Chapter Two

That summer turned out to be great. Not just for me, but for Mom and Steve too. They were spending every spare minute together, trying to make the most of what time they had left before Steve had to go back home. I knew that things were going really well for the two of them, but I had not been expecting things to take the turn that they did. It was a Saturday night - or more precisely the early hours of Sunday morning - a couple of weeks before school was due to start. Mom and Steve had gone to a concert and I had gone to bed before she got home.

I was sleeping peacefully, blissfully unaware of the bombshell that was on a collision course with my life, when I felt someone shaking me by the shoulders and heard them repeating my name over and over.

'Shana! Shana! Shana, please wake up!' I pried my eyes open and found my mothers grinning face inches from mine. I gave a startled shriek, jumped back, and banged my head against the wall.

'Mother!' I groaned. 'What is your problem?'

'Oh, sorry,' she whispered. 'I didn't mean to wake you.' I looked at her as if she were a lunatic. 'Okay, okay, so I meant to wake you. It's just that I have some really exciting news.' Bleary eyed, and slightly dazed from my bump on the head, I gazed at my alarm clock. Two forty seven am.

'Couldn't you have waited until a more civilized hour?' I asked.

'If I don't tell someone I'm going to burst,' she replied. 'And I wanted you to be the first person to know.' Something about those words jarred me. A totally irrational part of my brain was speaking to me, it was saying "they're getting married, Steve has asked her to marry him." I did my best to ignore this demented, and clearly delusional, voice. They had known each other for all of three months. Steve had not asked my Mom to marry him.

'So what is it?' I asked sleepily.

'Steve's asked me to marry him!' Even in the dark I could see every inch of my Moms face. She was grinning from ear to ear which, as far as my sleep fogged brain could tell, meant one of two things. Either this was a practical joke and she was finding it very hard to keep a straight face, or she was telling the truth and the clown like smile - which let me tell you was pretty damn scary - was that of a woman who had just accepted a marriage proposal.

'This is a joke right?' I asked hopefully.

'Shana, why would I joke about this?' She shoved me over to the other side of the bed and made herself more comfortable. 'Aren't you happy for me?'

'Are you serious?' I replied, completely dumbfounded by her revelation. The grin suddenly slipped from her face and she put her head in her hands.

'Oh God,' she mumbled. 'Am I the most insensitive mother on the planet?' She reached over and took hold of one of my hands. 'It didn't occur to me that this might come as a shock to you, Shana. I mean, I know you probably weren't expecting it, but when he asked me I just got so excited - all I wanted to do was come back here and tell you the news. I didn't stop to think how you might feel about it. That was very selfish of me.'

'You said yes?' I asked. My Mom nodded. All the glee had drained out of her features, the joy she'd been feeling had been annihilated by my less than rapturous response to her news. This was too much to deal with at two forty seven on a Sunday morning. I didn't want to suck anymore of the happiness out of her, but at the same time I couldn't pretend to be all excited and overjoyed at the thought of getting a step dad - not to mention a stepbrother with all the intellect and charm of a dead amoeba.

'Can we talk about this tomorrow?' I asked her.

'Of course,' she replied smoothing a hand over my hair and laying a gentle kiss on my forehead. 'Sorry I woke you. Sleep well.' Sleep well? Huh! How, may I ask, was I supposed to do that? My tired little mind had spun into overdrive, tossing up a hundred new questions a minute. What were the living arrangements going to be? Did she expect us to move to Reorda Bay to live with Steve and Kelley? How was my Dad going to take this? Had they set a date? Did she really think it would be fair to make me live with people I barely knew, to form a family with virtual strangers? Okay, so I had spent enough time with Steve over the summer for him not to be a stranger anymore, but I still hadn't known him that long, and the fact that my mother had only known him two weeks longer than I had was worrying to say the least.

