Parting of the Ways Part 7- In Need of A Friend

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Sorry for the lack of action or coherent plot this part, I didn't like how it was copying "Outside Looking In" and opted to go with a simpler story about blossoming friendship and served as the backdoor to a later story part that had a stronger plot.

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The Finn Family, with the exception of the Vega and Peterson families, arrived back in Boston without much fanfare and broke apart for the next few days as each of the branches unwound and relaxed. For some it was the calm before the storm of summer jobs. For others, it was gearing up for their own vacations that let them enjoy themselves without children for the first time in years.

One of those vacationing families were the Porters. The Porters were a newly blended family, Shea Porter had married his wife Alice over a fun weekend and had made promise to adopt her son Raul and daughter Stephanie as his own children. Alice had done the same with his daughter Rosalind, giving her the mother she had always wanted and siblings that didn't play mind games or torment her.

Raul and Shea didn't interact much due to school and work but he respected Shea and cared a lot about Rosalind even if she was just as "immature" as his sister. Stephanie was timid around Shea as she had heard a lot of horror stories about her biological father and feared the worst in Shea but warmed up to him as they adjusted to the new living arrangements. Rosalind was in-between, she rarely talked with Raul and she took to Alice as her mother but was scared that her past run-ins with Stephanie and her friends would affect how Stephanie felt about her as a person.

It was a touching moment when the three stood before Judge Perez and asked to be adopted by their new stepparent. Rosalind cried into Alice's shoulder while Stephanie and Raul hugged Shea tightly while fighting back their own tears. The three new Porters asked for and received a name change so the name "Rodriguez" was excised from their lives for good, allowing Raul and Stephanie to no longer have to deal with people thinking the worst about their mom or claiming they were illegitimate children because they didn't have a dad in the picture.

The whole adoption/name change was no big deal but it followed Rosalind being taken in as part of the Finn Family as the newest niece, by family rather than by friendship, of John Finn. With that brought the fear that she was not good enough to be seen with them let alone be considered family. She had done a lot of terrible things to John's nieces and her own disgraced and disinherited sister Monica had even tried to frame his son for crimes he didn't commit and even tried to assault his beloved daughter Jaimie at their prom so it was nerve-wracking trying to come to terms that she was related to them.

Shea and Alice announced that they were going to go on their honeymoon in early July, once the family returned from California. Raul made plans to stay with his uncles while Stephanie made plans to stay with her best friend Al Samuels. This left Rosalind in a bind as she was too scared to ask to ask her grandparents Jorge and Victoria Castillo to stay with them and wasn't friends enough with Stephanie's friends to ask to stay with them.

When Alice finally asked them, Jorge and Victoria declined to house Rosalind for the week. They knew exactly where she needed to go and it wasn't with them at their apartment. Victoria smirked as she told Rosalind "John is going to take you in for the week. He's the only one who has the space since Jaimie is out in California recovering, Michael moved out to his own house, and Miles is house sitting. I'd let you stay with us but Jorge is sick and I don't want to ruin your summer by getting you sick too. These summer months are a pain on his sinuses and it's not a pretty sight."

Rosalind had no choice but to go to the Finn home, her parents were leaving the next day and she was too young to stay home alone for the week. Rosalind was stuck with the Finns for the week no matter what.

The duo knew exactly what was going on and had to laugh at the cunning plan by the parents. Rosalind was part of the family and needed to feel part of it and there was no way the four young Finn kids would let her not feel that way. She would have no choice, Cat and Ella Finn wouldn't let her feel left out and JD and Logan would make her the center of their attention as a new person they can manipulate or in Logan's case- as a pretty girl to fawn over.

Rosalind was packed and ready to go early with John driving her back from the airport once she saw her parents off. He didn't say much, knowing she was struggling with being with them and needed time to adjust to being with him for the week. She sat silently staring out the window, her face showing her thinking about her new reality- she was a Finn family member now, this was her first proof.

John stopped off to pick up some dinner from a takeout place he knew Rosalind liked and would serve as an ice breaker for her. He let her pick out whatever she wanted, knowing that the kids would eat the same thing she ate as they always ate what the older kids ate. She appreciated the gesture but was still silent, unsure what to say to the man who was the embodiment of everything her birth mother hated in people yet was trying hard to be a caring family member towards her.

