Chapter Twenty: Resolutions

It was like a big sleepover. Ryan and Emma, Darren and I had settled into my room on my mounds of pillows with our usual snacks and didn't plan on sleeping—we couldn't.

We hadn't heard from Pete all day and, though we had finished the contest with smiles on our faces, had spent the rest of the day watching movies with our minds far, far away.

Sarah and Brent had gone back to the apartment with Anthony, Adler, and Maura and planned on making some plans on budgeting and possibly getting extra jobs.

Dan and Sean were packing tonight and sleeping before they had to fly back to their schools tomorrow. We still didn't know how we were going to cover the costs, but the schools were small and we hoped they would understand.

The pair had told Adam Mason and his son to leave us alone once and for all. The boys were big enough that Adam was pretty intimidated, and when they mentioned Pete, apparently Adam had blanched. When we asked Mom what that was about, she just said that Pete had gone to school with them and hadn't liked Adam much then, either.

I don't think he'll be around again—at least not for a while.

Mom got called in to the hospital and welcomed the news—escaping the house and our questions. She wanted to do something to keep her mind off of everything. I told her to keep her phone on in case Pete showed up or called or something. She agreed to that as well as letting Emma and Darren spend the night.

"This is a disgusting combination, Ace," Darren says, looking into the bowl of cocoa puffs, marshmallows and skittles as we pass it around the circle of us sitting on the floor.

Ryan laughs. "This is just one of the many concoctions Duke and I have whipped up over the years for our late-night conversations."

Emma sighs and we give her a strange look. Emma smiles at the similar reactions between Ryan and I. "We won't be able to have many more of these," she says, explaining her sigh.

Darren laughs nervously. "Yeah. Applications are in and now we all wait anxiously for news."

"Hopefully we can even make it into college with the way things are," Ryan mutters.

I put a hand on top of his. "Pete's on to something, I'm sure of it. I mean, it's not that easy to steal from a bank out of all of our separate accounts. They have to be able to track whoever did this."

"If they could, they would have by now."

I roll my eyes. I'm an optimist at heart, so I can't just give up on the idea that all of that hard-earned money is just gone.

"Where did you apply to, Darren?" Emma asks, swerving the conversation back from the black abyss that is our bank accounts.

"The local University. I'm not really sure where I'm headed so I figure I'll get my basics done while I figure out what I'm interested in. You?"

Emma smiles, "I applied out of state in several places, so I'll tell you when I hear back about which ones I've been accepted to. Then I'll decide."

Ryan picks up her hand and plays with her fingers, staring at them as he speaks, "I just hope we'll be near each other."

Emma smiles. "Me too."

Darren's eyes lock with mine. "What about you, Ace. Where are you headed?" He looks so expectant; I can tell he's hoping the same as Ryan and Emma—that we'll still be able to be together after we graduate from Oak Ridge.

"I honestly don't know yet. I want a scholarship from somewhere with dance. I want to be a dance teacher or maybe even a performer, so . . . There's going to be scouts at my next performance in April. I'm hoping to get noticed then and, if not, I'm going to the University to do my basics."

"The University has a great dance program, too, you know," Darren says, his eyes still searching.

"Have you been researching?"

"Maybe," he says much too quickly.

I smile and say softly, "that's sweet. Thank you."

We spend several hours talking about our plans, where we want to be in five years or so and what our interests are. Ryan and Emma fall asleep on the pillows long before Darren and I tire of talking and end up falling asleep on the bed around five in the morning.

It's light out when I wake up and the clock says its past ten. Darren, Ryan, and Emma are still sleeping, so I slip quietly out of Darren's arms and out of the room to go downstairs.

"Duke, you scared me," Mom says as I walk into the kitchen. She must have heard me on the stairs.

"What are you doing, Mom?" I ask, going to sit next to her.

She shakes her head and places it in her hands. She's still in her work clothes so she must have gotten home not too long ago. "I heard from Pete," she sighs.

My eyes widen. "When? What did he say?" I can feel my heart beat speed up as I wait for her response. With Mom's reaction, it can't be anything good.