And as for Kelley - we had only met him once, and that experience hadn't exactly been pleasant. I was sure he was going to be just as thrilled by the news as I was. I knew now that he definitely lived with his father. My Mom told me that Steve's wife, Kelley's Mom, had died six years ago. Knowing that made me feel kind of bad about the way I had spoken to him at lunch that day - losing a parent must be one of the most horrendous things a kid could go through. Of course I'd have to apologize to him. I mean if we were going to be stepbrother and sister we had to at least try to get along right? I hoped he saw things that way too, although I wasn't counting on it.

When I skulked into the kitchen that morning my Mom was elbow deep in pancake mix and fruit smoothies. 'Morning,' I mumbled collapsing into a chair and pouring myself a glass of banana and mango mush. My mother's expression was tentative and I could see the tension in her shoulders.

'Morning,' she smiled. 'I'm making pancakes.'

'I noticed.' I wondered who was going to bring up the whole marriage proposal thing first. I didn't just want to sit there and wait, pretending like it wasn't the only thing I was thinking about, so I decided to tackle the issue head on. 'So,' I began. 'You're getting married. Congratulations.' My words were toneless and flat. I hadn't meant to sound that way but I guess there was no hiding the fact that I was less than joyful.

'You're not happy about this are you,' she said resting against the counter. What was I supposed to say? I was glad that she was so happy, but I was worried that everything was happening too quickly. My mother pretty much guessed this and we ended up having a l-o-n-g talk. She admitted to me that Steve had brought up the subject of marriage about a month ago. They had both thought about it, weighed up the pros and cons, and the bottom line was that they were in love. More than that they were great friends, so similar to each other that it was kind of scary, with all the same morals, dreams and ambitions.

'So,' my mother said, concluding a little speech about how her life since meeting Steve had taken on a whole new dimension. 'I hope you understand how much Steve and I mean to one another. But, if you really don't want me to do this... then I won't. The last thing I want to do is make you miserable honey.' I took a deep breath then let it out in a long sigh.

'You're totally sure that you know what you're doing?' I asked. She nodded. 'Then I'm not going to stand in your way. Steve's a really nice guy, you're an amazing Mom. You both deserve to be happy.' All of a sudden my Mom was crying and hugging me so tight that my lips almost turned blue from restricted circulation.

'Have you guys set a date yet?' I asked.

'Well,' my Mom began. 'We thought some time around Christmas would be nice.'

'Christmas this year?' I said raising my eyebrows.

'Yeah,' my Mom nodded.

'So I guess this means we're moving to Reorda Bay.' The words didn't really sink in as I said them. The fact that I would be leaving our apartment, our neighborhood, my school and all my friends behind just didn't seem tangible to me yet. Until, that was, I heard my mothers reply.

'From everything Steve's said about it Reorda Bay sounds like a lovely town,' she told me. 'And I understand that starting a new school year in a new town is going to be tough on you - especially seeing as it was so unexpected and on such short notice, but I really think - '

'Hold it right there,' I said, interrupting her abruptly. 'I'm starting the school year in Reorda Bay? Is that what you're saying? This school year? Like the one that starts in two weeks?'

My Mom nodded again. 'Sweetie, I know I said that Steve and I were planning on getting married at Christmas, but I thought it would be better for you to get settled in your new school as soon as possible, rather than uprooting you half way through the year. And Steve has a really big house, there's plenty of room for us. There's no reason why we can't move in right away.'

'But what about you?' I said in a way of protest. 'I mean you've got your job here, and school.'

'There's a hospital I can work at in Reorda Bay,' she replied. 'And I can transfer to a college in that area. It'll be fine.'

'But this is so sudden,' I told her. 'I mean how do you even know I'll get into this school? I might not even be able to enroll. They might have a waiting list.'

My Mom looked at me patiently and lovingly. 'Steve and I just wanted to run the idea by you first,' she smiled. 'Now that you've agreed - you have agreed, right?' I nodded. 'Well now that you've agreed I'm going to start looking into things. We might not get you into George K. Adamson with Kelley, because it is a pretty popular school, but Steve has assured me that the other high schools in the area are just as good.'