John Finn was kind, inspirational, noble, caring, and extremely generous- all traits that made her birth mother believe he was a fool. Rosalind didn't believe that he was a multimillionaire and the richest person in the city but her new mother swore that he was and told her about him before he was rich. The stories were unflattering but Rosalind could see the story behind the story- the man hadn't changed, he simply was able to give back to others and showed that money doesn't make you a different person.

Rosalind kept quiet even as they arrived at the Finn home. John carried her suitcase inside while Rosalind carried the food. She was almost trampled by the four young Finns coming downstairs in search of John with Logan stopping in his tracks and staring in awe at Rosalind being there.

John shook his head, the boy was smitten yet again. Rosalind was oblivious or tried not to notice Logan's look, instead carrying the food to the dining room as directed. Logan helped her set out the boxes of food while the kids set the plates and utensils, he barely kept himself together as he stared in awe at the older girl staying with them and whom his parents had talked about before.

Rosalind started to notice Logan looking at her funny. It was weird, she wasn't used to boys looking at her like that especially younger boys. She was used to the lust and false bravado of the tween boys in school but Logan's look was more like a look she used to give her to Raul the first time she saw him, one of seeing someone good looking and being close to them for the first time.

That hit her hard. Logan had a crush on her. It was a first for her, a boy who liked her but who didn't want her for sex or to show off to his friends. It was sweet, she liked the feeling that gave her as it made her feel like an older woman instead of a kid.

John tried to suppress his smile as Logan followed Rosalind's instructions to the letter and did all of the work while she started to dish out the food. He had them wait for his wife to come back from her run to the store meaning the kids had to sit down in the living room and rest for a bit.

Ella Finn tried to tease her brother about acting weird around Rosalind until she saw Rosalind's glare. Rosalind knew this teasing all too well, she didn't want him to suffer because she was there especially since he didn't do anything wrong. Ella moped while her sister Cat and brother JD watched TV, knowing that their dad was up to something and Ella may have just triggered it.

Valerie Finn arrived with a couple of bags of groceries with John eyeing them closely, unsure why she had bought so much junk food when their sons weren't home. Valerie's eyes drifted to Rosalind which signaled that it was going to be for her, with John groaning at the idea of hosting a slumber party for Stephanie and her friends. He complained that she hadn't even asked, with Valerie countering "be realistic, you know they are going to weasel it out of us. They won't let her do without one. They aren't close but it's only a matter of days before they see her as a friend not just Stephanie's sister."

The kids ate quietly as did Rosalind. After dinner she helped wash the plates and silverware while the kids went to play. Her silence was starting to alarm Valerie, John simply told her that it was a new place with new people that she wasn't used to knowing and would require time for her open up to them.

Cat asked Rosalind to play with her, prompting Rosalind to go up to her room and play with her toys for a while. Cat was calculating, she wanted to gauge Rosalind while getting used to her. She wasn't used to newcomers and was anxious around them, even though they were now related Rosalind was a mystery that Cat needed solving.

The two played in Cat's room until she started to get tired. Rosalind helped her change into pajamas then set her down to sleep, all with Cat keeping silent about doing so. As she was starting to drift off Cat hugged her tightly, kissing her cheek giving Rosalind Cat's seal of approval.

Rosalind slipped out to her room with Valerie thanking her for calming Cat. Rosalind didn't know what she meant, requiring Valerie to tell her "she's always anxious about new people. She knows about you but she doesn't know you. She wasn't sure if she should listen to you or keep an eye on you. She must think you are alright to not need John or I to put her to bed, she won't sleep otherwise."

Rosalind didn't say anything, she just lay down and tried to think. Valerie asked what was wrong, Rosalind blushed and asked "does Logan always act like that? He was like a lovesick puppy earlier."

This caused Valerie to snort then laugh. She sat down on the bed and offered a kind "he's starting to notice girls more and you are new to him. You may be his second cousin but you are still a pretty girl who he wants to please. He isn't interested in sex like boys your age, he just want your approval."

