”

“I don’t know.”

“Would you hate me if I got an abortion?”

“No, of course not.”

“But you’d be mad at me?”

DJ didn’t know how to answer that. “I guess I’d be more concerned than mad. Like I’d want to know why you felt you had to do it. Like, was it your choice or was someone, like Seth, pressuring you? And I’d want to be sure you were really okay with it. Taylor and I saw how stressed-out you were at
the abortion place—it seemed pretty obvious that you weren’t feeling too good about it then.”

“I was scared. And Seth wasn’t helping.”

“Seth was only thinking of Seth.”

“I know that now.” Casey picked up a stick and drew a circle in the sand. “And I also know he’s already invited Jolene Kranz to the prom.”

“Seriously?”

Casey nodded. “I don’t really care. I know I’m better off without him.”

“It’s got to hurt.”

“Oh, yeah…it hurts.”

“Hey why don’t you go to the prom with someone else too?”

Casey actually laughed.

“You could,” DJ persisted.

“Right. Three days to find a prom date. Sounds like a bad summer movie.”

“It could happen. In fact, we could make it happen.”

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

“So, you’re saying you want to sit at home alone on prom night?”

Casey’s mouth twisted.

“Think about it. Seth will be there with Jolene and you’ll be home in your sweats and slippers feeling like a reject.”

“Who’s going to want to—”

“Can you trust me, Case?”

“Trust you to twist some guy’s arm to—”

“No, I’ll ask Conner if he knows someone. I mean, think about it. What if there’s some nice guy who would love to go to prom but was too afraid to ask a girl, and now he regrets it and thinks it’s too late.”

Casey snickered.

“I’m glad I’m entertaining you.”

“Yeah, thanks.” Casey threw her stick over her shoulder. “Sure, knock yourself out, DJ, see if you can find some pathetic loser to take the jilted pregnant girl to the prom.”

“No one
knows
you’re pregnant.”

“Not yet.”

“Meaning?”

“I don’t know.” Casey stood up. “And maybe I don’t even care. It’s not like I’ve ever had a great reputation at that school anyway.”

“Well, I seriously doubt that Seth will go shooting his mouth off. According to Taylor, he’s worried about what mommy and daddy would do.”

“That’s the truth.”

“And you can trust Taylor and me to keep quiet.”

“I know I can trust you.”

“You can trust Taylor too.”

“So you say…”

“Anyway, back to prom. If Conner finds a guy to go with you, you’ll really cooperate? I don’t want to set some nice guy up for a letdown.”

“Just make sure Conner actually gets a
nice
guy.” Casey stuck out her chin. “He doesn’t even have to be a hunk…as long as he’s
nice”

“Wow.” DJ nodded. “I’m impressed.”

Casey let out a swear word.

“Okay, I take it back. I’m
not
impressed.”

“No, that’s not it…I just remembered something. If I go to the prom, I’ll have to go to youth group tonight. Otherwise I can’t wear the dress Rhiannon made.”

“That’s right.” DJ tried not to sound too smug. “But you have to admit that dress is totally worth it.”

As they walked back to the car, Casey continued to grumble about the fairness of the dress exchange and whether or not she really wanted to go to the prom, and all the reasons why she should just forget the whole thing. “I mean, seriously,” she said as DJ unlocked her car, “why bother? Life as I know it is over with anyway.” Tears were coming down her cheeks. “I’ve messed up a lot, DJ, but this time I really did it.”

DJ didn’t know what to say.

“And even if I can undo my mess, I know that it’ll never go away completely. I’ll never be who I was before.” Casey sniffed loudly. “I wish there were do-overs…or that I could turn back time.”

“Yeah…I’m sure a lot of people feel that way.” Now DJ wondered if her prom idea was really that great. Finding a pregnant friend a date to the prom seemed a little like putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm. Still, she felt sorry for Casey and was becoming increasingly concerned that she might slide into a really deep depression.

After they got home, DJ called Conner. “I need a big favor,” she told him.

“What?”

“Can you find Casey a date for the prom?”

“Kinda short notice, isn’t it?”

“Duh. But she’s really bummed about Seth breaking up. And now he’s taking Jolene Kranz, and if we could find Casey a date, well, it wouldn’t be quite so painful.”

“Don’t you mean if í can find her a date?”

“Well, if you don’t want—”

“Sorry…I was just jerking your chain.”