"He and his friend, Jarrod Barnes, he's a policeman, they're following him now and are going to bring him back for a trial."

"So we'll get our money back?"

"I believe so, yes."

I look over her and see a nerve-racked woman, not a woman relieved to have her and her children's life savings back after being stolen.

"Do you know who it was? Who took the money?"

Mom nods and chokes a sob. I wrap an arm around her back, worried as hell. "Mom, what's wrong?"

She lifts her head up and I can see the tears rolling down her face. "It was Allen, Delaney!" she says. My eyes widen and I blink, wondering if I heard correctly.


"He took the money after I trusted him and . . ." she sobs again and buries her head back into her arms.

"Mom, Mom, you have to talk to me," I say, still hugging her from the side. "What happened?"

"We were going to tell you on Christmas when we had the whole family at the house," she says when she can manage to speak through the tears. "We . . . we were going to get married, Delaney. I had said yes to him and we were going to get married."

I let that sink in for a moment, realizing how hurt she is, and hold her closer. She hugs me back, crying and clinging to me for support. Tears form in my own eyes— I hate to see my Mom hurt and, with the way her past had run with love, this was just cruel and unusual punishment.

I hold back asking the questions I'm dying to know the answers to and just comfort her. She recovers enough to tell me more and I listen without interrupting.

"He had a friend at the bank, I remember that now, who said we could join our accounts before we got married and it would make things easier for us to maneuver money for the wedding. He had legal access to my accounts, but he shouldn't have been able to get into yours and your brothers and sisters'.

"Pete looked into it with his friend, Jarrod, and said whatever friend Allen had got him into those accounts and then wiped the record of it."

"What the hell?" Mom gives me a look. "Oh come on, this is a situation where swearing is perfectly allowable," I say.

She rolls her eyes and I hid a smile. If she's doing that, then she's at least a little better. "It's my fault all of this happened. I should just . . . stay away form men. Forever," she says, frustrated and resolute.

I laugh lightly, "what about Pete, Mom?" She looks down at her hands and blushes. "Just . . . curious," I ask slowly, "when Allen left, you weren't that upset. I mean . . . you've moved on to Pete very quickly . . ."

She lays her head in her hands again and huffs, frustrated. I smile as I realize I do the same thing when I'm frustrated—my mother's daughter through and through. "I guess I was having doubts about Allen anyway, especially after your Grandmother talked to me about how she felt about Allen and how much she's always liked Pete . . ."

"Wait, what did Grandma Vi say?"

Mom shrugs. "She was talking about how she felt strange about him. Something about him wasn't right. Silly, right?"

I look away, silent for a moment. "Not so silly."

She sets her arm on my shoulder and I turn to look at her. "You mean you felt the same way too?"

I nod and she throws her hands into the air and starts pacing through the kitchen. "Why is it that I'm the only one who can't see when men are bad for me, and I avoid the one person who has always been good to me?"

"Not with Patrick, Mom. Patrick was a good wonderful man as far as I can tell from everything you, Sarah, Eleni, Dan and Sean say—and everyone else for that matter who knew him. And now . . . So if Pete," I offer, trying to placate her. "You've realized that Pete is there for you now."

She shakes her head again and leans on the counter facing me. "I should have realized it long ago. Grandma Vi mentioned that she had a bad feeling about Allen from the moment she met him and I told her to stop picking on the men I date, you know she picked on Patrick at first too," she adds, "but he ended up being an amazing man."

"Love isn't fair?" I offer.

Mom laughs and smiles at me, "No joke." She sighs and runs a hand through her hair, looking tired. "When she mentioned that she always liked Pete I laughed a little and dismissed it, but when he was here every day helping and then after we found out about the accounts . . ."

"You finally realized how you felt?"


"But I think I'll always kick myself for not realizing it sooner," she says.

"I think I can manager to forgive you for it." Mom and I both jump, startled by Pete's sudden presence in the room. He's in the doorway looking exhausted, yet completely awake as he stares at my mother.