It was tough seeing him like that but it was also sweet. It made her feel like a mature girl instead of a sexual object. Valerie added a warm "John will talk with him, he will taper his actions afterward. Just relax and enjoy yourself, your sister should be over tomorrow with her friends to keep you busy if they don't have something planned for themselves."

The next morning the kids were up early but Rosalind awoke late. It was expected, it was an angst riddled night for her and sleeping in a different place with new people was tough. Add in Logan drooling over her and Cat studying her and you have a lot of built up anxiety tiring her out.

Breakfast was organized chaos as Rosalind came down in her pajamas and a robe prompting a blush form Logan while Ella eyed her with jealousy. Rosalind covered herself more but she understood Ella's feelings, it was how she herself felt seeing her sister that way. At least with Ella it wasn't because she was flaunting her developing body, Rosalind was just trying to get breakfast and acted natural.

Ella had Rosalind play with her for a while until Stephanie came by with Al. Rosalind asked how they got there, prompting the girls to giggle as they showed Al's brother who was kissing his girlfriend next door. Al shook her head at not knowing but it was because Rosalind had little interaction with them since her dad married her mom, Rosalind barely knew Stephanie's friends as Al had just shown.

Stephanie asked how her night was with Cat telling her that Rosalind was a nice girl. Al groaned, telling Rosalind "she is going to start acting like you now, she always does that for the girls. She and Jaime are practically joined at the hip when she isn't playing with Willow Reagan."

The girls took Rosalind out back then knocked on a neighbor's door and walked inside, much to her shock. Al was annoyed but explained "Polly Vega lives here, and before you ask Oscar Pierce lives two houses down and Diego Vincent lives down the street while Trina Phillips, Kyle Douglas, and Amy Bollinger live on the other side of the city. She was expecting us, the others will be by in a bit."

Polly was cuddling her nephew Antonio while her sister and brother-in-law were preparing a bottle for him. Rosalind stayed back, letting Al and Stephanie fawn over him while she watched. The girls were trying to get his attention which was focused on anything except them prompting them to complain that he was ignoring them, bringing a smile to Rosalind's face as she thought it was cute and fitting.

Antonio let loose a gurgle then created a horrible smell in his diaper making the duo back away as Polly was forced to change Antonio's diaper. Al and Stephanie backed off, getting sick from it but Rosalind grabbed wipes and a fresh diaper and helped hold him as Polly cleaned and changed him. It was no big deal to Rosalind, she helped change diapers at her former private school a few years before giving her more experience with babies than any of them.

Al was about to say something but Polly's mother Dorothy grinned and told Rosalind "I didn't think it was true but that school really did force you to learn about little babies as a way of getting you used to babies. Al, you should have experience with your cousin by now. He may be two but he's still in diapers. Stephanie has the excuse of not having any babies in her family but not you."

Rosalind was grateful for the praise but felt bad that she was singled out for it. Polly just shrugged, it was no big deal to her and she was happy to have had the help. Antonio looked up at Rosalind and gave her a sucking motion with Rosalind handing Polly his bottle knowing that was what he really wanted.

The four teens sat back and waited for the others to come by. Diego was first, followed by Kyle and Oscar. Amy and Trina were last with both surprised to see Rosalind there but not saying anything.

The group waited for the adults to tell them what they were going to do, Rosalind went along with their plans but it was clear that they had none. John came over to ask if they wanted to go to the pool which got the girls' approval while the three boys acted like it was no big deal. The three were led out with them changing at Oscar's house.

Rosalind had to rush to the Finn home to get her own swimsuit while Al and Stephanie did the same at Al's house. Trina and Amy groaned as they called their parents to get theirs while Polly was grateful she had hers out already. Rosalind was asked by Cat and Ella to go with them instead of the teens giving her a chance to decompress about the situation as she realized they had not said a single thing to one another until John came over and they were still reluctant to have anything to do with her and despite being their classmate just a year and a half before she didn't know much if anything at all about them at all.

The group assembled at the pool with Rosalind going inside with Ella and Cat to help them change. Amy and Trina were about to say something but Cat's glare stopped them. Rosalind told the two youngsters "don't. They have reason to not like me or say things about me behind my back. I don't like it, but I have to put up with it. You don't."