So that was that. The decision had been made. Goodbye Anaheim, hello Reorda Bay. I had arranged to meet my father later that day and keeping this news from him was going to be majorly hard, but my Mom had insisted that she be the one to break it to him. I met him at the usual spot, the pier that was halfway between my apartment and the trailer park he lived in. His place of residence was the only reason I hadn't thought to consider moving in with him instead of upping sticks and going to Reorda Bay with my Mom and Steve.

You see, the thing you need to know about my Dad is, that as fathers go, he's pretty unconventional. Example; he lives in a trailer with the three other members of his rock band, The Deblumes. They aren't the greatest band in the world, but they're good enough to get regular gigs around the city, despite the fact that none of them are younger than thirty seven. My Dad happens to be the oldest, a positively prehistoric forty two. His age isn't something he really likes to talk about. It's no biggy though, because he looks way younger, thirty five at least. And much to my horror he and the guys have a ton of young groupies so it's not like they're these tragic old dudes trying to recapture their youth. None of them have ever grown up anyway, so they all figure why do they need to recapture something they never lost?

He was leaning up against the railings with his arms crossed casually across his chest when I spotted him. His dark brown hair was all messed up and he was dressed sloppily in a t-shirt and jeans that were worn at the knees. I ran right up to him and threw my arms around him. I couldn't help it. The thought that pretty soon I wouldn't be able to see him whenever I wanted hit me very hard. What can I say? I'm a total Daddy's girl. No guy I've ever met has matched up to him and I doubt any guy ever will.

'Hey Girlfriend,' he laughed, giving me a gentle hug back (In case you're wondering, he's not gay, he just talks that way because he thinks it's funny. I've told him it's not, but does he ever listen? Of course he doesn't). 'What's the matter?' he asked. I rested my head on his shoulder and tried to think of a good lie.

'Nothing's the matter,' I told him. 'I just missed you, that's all.'

'Shana, you saw me yesterday.' I pulled away from him and met his concerned gaze.

'Dad, I'm a teenage girl. We tend to act irrationally from time to time, without neither rhyme nor reason.'

'I can't argue with that,' he nodded. 'But I know you. Better than anyone. I can tell when something's bothering you. Now are you going to give me the information voluntarily, or am I going to have to dangle you over the side of the pier by your ankles?'

I gave a little laugh, followed by a frustrated sigh. 'I'm sorry Dad, but I can't tell you. I promised Mom.'

'So there is something,' he said pointing at me in an "I told you so" kind of way. 'And it's something your mother doesn't want me to know about.'

'No,' I replied. 'It's something she wants to tell you herself.'

My Dad put a hand to his chin and pretended to look thoughtful. 'Hmmm. Don't tell me, she's still madly in love with me and she wants me back. I hope she realizes that that would cause many, many fragile young hearts to break. There's Cleo and Heidi, and Marnie and Jade.' He was ticking off the names on his fingers and I knew that he was joking but I gave him a swift kick in the shins anyway.

'Dad,' I grumbled, 'be serious.'

'I am,' he exclaimed. 'If news got out that I was back off the market there'd be a national crisis. For one thing there'd be a Kleenex shortage due to all the tears being shed by all those broken hearted beauties.'

'Can you just forget about it,' I said crossing my arms. 'This is Moms thing. She's the one who needs to tell you.'

We took off down the pier and he eyed me with suspicion. 'Why do I get the feeling this is going to be something I won't like?' he asked me.

'No more questions, okay? Let's just change the subject.' I gave my Dad a glare that said I meant it.

'Okay sure,' he replied. 'A change of subject, I can do that. Are you looking forward to starting school?'

A visible wave of tension rolled through me.' Bad subject,' I told him. 'Try again.'

'All right. How are things going with your Mom and Mr Marinade?'

I sighed. 'That information is also classified. If you really want to know what's going on with Mom and Steve then you should just ask her yourself.'