I watch her smile and run to him. He catches her, but apparently wasn't expecting the force with which Joan Knight can hug, and they fall to the ground in a huge thump.

I'm laughing and falling out of my stool from the shocked look on Pete's face when Ryan, Emma and Darren come down the stairs, blocked by the laughing, hugging couple on the floor. Dan and Sean, still looking quite sleepy walked up from the basement and simply looked quizzically upon the situation.

"Mom!" Ryan exclaims, looking horrified. "What are you doing?" He looks from me to them to me again, looking for an explanation.

"If Joan would kindly stop smothering me I would be glad to explain it to you all," Pete grunts, though a wide smile is spread across his face.

I run around the kitchen fixing breakfast with Mom as Pete tells exactly what happened—the call from his friend, Jarrod, who had found out about Allen. Then chasing him into the next major city where he had been planning on taking the money to live in Europe. And we told Pete about our encounter with Adam Mason that had tipped us off to the fact that he hadn't been the one to steal the money.

By noon, almost two hours later, Mom had called Eleni, Sarah and Brent, and several other people, like the Milovich's and the Teigan's who had done so much for us, and filled them in.

We would have our money back, but we would still have to deal with a trial against Allen. Mom was prepared to handle it, especially with her kids and parents at her side and Pete now as well. Though I suppose he had always been part of the family—now there was no question about it.

Grandma Vi and Grandpa Sam went home a little after Dan and Sean went back to school, but made sure to keep even more in touch than they had before. I got emails from Dan and Sean almost every day and letters from Grandma Vi and Grandpa Sam once a week and I loved that we were working harder to be close.

Eleni was still reluctant to talk to any of us, but she was keeping in touch with Dan. She had told him that she was jealous of the majority of us and she felt left out. She also told him that she had been in a bad relationship that none of us had known about—he had asked her if he could tell us and she had said yes. We were learning a little about what was going on in her life and it was helping us understand. Mom and I hoped that she would come visit us soon so we could talk it out in person.

Back at school, Allison and Lily Parett are still close friends and have been sticking together, but they aren't bullies anymore. They still think pretty highly of themselves, but they haven't been shoving it in people's faces.

Patrick and Jessa have become a couple—the whole boyfriend/girlfriend package—though they don't do a whole lot of PDA at school. Neither of them are too willing to flash anything in Allison's face. They still talk to her, civilized-like, but they aren't friends anymore.

I came home with Darren more often than not and we studied together in my room most of the time. Though, it was getting a little harder to study if you know what I mean. We were taking it slow though, and I liked that a lot. The more time I spent with him, the gladder I was about agreeing to give dating a try—I was liking it a whole lot more than I ever thought I would. I had decided that, for now at least, I wanted none other than Darren Teigan by my side.

I looked into the local University and Darren was right, they did have a great dance program. The local scouts would be at my dance concert in April, the concert in which I would be participating in my own choreographed dance as well as several other girls' choreographed dances. I was praying that something I did would catch their eye.

I was still working at the café though, just to make sure I had money saved up in case I didn't land a scholarship.

When I talked to Bethany and Mason at work, they both shied around my questions about their relationship. All I could get from Bethany was that she had liked Mason for a while, but never though he could ever like her, and he had about the same idea, but with her. They weren't quite public, but I'm pretty sure they were dating.

It was nice to see Pete so happy now that he and Mom are officially together. They are taking it slow as well, so no guarantees yet on where the future will go, but Dan, Sean, Sarah, Brent and I have a bet going on how long it will take for Pete to propose.

I say within the year, Dan says within a month, Sean within four months, and Sarah and Brent agree in saying that within six months, they'll be engaged.

We hadn't heard from Adam or Kevin Mason, so for the time being, they were gone from our lives.

With how much we were communicating now and how much we realized we needed each other to run our lives smoothly, we were standing strong. And we knew, for sure now, that no matter how dysfunctional our family seemed and whatever life decided to throw at us, if we stuck together, we would make it through.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed and continued to read this story. An Epilogue will be coming out soon. Again, thank you to everyone who has read. I couldn't have done it without you.