The kids dragged Rosalind off away from the others, making their point known that she was with them. Cat herself didn't need to say anything, her being close to Rosalind was enough to stop any talk about what was going on. The girls' actions caught the teens by surprise, it wasn't what they'd expect from the four but Rosalind was keeping them out of their hair allowing them to swim on their own.

Stephanie started to realize what was going on. They had tolerated Rosalind but had done nothing to get close to her. Stephanie had been a sister to her but she wasn't really a friend. This was the first time that they had been around Rosalind outside of school and without their parents prompting them, the younger girls had seen that she was getting set aside and wanted her to enjoy herself instead of being all alone or tagging along with the others.

As expected the others didn't think it was true but Stephanie asked what they had done with Rosalind lately that wasn't about studying for their tests. There was no answer. Even Al kept her mouth shut over them ignoring Rosalind until they were stuck with her around them. The news was hard to swallow but they soon set it aside as they focused swimming and sunning themselves without Rosalind.

Rosalind played with the grils in the kiddie area as John lounged off on his own. When they tired of the smaller splash pool they made their way to the bigger pool with larger kids. They were joined by JD and Logan giving Rosalind a chance to sit down while they played together with John watching.

Rosalind let out a deep sigh as the day was getting tougher and tougher. She hated feeling lonely but it was clear that nobody except the kids wanted anything to do with her. Logan couldn't stop drooling over her while JD, Ella, and Cat only saw her as a playmate. It was made worse as her own sister had all but abandoned her in favor of her friends, she expected that but it still hurt.

Rosalind was brought back to reality by someone calling out her name. She looked up and saw a short, fat, curly haired boy from her class looking at her oddly. She pulled herself together to respond to him.

Ashley Byrne had a longtime crush on Rosalind that she had no clue about. Seeing her at the pool was a shock, especially as she was with kids he knew to be Finn kids. Something was off about her though. This wasn't the confident Rosalind that he had fallen for, this was a girl who needed a friend.

Rosalind tried to act like it was nothing but Ashley had a way of finding out how you really felt inside, especially Rosalind. She saw the concern in his eyes, he was always scared around her but something was making her think he was not interested in her like the other boys in their class were. He actually cared about her, he wanted to know what was wrong rather than act like he did so he could date her.

It was tough but she managed to tell him "I'm fine, I am just bored since mom and dad went on their honeymoon. I'm stuck staying with Mom's cousin for the week. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to have to live up to someone else's reputation."

Ashley knew all too well what she was talking about. He sat down and kept her company while the kids played. It was nice for Rosalind, Ashley was a good person and gave her what she needed right then.

She was so comfortable sitting next to Ashley that Rosalind started to drift off to sleep and ended up with her head on Ashley's shoulder. He didn't dare move, he liked her being there and he didn't want to disturb her. John noticed this and kept the kids from disturbing them as Rosalind was showing that she had been suppressing anxiety and fear and the toll finally caught up to her.

Stephanie and the girls couldn't believe what they were seeing. Ashley was the fattest kid in their grade and had been mercilessly teased by others over his weight and pseudo-gynecomastia, with most claiming that he was yet another "tranny girl" but didn't have the guts to say so. They were unsure if this was a trick by Rosalind, if she was actually interested in Ashley, or if she had simply fallen asleep but they were concerned that he may try something while she was asleep.

When Rosalind finally woke up she apologized to Ashley for keeping him from swimming. Ashley didn't mind one bit, he was only there because his grandfather forced him to take his little brother. He pointed out the boy playing with JD and Cat who seemed to know them well.

He confessed to her "I have been stuck with him ever since he was booted from his daycare center because grandpa said a lot of nasty things about kids particularly the owners' daughter and nieces. I don't want to be here but I don't have a choice. At least you were nice enough to let me sit here with you, everyone else around is mean or think I'm going to hurt their kids."

The two waded into the pool and just relaxed together, neither really wanted to be there but being around the other kept them calm. Rosalind actually opened up to Ashley, telling him timidly "I hate being around the Finns. I can't say or do something without thinking I am going to make them hate me or think I'm Monica. It's horrible. I'm sick of having to live in her shadow. She's going to prison but I still can't do anything without people thinking I'm just like her, especially the Finns."