“Thanks. Anyway, are we still on for youth group tonight?”

“Sure. Hey do you think Casey would go for someone from youth group?”

“I don’t know.” DJ considered this. “Are you thinking of anyone specifically?”

“Not specifically.”

“Well, I did promise her someone
nice”

“Hey, Emery Klaus is nice.”

DJ considered this. Emery was nice. But he was also extremely shy. And Casey would probably think he was kind of nerdish. And yet he
was
kind of cute and interesting…and smart. “Yeah, Emery might work. But I wonder what he’d think about Casey. I mean, she’s kind of mouthy sometimes and she’s definitely not a Christian.”

“Maybe he’d consider her a mission.”

“Funny.” DJ tried not to imagine Emery bringing his Bible to the prom and preaching to Casey. Not that Casey couldn’t use some of that. But still…

“Or maybe he’ll just be interested because she’s so different from him.”

“They say opposites attract.”

“Can’t get more opposite than those two.” He chuckled.

“And it’s not like we’re playing matchmaker, Conner. It’s just that I can’t bear the idea of Casey sitting home alone on prom night. She’s already depressed enough thanks to—” She had to remind herself that Conner didn’t know about the pregnancy.

“Casey should be happy to be rid of Seth. But I know that’s not how it works.”

“Unfortunately.”

“I’ll talk to Emery,” he said. “Maybe I should call him first. Kind of give him a heads-up. You do the same with Casey. Then we can casually introduce them tonight.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“Why don’t we just meet at the church? That’ll give me more time to talk to him.”

“And I can sound out Casey.”

“If this works, maybe we can start up a business.”

“An emergency dating service.”

He laughed. “See you tonight.”

DJ closed her phone. Now all she had to do was to convince Casey that Emery would be a great date. But it wouldn’t be easy. And, really, DJ had to ask herself again, was it even worth it? Especially considering the bigger issue going on. She decided to just pray about it. Hopefully God had a bigger, better plan. She prayed that he’d show them.

“What’s up?” Taylor asked as she came into the room.

DJ told her about her concerns for Casey and what she and Conner were working on. Taylor just laughed.

“What’s so funny?” DJ tried not to be offended.

“Sorry, but I can’t think of anyone more totally the opposite of Seth Keller than Emery Klaus. Not that I think it’s a bad thing. Just pretty funny.”

“Yeah, and Casey will probably say ‘Forget it.’”

Taylor got a thoughtful expression. “Unless we really give this some careful consideration…”

“How so?”

“Well…” Taylor was pacing now. Not that you could call it pacing; it was more like strutting. “What if we both act like Emery is all that and a bag of chips.”

“All that and a bag of chips?” DJ frowned. “Huh?”

Taylor laughed. “It’s something one of mom’s roadies used to say.”

“Oh, I think I get you. We act like Emery is hot, and Casey gets pulled in.”

Now Taylor looked concerned. “But we need to make sure Emery doesn’t get hurt. He’s really a sweet guy.”

“And he’s so shy.”

“But this might actually be good for him.”

“It might be good for Casey too.” DJ picked up her phone. “I want to let Conner in on our slight change of plans. He was expecting me to talk to Casey and get her kind of warmed up to the idea. But now we’re going in cold turkey.”

Taylor giggled as DJ called Conner and filled him in. “I know it sounds kind of crazy,” she said finally, “but it might make this thing work.”

“At least I’ll know not to get jealous when I see you flirting with Emery.”

“You can get jealous if you want.” She laughed. “See ya later.”

After DJ hung up, Taylor asked if she’d heard from Eliza.

“No, why?”

“I just wondered if she knows that we’ve given up on her campaign.”

“I suppose someone should tell her,” DJ admitted, “not that it should really matter. I mean, it’s not like she’s coming back.”

“Not at all?”

“It sounded pretty hopeless when Daisy called her. Her mother is really digging in her heels.”

“That seems so mean.” Taylor shook her head. “I mean, who would’ve thought I’d ever come to Eliza’s defense? But I do feel sorry for her.”

“Me too.” DJ picked up her phone, then set it down again. “I just can’t bear to call her. Isn’t that kind of like kicking someone when they’re down?”

“Maybe.”

“I wish there was something more I could do to help.”

“I really thought your grandmother would be able to straighten it out.”

“I did too.”

