Don said that she looked fine whenever she asked him. Pulling on the hem of her jacket, she convinced herself that he wouldn't lie to her. She'd let him move in a few weeks after Wallace's death. Neither of the kids had warmed up to him. Walter asked if they were going to get married and she didn't know what to tell him. Don had been ready enough to move in, but they hadn't discussed any long-term goals.
"Hazel. When are you going to apply yourself?" Kirsten demanded. "There is no excuse for putting off your studies. You're not a child."
"You're right, Mom. I'm not a child anymore. So why don't you mind your own business."
Kirsten closed her eyes and counted to ten. Ever since Wallace had passed away, Hazel had been unreachable. "I am your mother. You will not speak to me like that." Kirsten glanced over and saw Walter staring at them with his eyes wide open. "Walter, go be a dear and take the trash out before school this morning."
Walter scrambled out of the room.
"Are you happy now?" Kirsten demanded. "You've scared Walter!"
Kirsten crossed her arms across her chest and said, "Well, I hope you're satisfied. Your father ordered that for you for your 1st birthday and it took you 10 seconds to destroy it. What would your father think?" Kirsten huffed from the room, upset with Hazel.
Hazel dropped her spoon in her bowl. "Well, I hate school and she can't make me go," she said bitterly.
Don nodded. "Yeah. I hated school, too. I could always drive you in my car."
Hazel perked up. "Can I drive?"
Don laughed. "No. But, you'll be the envy of all the kids that see you in it."
Hazel hesitated, torn between not wanting anything to do with Don and wanting a ride in his sweet sports car. The sports car argument won out and she said, "Let me go grab my books!"
"Oh thanks, mister! Sure. I don't gossip about anyone," she promised, reaching for the cash.
Don pulled it back out of her reach and added, "That's good. Keep it up and there's an easy $100 every week." He handed her the cash and watched as she tucked it away in her blouse. "But, cross the line and there will be consequences," he warned.
Hazel glared. "You set me up, didn't you?"
Sean held his hands out to the side. "What? Are you asking if I manipulated my sister so that I could get some alone time with you? Who do you take me for?" Sean joked. "Besides, I was hoping I could get a close look at that sports car you came to school in!"
Hazel felt a little annoyed that he was more interested in the car than he was in her. She wiggled her finger at him and said sweetly, "Maybe if you play your cards right I'll let you see it."
Sean grinned and then leaned over to goose her. "I've got aces, baby."
Sean punched Walter on the shoulder one more time and then told him, "I know a few girls. We should call them up!" Then, glancing back at Hazel, he added, "For Walter, of course!"
Hazel rolls her eyes again. "I don't care what you do," she said adamantly.
"Sweet! Here's the numbers, you call them," Sean said, digging through his folder. Hazel looked back to see Sean handing the numbers to Walter.
"Why don't you call them? They're your friends," Hazel butted in.
Sean just shrugged. "I figure Walter needs the practice with the dialing."
Hazel scoffed. "Oh, and you don't need any because you're soooo experienced?"
Sean grinned, "And don't you forget it, baby."
Hazel turned back around, frustrated. He always had some flippant comment. What an idiot, she thought. Clicking through the classifieds, she was looking for a job. There wasn't much she was interested in. Her mouse stilled over one. Music. That was sure to drive her Mother nuts. Grinning, she emailed her resume and contact information.
Pretty soon, four or five girls Hazel had never met before streamed inside. The radio was blasting and everyone was dancing and joking around. Then Kirsten walked in.
Hazel stopped. "It wasn't my idea, Mother." Then, pointed at Walter. "Walter invited them all over!"
Kirsten shook her head. "There you go, blaming your brother again." Then, raising her voice, she called out above the music, "Party's over. Everyone leave. Now!"
Kirsten fixed Hazel with a glare and said, "You will clean up this mess! And then go to your room, you're grounded."
"But, Mom..." Hazel started to explain.
"No buts." Kirsten said firmly. "Go!"
Hazel looked at Walter with tears in her eyes. "Walter... aren't you going to explain?" But, Walter avoided her eyes and just looked down at his feet.
"Hazel..." Kirsten warned.
"I'm going," Hazel shouted.
Don called out through the door. "Can I come in?"
Hazel looked over at the door from where she was laying on her bed. What did he want? Trudging over to the door, she slung it open and snapped, "What?"
Don walked in and shut the door behind him. He looked at Hazel and said, "She's trying, Hazel. She just has problems letting her guard down. She loves you, you know."
Tears pooled in Hazel's eyes. God, how lame! Even Don knew that her own Mother didn't care about her! She turned her back on him and wiped her eyes. "Great. You've delivered her message. You can go now."
Don touched her shoulder and said softly, "I'm not here for her. I just wanted you to know that I could be your friend, too. If you wanted me to be one." Then Don pulled her into a hug while she cried.