Ashley nodded in agreement, adding a somber "my grandfather hates them and blames them for my dad leaving. They aren't going to think you are your sister, you aren't her. You tried to be like her before but you saw the truth in how she treated people. You are a good person inside. If you weren't why are you even talking with me? You know nobody in school will even say a word to me unless they wanted something yet you confessed to me. You do it all the time and I love it. You aren't Monica, you just haven't had much time being the real Rosalind Porter to make others see the real you."

Ashley realized he said too much and moved away in shame. Rosalind saw his shame and let him have his space but felt bad at causing him to feel that way. It was actually making her feel hurt, she didn't understand why she felt that way but it felt horrible to see him feeling bad because of her.

John was listening to the two without them knowing he was doing so. He had to hold back a smirk as he could tell that Ashley had a thing for Rosalind and he either was unaware of it or suppressed it for fear of upsetting her. He was doing his best to be a good friend, and he was turning out to be just what Rosalind needed at that moment.

The kids came looking for Rosalind forcing Ashley to end their talk. She gave him a sad look, she actually didn't want it to end but she couldn't say no to the four. Ashley sought out his brother and ensured he was alright in the shallow end before settling in to watch Rosalind play with the foursome.

At home the group disbursed as they got ready for that evening's dates. Rosalind was again left out, but it was just fine with her as she didn't want to go alone and be her sister's third wheel. John offered to take her to a different movie but it wasn't the same and she didn't want to spoil his evening.

The next day Rosalind wasn't happy to endure a visit from her monthly friend. This meant she couldn't swim with the kids which they weren't happy about. She endured the awkward questions from John before Valerie realized what was going on and got him to back off in embarrassment.

Valerie had to ask if she had the "essentials", getting a nod but a meek "I have to get more at home, I forgot when it was supposed to come so only have a couple." Valerie wasn't upset, she understood what she was going through and without her mother to remind her of things like that she was prone to forget. It was part of the process of growing up a girl, Rosalind had unintentionally given Valerie something she would need to remember for when Ella had her first in four and a half years or so.

The kids weren't happy that Rosalind wasn't going to swim but Ella whispered to Cat who understood and forced JD and Logan to not push it further. Ella hugged Rosalind for no reason, which was just what Rosalind needed and seemed to calm her down a little. They were at least happy that she was going with them even if she wasn't going to swim, it was better than staying with Valerie all day.

Ashley was there with his brother again, but wasn't too thrilled to be stuck at the pool. Seeing Rosalind perked him up a little but her less than enthusiastic expression concerned him. She laid out her towel and sunned herself, prompting Ashley to do the same and giving Rosalind some solace.

Ashley waited until he was sure she was settled in before asking why she wasn't swimming. Rosalind blushed as she told him, causing him to apologize but add "I didn't want to come either but grandpa made us. He doesn't want us around the bar and grandma is too busy working to watch us."

Rosalind felt for him, she understood the feeling of neglect and apathy. The two lay in the sun and talked for two hours before the kids were finished, with each getting darkened skin but not burned. Rosalind actually liked talking with Ashley, it wasn't like talking with Stephanie or other boys. Ashley was a good listener and made her feel better just by not saying anything.

Logan was getting jealous but didn't say anything. Ashley tried to back off but John offered to drive them home. There wasn't enough room so he slyly told the two 13-year-olds that they could walk so long as they didn't stop. He knew they wouldn't do anything, it was more of an authority show to them.

At Ashley's home John was shocked to see an old friend. Cynthia Eagleson greeted John with open arms while Ashley meekly apologized to her for taking so long to get there. John looked at her with a concerned look, leading Cynthia to sigh and tell him "Byrne is my maiden name. You know I have a grown daughter, well Ashley and his brother are her kids. Please, don't dig any further. It's too painful."

John let it go, but added "I have heard a few things from Ashley that concern me. I am here if you need me. I don't care how much sway he has I am not afraid of any brute and don't back down from a fight involving friends and loved ones."