“I mean, if they gave out awards for damage control, your grandmother would probably have a few by now.”

DJ smiled. “Probably. But to be fair, a lot of times it’s by default or even just pure luck.”

“So have you talked to her about why Eliza can’t come back?”

“Grandmother?”

“Yes. Did she say why Mrs. Wilton was being so stubborn?”

“No…but I didn’t ask.”

“Maybe you should.”

DJ considered this. “Maybe so. That way I could tell Eliza that I really did give it my best shot.” She stood up and dropped her phone on the bed. “Okay, here I go…”

“Want me to come for backup?”

DJ considered the offer. “No, I think one-on-one might be best.”

Taylor nodded. “Good idea. That way she won’t be on the defensive.”

DJ made a praying gesture with her hands and Taylor nodded. Then, with very little hope, DJ went and knocked on her grandmother’s door.

11


I DON’T REALLY WISH TO DISCUSS THIS
,”
Grandmother said firmly.

DJ had just asked why Mrs. Wilton had refused to allow Eliza to come back to Crescent Cove. “But it makes no sense.”

“Perhaps it doesn’t make sense to you, DJ, but it probably makes perfect sense to Mrs. Wilton…and to me.”

“But what about prom and the fashion show and graduation?” DJ persisted. “Eliza will miss out on everything.”

“It might be for the best.”

“I can’t believe you actually think that.” DJ studied her grandmother. She was stretched out on her lounge chair with a copy of
Vogue
in her lap. “I thought you
cared
about Eliza.”

The magazine slipped to the floor as Grandmother stood. “I do care about Eliza.” She walked over to the window, her back to DJ.

“Then why won’t you help her?”

Grandmother didn’t answer.

“Did you even call her mother? Did you really try—”

“Desiree!”
Grandmother turned and faced DJ with a withering look.

“But I—”

“Enough!” Grandmother went over to her bureau and jerked open a drawer. DJ wasn’t sure whether to run or wait. Then Grandmother turned around with what appeared to be a Walgreen’s bag in her hand. She held it out to DJ.

DJ took the bag and looked inside to see what appeared to be a used home pregnancy test. “Huh?”

“Inez gave this to me before I called Mrs. Wilton.”

DJ closed the bag and pushed it back toward her grandmother. “I don’t get it.”

“Inez found it in Eliza and Rhiannon’s bathroom trash can.”

“Really?” DJ was stunned.

“Yes. I asked Rhiannon if it was hers.”

“And she said no?”

Grandmother nodded with a somber expression.

“So you assumed it’s Eliza’s?”

“Who else?”

DJ didn’t know what to say.

“According to Inez, the test was positive.”

“Meaning?” DJ felt like she was on unstable ground here. Was it really possible that Eliza was pregnant too? How weird was that? Or was it more likely that Casey had ditched her home pregnancy kit in someone else’s trash can?

“It seems obvious, Desiree. Eliza is pregnant.”

“Did you ask her?”

“No…I haven’t spoken to Eliza.”

“How about her mother? Did you ask her?”

“No.” Grandmother looked appalled. “Do you seriously think I would ask Mrs. Wilton about something like this? I
can only imagine what she must think of me…not only did her daughter suffer the…uh…the incident in Palm Beach, but now she’s pregnant as well.” Grandmother reached into her pocket to retrieve a handkerchief, and daubed her eyes with it. “I am so humiliated.”

“But it’s not your fault, Grandmother.”

“I was the one in charge here,” she said sadly. “This happened on my watch.”

DJ didn’t know what to say. But she had a strong suspicion the pregnancy kit did
not
belong to Eliza. “Can I use your phone?”

Grandmother looked puzzled. “Well, I don’t know…I suppose.”

DJ quickly called Eliza’s cell phone and, to her relief, Eliza answered.

After a brief initial exchange, DJ jumped right in. “I need to ask you something.”

“What?”

“Are you pregnant?”

“No, of course not! Good grief, DJ. Don’t you think I have enough problems? Being pregnant would really be the icing on the cake. Why would you even ask—”

“Sorry, but Grandmother was under the impression you were.”

“But why?”

“Never mind about that. Do you still want to come back for prom and everything?”

“I wish I could.”

“Do you think it would help if Grandmother spoke to your mother?”

“Well, that
was
the plan, DJ. But for some reason it fell apart.”

“That’s because Grandmother thought you were pregnant.”