My Dad stopped in his tracks and held his hand out in front of me bringing me to a halt. 'Shana, what's going on?' he asked. 'You've always been more than happy to dish the dirt on your Mom's boyfriends.'

'Well maybe Steve's different,' I replied with a shrug of my shoulders. My fathers face suddenly turned pale, and he got all squinty eyed the way he always does when he's trying to process information.

'Is your Mom pregnant?' he blurted out.

'What?' I yelled. 'No! No way!'

Dad looked relieved but he wasn't going to drop the subject. 'Then what has you so wound up, I mean if she's not pregnant? They haven't known one another long enough to get married so it can't be that.'

I didn't have to say a word. My face gave it away in an instant. Damn those honest eyes of mine! I'll never make a poker player.

'They're getting married?' he whispered.

'I wasn't supposed to tell you,' I replied quietly.

'Don't worry,' he said patting my shoulder. 'You didn't. Not directly anyway.'

'I only found out this morning,' I told him. 'But Mom really wanted to tell you herself.'

'Well I'll promise to act surprised,' he assured me. As it turned out my Dad wouldn't make much of a poker player either. When he dropped me off back at the apartment a few hours later my Mom invited him in for coffee and I could see the nervousness in her eyes as she prepared to tell him. To say that she did it less than gracefully would be an understatement. Here is how the conversation went.

Mom: Would you like cream?

Dad: No thanks.

Mom: How about some milk?

Dad: Um, yeah.

Mom: Sugar?

Dad: Thanks.

Mom: Steve and I are getting married.

Dad just held onto his coffee cup tightly and made this pathetic little attempt at looking shocked. 'Oh... how nice,' he said in a taut voice. 'And what a complete and utter surprise.'

My Mom swiveled to face me and gave me "the look." 'You told him?' she exclaimed.

'Mom,' I said with a shrug. 'You know what Dad's like when it comes to secrets, he's like a tracker dog.' Dad let go of his coffee cup and got out of his seat. What he did next took my Mom by surprise and she looked like a startled rabbit as he wrapped her up in a friendly hug and squeezed her tightly.

'Congratulations Suzie, I'm happy for you.'

That night I couldn't sleep. Too much was going on and no amount of lavender oil on my pillow was going to relax me. I crept out of my room and got the phone from the hallway, taking it into the living room and snuggling up underneath my comforter on our tattered old couch. I quickly dialled my Dad's cell phone number and waited for him to answer.

'HELLOOOO?!' he bellowed. In the background I heard the loud raucous beat of a rock song and immediately remembered that he was playing a gig that night.

'Hey Dad,' I said as loud as I dared. 'Am I interrupting?'

'No Shana honey, of course not,' he yelled. 'We just finished our set.'

'How'd it go?' I asked.

'Oh, great, great,' he replied. 'Honey, is there a reason you're calling so late? Has something happened?'

'No, nothing's happened,' I assured him. 'I just needed to talk to someone. To you in particular actually.' Suddenly the music in the background faded and became muffled. 'What happened,' I asked. 'Why did it go quiet?'

'I stepped outside,' my Dad told me. 'So, you were saying?'

'Well,' I began. 'I just wanted to check that you were okay. You know, that you're really okay about Mom getting married. Not just pretending to be.'

'You're Mom seems happy,' he told me. 'That's all I care about. I couldn't ask for anything more.'

'Really?' I asked.

'Actually no,' he replied. 'I want you to be happy as well. I need you to be happy. You're my little girl, I don't want you to be miserable.'

'I'm not miserable,' I told him, only half lying. 'I mean it's like you said - Mom's happy, that's all I care about. As long as you're happy too.'

'Listen honey,' my Dad replied. 'If Mr Marinara Sauce is alright by your Mom, and he's alright by you - then he's alright by me.'

I giggled. 'Don't let Mom hear you calling him that, okay?'

'Sure thing,' he laughed. We talked a little while longer, about how and when we were going to find the time to see each other now that we'd be living in different towns. He assured me that everything would be fine. And I believed him. Almost.