Rosalind gave Ashley a kiss on the cheek and hug goodbye. Rosalind didn't understand why she did it, but she was happy to have done it. Logan looked down in disappointment, he was jealous of Rosalind possibly being nice to a boy who wasn't him but understood that he was her age and was a nice guy.

At the Finn home Polly and Oscar wanted to know where they went. Rosalind deflected for a bit then finally admitted "it doesn't matter, you guys are off doing your own things. You don't need me tagging along spoiling the fun. You two don't have anything better to do and the others want to know what I was doing with Ashley. The fattest kid in our grade was talking with me and you want to know why. Other than checking in on me I'm just Stephanie's sister to you. You don't have to pretend to care just so you ease your guilt. You don't have to bother anymore, I'd rather you didn't do that at all. I don't need it nor do I want it. I just want to be left alone."

Rebuked the two left. Rosalind went up to her room to avoid crying in front of John but Valerie knew it was more hormonal than anything huge. She meant what she said, she just didn't mean it to be so harsh or to say it at all. She simply didn't want the others to bother unless they were sincere.

Rosalind was crying into her pillow as Valerie sat on the edge of the bed. Rosalind told her not to bother with the fake sympathy but Valerie countered with a firm "this isn't sympathy, this knowing you. I understand a lot of what you are feeling. They are a tight knit group, you barely know them and they haven't tried to extend friendship to you. Your new sister isn't even a friend, she's just your relative. You have one friend, he's there for you but it's tough working around his family situation. He really does care, the others will come around but he is always there for you. Give him a chance, he might surprise you."

Rosalind smiled at the image of Ashley just sitting with her and talking like she was another person. It was hard to miss the spark in her, Valerie could see she was seeing him as a friend for the first time instead of someone who knew her. It was more than friendship, Rosalind let out a little sigh that was clearly her liking the idea of Ashley being her friend if not something more.

Rosalind washed her face and went downstairs to where the boys were playing their game system. JD got up to leave allowing Logan and her to play sparking Rosalind to tell him warmly "you need to let go of whatever crush you have. You are a good kid but you are too young for me. You are going to get a lot of girls to like you, you are the kind of boy they like a lot and being handsome adds to their liking."

Logan didn't say anything, his heart was breaking but she didn't do it on purpose. He let her beat him several times in the game before calling it an afternoon to play on his laptop allowing her the chance to play with the impatient Ella and Cat. The two kept Rosalind occupied all afternoon until dinner where they forced her to spend the evening watching movies with them before calling it a night.

The next day marked the start of the summer jobs program with Rosalind working alongside Ashley cleaning the streets while Stephanie and the others put together and handed out lunches at the city parks. Rosalind got to see firsthand just how nasty the guys in their grade were as they tormented Ashley throughout the day, making fun of his weight and joking about him being barred from the lunches due to fear of him eating all of them. It was painful for Rosalind to hear, and it turned even worse as the guys tried to impress her by making the jokes with intent of her liking their torture of the boy she was slowly starting to like as a friend.

Rosalind sighed to herself as she swept on the streets. Ashley put up with the abuse without complaint or retaliation, she would have caved in and quit within the hour but he endured it. When she finally asked why he didn't quit, Ashley tersely told her "if I quit, grandpa would beat me. He says that real men take whatever they want or put up with real men who beat them up for failing. I don't care about what they say, I don't want him to hurt me because I wasn't strong enough to deal with their crap. It's the same stuff they say to me all the time, the only reason they are doing it is because of you."

Rosalind kept quiet after that. She glanced over at Ashley every so often and could tell he was seething over telling her that. It was the first time she had known someone who had put up with what she put up with herself for three years, he was wounded and endured more shock than he should have had to. All because she was being nice to him and treating him as a friend.

When they finished for the day she told him that he was more man than his grandfather, nobody should have to put up with abuse because of someone else's views on manhood. She hugged him tightly, kissing his cheek as she said that. It felt right, he was a good person and the closest she had to a friend and he was showing her just how horrible guys were and what they would do to make girls like them.