“But that’s just plain crazy.”

“I know, Eliza. That’s why I think we need to start over.”

“But is your grandmother willing to talk to my mother? I mean, to convince her that I need to come back?”

DJ looked at her grandmother to see what looked like confused relief on her face. “Yes, I think she is.”

“Well, Mother’s not here right now, but she’ll be back soon. How about if I tell her that Mrs. Carter will call around seven—does that work?”

DJ turned to Grandmother. “Can you call Mrs. Wilton at seven tonight?”

Grandmother simply nodded.

“She’ll do it,” DJ told Eliza.

“Oh, I hope this works, DJ!”

“Me too.”

“Thanks!”

DJ hung up, then turned to Grandmother. “Eliza is
not
pregnant.”

Grandmother sank down onto her chaise lounge and sighed. But then she looked at DJ with troubled eyes. “Then who is?”

DJ didn’t say anything.

“Desiree?” There was a warning in Grandmother’s voice.

DJ still kept her mouth shut.

“Oh, my goodness!” Grandmother’s hand flew to her mouth. “It’s not you, is it?”

DJ rolled her eyes. “No, of course not.”

Grandmother leaned back and sighed. “Who then?”

“I can’t say.”

“But you know.”

DJ nodded.

“I do appreciate your sense of loyalty, but I
will
get to the bottom of this.” Grandmother frowned. “I know it’s not Eliza or Rhiannon or you.” She held up three fingers. “That leaves Kriti, Casey and Taylor.” Again she had a stricken look. “Oh, please, tell me it’s
not
Taylor.”

DJ pressed her lips together, then shook her head ever so slightly.

“Oh, I’m so glad that it’s not. Poor Taylor. She’s been through so much and she’s been doing so well.” Now Grandmother held up two fingers. “I certainly hope it’s not Kriti. Her parents would be absolutely furious.” She eyed DJ carefully.

Again DJ shook her head ever so slightly.

“So it’s Casey.” Grandmother made a sad
tsk-tsk
sound. “Well, that’s not terribly surprising.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Oh, it’s not that I don’t like Casey, but she’s had such a chip on her shoulder for so much of the time. She was unhappy to come here and she has been so moody and difficult…it just seems that she’d be the one to get into this kind of trouble.”

“Please, don’t tell her I told you.”

“You didn’t.”

DJ nodded.

“Do her parents know?”

“No.”

“She should tell them.”

“I know. That’s what I keep telling her.”

“What about the father? Does he know?”

“It’s Seth Keller. And he knows.”

“Oh…the Keller family.” She made the
tsk-tsk
sound again. “They will not be pleased about this.”

“Who would be?”

Grandmother made a forced smile. “Well, some families are more tolerant than others.”

“Casey is worried her parents will be really upset.”

“I’m sure they will be.”

DJ was unsure how much to say but since the cat was already out of the bag, she just plunged in. “Casey is considering an abortion.”

Grandmother nodded sadly. “Yes, that doesn’t surprise me.”

“But her parents are really against that.”

“And that doesn’t surprise me either.”

“So Casey is pretty confused.”

“Understandably so.”

“Taylor and I are the only ones who know. Well, and Seth.”

“And how is Mr. Keller handling it?”

“Like a great big jerk.” DJ filled her in on Seth, the breakup, and his taking someone else to the prom.

Grandmother’s expression grew sour. “That’s very unfortunate.”

“And Casey’s really depressed,” DJ said. “I know she needs to talk to someone…I mean, someone besides me. Someone who can help her to figure this thing out.”

“Yes, you’re right. She does need someone.”

DJ felt hopeful. “Do you know anyone?”

“I’ll give it some thought.”

“And you won’t be hard on her, will you?” Suddenly DJ was worried. “Casey is already really miserable.”

“Yes, I’m sure she is. And, no, I won’t be hard on her.”

DJ leaned down to hug her grandmother. “Thank you!”

“I should thank you, DJ.”

“And don’t forget to call Mrs. Wilton,” DJ said as she headed for the door. “Eliza is counting on you!”

Grandmother just nodded sadly. As DJ walked back to her room, she felt a little flicker of hope. Oh, she didn’t know if Grandmother would really be able to talk sense into Mrs. Wilton, or if Grandmother would know who could help Casey, but it felt good to have someone else—an adult—involved in finding these answers.

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