The two walked to the Finn home with Rosalind inviting him inside so he could rest a bit before going home. The two sat out back under Valerie's watchful eye as they rested and drank cold drinks with Logan and Ella keeping the twins from disturbing the two. Logan understood what she had said to him before, Ashley was a nice guy who wasn't like any of the boys in his grade nor like Oscar and Kyle. They were nice boys but he was different, he was more like Logan which made Logan smile at.

After a half hour Ashley got up to go. Valerie offered to drive him home with Rosalind joining them. Valerie had a sneaking suspicion that Ashley and Rosalind shared too much in common, they were close but there was more about him that she couldn't place her finger on that she needed to find out.

Cynthia greeted them at the door, upset that Ashley was so late but seeing Valerie she let it go. Valerie sensed something was up and asked if everything was alright, getting a head shake and swift "nothing unusual. My husband is strict with the boys and demands they account for all of their movements. His being with a girl is going to be hard to believe but Alice's name carries a lot of weight over him."

Alice's name instead of Valerie's caught her ear. She had to think about what was going on but Rosalind pleaded with her to drop it. She didn't want him to get in any more trouble, he was already late and it was compounded by a lie as it was.

Rosalind got a few things from her house with Valerie ensuring she had extra underwear and pajamas just in case she needed them. It was embarrassing to Rosalind but it was a nice feeling to know she was thinking about her. They didn't talk about Ashley and her friendship, giving her a chance to think about it but knowing that it was best left unsaid at that point.

Back at the Finn home Stephanie demanded to know where Rosalind went. Valerie tried to say something but Rosalind mumbled "I was out with Ashley Byrne. We walked here after work and Mrs. Finn drove him home so he didn't get in trouble for being late. We got some stuff from home too so I didn't run out of clothes."

Stephanie started to laugh, thinking that it was a joke. Ashley was the one boy in their grade that nobody wanted to be around let alone walk home with. She snickered "what did he do, pay you to be seen whim him? There's better boys to date than him."

Valerie looked on and saw Rosalind was turning red with fury. She finally unleashed an angry "he's the nicest boy I ever met! He's the only one who treats me like a person not a sex toy. He doesn't try to get me to go out with him. He listens to me and knows what to say to make me happy. He's a good guy. We walked home together because of the crap the guys were giving him. You don't know what it's like to be treated like that, you never had to put up with it. I did. He needed someone to talk to so I listened. I'm sorry if you and the others are too vain to see how good he is, he's been the best person to me and the only one to treat me like everyone else not like Monica's younger bratty sister."

She stormed off, trying hard to keep her tears in check. Stephanie wanted to say more but Valerie countered "I think you said enough. Read between the lines there. He's actually a sweet boy. You and your friends don't bother with her but he tries to be her friend. He has listened to her and talked through a lot of things that only abused kids can understand. Yes, I said abused. I haven't figured it out yet but I know it when I see it. His grandmother is a saint but I think his grandfather is a horrible person. They have found someone who understands them, just because he isn't skinny and muscular doesn't mean he isn't a good person or that he actually wants to be her friend. He does, I have seen it myself."

Valerie let that revelation hang over her. Stephanie finally realized that Rosalind was falling for Ashley, getting a nod from Valerie as Stephanie tried to figure out what she saw in Ashley. It started to come clear as she and the others were in a different school thus they were never together except at lunch which was why she knew Ashley so well but they didn't. They were just like their friends.

Stephanie left to talk with the others. Al thought she was joking but her look said otherwise. Polly thought she could do better but knew that there weren't any good boys in their grade. Oscar and Kyle simply thought it was him trying to latch onto anyone and she would get over it soon.

Diego was the only one not to say anything. He was watching them earlier while Polly changed Antonio's diaper and saw him acting just like they acted only without saying a word. He finally told the others "he's doing his best to keep her from breaking down. He really does like her but he's too afraid of losing her as a friend to do anything. He's doing what we should have been doing for her. We all ignore her, none of us have tried to get close to her. It's why she brushed off Oscar and Polly. She's been part of Aunt Alice's family for three months but she hasn't gotten even one chance to get close to any of us. He has. He has done what we haven't: he tried to get to know her. He actually cares about her, he likes her a lot but he cares about her more than any of us know."

The seven sat in silence as Diego got up to go see his cousin, knowing that they needed that bit of humble pie to make them see things differently. They forgot that he only became friends with them nearly eight months before and went through the exact same feelings that she is going through at that time. He knew what she was feeling and needs him more than they do.

Valerie didn't say anything about Diego, letting him go right up to Rosalind's room. He sat down and asked about Ashley, getting a shocked look which prompted him to say "he likes you. A lot. He's not trying to be your boyfriend, he's your friend but he feels deeply about you. You like him too, don't pretend that you don't because I can see it in your eyes. He's a good guy. You won't find any better."

He paused then added "the others are so used to being by themselves and among the eight of us that they forgot you were around. It's because you aren't in our cluster, if you were Stephanie and you would have been closer and the girls would have tried to set you up with one of the decent boys. You and Ashley are the best in your cluster, Aunt Alice and Aunt Dorothy may switch you and him to ours to get you away from the remedial kids. It's not like you belong there anyway, you paid the price for what you did to Al when she first got to the school and showed you had changed."

Diego met with Kyle and Oscar outside and followed them to Ashley's house. They were shocked to see Cynthia there but let it go until later. Cynthia seemed to know what was going on and led them to Ashley's room where they asked to talk.

The three were straightforward and asked about his feelings for Rosalind. Ashley looked away embarrassed which proved Diego was right, he did like her a lot. Diego played the big cousin and told him "she knows how you feel. She knows you are a friend and actually care about her. She's fighting a lot of things inside that you could never understand, give her time. She's going to be your girlfriend, no matter what those assholes say she is going to date you until you screw up. Give it time. Let her come to you."

The guys left with Cynthia being told "he needs to get out of his cluster. He's too good for them, he needs our challenge classes." Cynthia sighed and agreed, the reason for him forced to stay away from Diego, Kyle, and Oscar's class was not going to stand any longer now that Valerie and John were sniffing around due to Rosalind. This was her grandson's future, the consequences be damned.

Cynthia called Ashley down and talked with him about what he wanted to do. Ashley tearfully told her "I hate my cluster. The guys are nothing but jerks and girls treat me like garbage. Only Rosalind didn't do anything to me and even then she was afraid of getting expelled because of what she did to Al. You know damn well my class was the worst performing last year. Ms. Rodriguez always complained about us and no matter what we did we were always behind everyone else. Please, can you change me to their cluster? Ms. Vega said we could move if we wanted to, well I need to go. I can't handle it any longer."

It was tearing Cynthia up. If she moved Ashley her husband would try everything possible to undo it. If she left Ashley it would cause him a lot more pain and suffering. She tried to find a reason not to move him but the only reason not to was her husband's objections. She knew what to do.

Cynthia called Dorothy to ask if it was possible to transfer Ashley then added that maybe Rosalind would benefit from it as well. Dorothy listened intently before adding "I know he won't like it but Ashley needs to be moved for his own benefit. I'll expect his complaint, but I won't change my mind. He's a great student, he just needs an environment that he can thrive in. I think Rosalind may be just what he needs to bring out the greatness in Ashley."

Dorothy didn't need to ask Alice about moving Rosalind, it was something that had to happen for simplicity and as a decent student she had earned her place back in Dorothy's school. Cynthia being Ashley's grandmother made the decision to keep him with Alice's school easier even though it wasn't the real reason for him being placed in Alice's school. Cynthia's husband demanded he stay away from certain students, Alice's school didn't officially have any of those students but there were several that kept their private lives private even though they were known to Alice and Dorothy and were slowly making their way towards coming out to their parents and teachers.

Ashley texted Rosalind who texted him back leading to the two texting for hours. When Valerie finally called it a night the change in Rosalind was clear and as Valerie read her texts they were basic talk among friends but sweet and caring in tone. Cynthia had to smile as she read Ashley's texts.

He was acting a lot like his father and her and the more she read the more her heart warmed to the memories of a time gone by that had left a hole in her heart and her life. Her son was nothing like his father and seeing Ashley being like him was causing pain that Cynthia couldn't handle. She needed to do something to ease the pain, she needed to see her son.



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