The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane - Part 1

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane - Part 1
By Barbara Lynn Terry

(Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any similarities between this story and any real persons, living or dead, places, or things, is purely coincidental.)

Chapter 1 - Buying a new home.

John Shepard, (no relation to the astronaut), and his family were looking for a nice home to buy in a small town. As they were traveling, they became hungry, so they stopped at a restaurant in the small town of Pine Forest. The sign at the city limits said it was a city. The restaurant wasn’t too busy, so they found a booth by the window, overlooking the parking lot. When the waitress came to take their order, they were told the special today was beef barley soup, bratwurst on a bun, French fries, and choice of drink, and choice of dessert. John Shepard said that would be fine, and the waitress went to put the order on the wheel.

“You know, Eileen, this seems like a friendly community. I wonder if they have any properties for sale.”

John Shepard was six feet, two inches tall, one hundred and eighty pounds of solid muscle, and had a head of thick, brown hair. Eileen Shepard, was five foot, seven inches tall, and weighed one hundred a thirty five pounds. Her hair was California blond and shone when the sun hit it just right. James (Jimmy) Shepard was nine years old, going on ten. Katharine (Kathy) Shepard was seven years old, and loved to play with her dolls.

“I don’t know, John, we could ask the realtor and see.”

“Excuse me folks, but I couldn’t help but overhear. There is a cottage for sale over on Ginger Lane, you may want to look at.”

“Thank you, young lady. We will definitely do that. Where is Ginger Lane?”

“When you leave the parking lot, turn left and go one mile. Then turn right at the first road you come to. That is Ginger Lane.”

A bell rang twice, and the cook said, “order up”. “Your order is ready, be right back.” The waitress went to get their orders, and came back carrying them on a huge tray with legs. She passed the orders out, and asked if they wanted a refill on their drinks. John Shepard said yes. The waitress refilled their drinks and left them to eat in peace.

“So, I think we should look at the place from the outside, before going to the realtor,” John Shepard said, matter of factly.

“I think you are so right, dear. When we are finished eating, and our tummys are rested, I think we should go and look at this cottage, too,” Eileen Shepard added.

“Dad?” Asked Jimmy Shepard. “Does this mean we are moving away from the city?”

“Yes, son, it does. Your mother and I talked about this, and even though she was dead set against moving to a small town, she finally gave in and said that maybe a small town would be nice. Look at it this way, Jimmy. It is quiet here, there aren’t any sirens to speak of, and what else don’t you hear? You don’t hear gun shots every few minutes.”

“Only during the hunting season. The hunters never shoot toward town, but you can hear their shots, even from the center of town,” the waitress added.

“What is your name, young lady?” Inquired Eileen Shepard.

“Jaime, ma’am. Whenever you come in, ask for me, and I will be only too happy to wait on you.”

“Well, Jaime,” continued Eileen Shepard. “We will certainly do that. Dear, I think our tummys are rested enough where we can go and look at this cottage.”

“Alright, dear. Children, are we ready to go?” They both said yes. John Shepard left a five dollar tip for Jaime. Not only because she was on the ball serving their meal, but also, because of the tip she gave them about the cottage.

When they were all buckled in, John Sheppard started the car and backed out of the parking space. He drove to the end of the parking lot, and, when no cars were coming, he turned left on to the street. He went the one mile and saw a street sign that said Ginger Lane. He turned right, and saw houses and cottages along the street.

They came to a cottage at the end of the lane, that had only a placard in the window that said for sale. Apparently, they didn’t mar the landscape with for sale signs pounded in to the ground. As they were looking at the cottage, and John Shepard was writing down the phone number, a man came across the street and inquired as to what they were doing there. John Got out of the car.

“Hi, my name is John Shepard, no relation to the astronaut. We were told at the diner that there was a cottage on this lane for sale. I was writing down the number when you came over.” The two men shook hands.

“I’m George Simons, I live in that white cottage a cross the street. Are you thinking of buying the cottage?”

“Yes, George. We came from Saginaw and we were looking for a quiet small town to settle in. See, I’m in the hardware business, and my company delivers hardware supplies all over America and Canada, too. I just needed to get out of the city and settle somewhere quiet and peaceful.”

“Well, this is the town. We have a block party, now and then, during the summer, usually on Saturdays. We also have a guys night out when all the guys get together to have fun throwing darts, playing pool, maybe a poker game and hoisting a few brews.”

“That sounds like a lot of fun. But, George, I don’t drink alcohol. I may have a 7up to make it look like I have a drink, but, I don’t drink alcohol. What do the wives do, while we are having our fun?”

“Well, John,” George answered his new friend. “They either have a baking bee, or play canasta at my house, or go shopping, or do whatever it is that women do, when their men are away.”

“I see. So, they aren’t just sitting home twiddling their thumbs.”

“Not these gals. No sir, they have just as much fun as we do, if not more.”

“That is nice to hear. I travel a lot because of my business. Is there anything my wife can do, while I am gone and the children are at school?”

“Yes, there is a lot she can do. She will get to know the other wives, and they can tell her better than I ever could. I work during the day, so, whatever they do while the men are working, the other wives will tell her. You mentioned school, John. The school here is actually in the next town west of here, or what you might call on the other side of town. You have to go there to register the children for school. The school bus picks up the children right at the end of the lane.”

“Sounds good to me, George. Where is the realty office?”

“It is in the center of town, right next to the hardware store. There is a sign above the door that reads Parker Realty. You can’t miss it.”

“Thank you, George.” The two men shook hands again, and John Shepard got into his car, and told his family that they were headed for the local realty office. It took less than five minutes to get there, as Pine Forest is a small town of sixty five thousand people.

As they pulled up in front of the realty office, and John had parked in the parking space that said “Realty Office Customers Only”, Janice Parker was watching them from her desk. As they entered the realty office, Janice stood up to welcome them.

“Hello, folks, welcome to Pine Forest. Is there something I can help you with?”

“Yes, there is,” John Shepard started to say. “We are interested in the cottage at the end of Ginger Lane.”

“Yes, the Widow Harkins place. She died two years ago, right in front of the supermarket. She had a massive coronary. She was a very well respected lady here. Always had a kind word for everybody, even those that have been in trouble with the law. Were you looking to rent the cottage or buy?”

“We were looking to buy. I’m John Shepard, and this is my family. Eileen, my wife, Jimmy, my son and Kathy, my daughter. I have a friend who is a house inspector, and I called him when we were on the way here. He will be here in an hour.”

“What sort of business are you in, Mr. Shepard?”

“I own a chain of hardware stores and a hardware delivery service that supplies hardware stores here in America and Canada. It is a very lucrative business. We came here from Saginaw, and are looking for a quieter setting in which we can hear ourselves think.”

“Well, Mr. Shepard,” Stated Janice Parker. “You can certainly do that here. We don’t have any gangs, or drive by shootings like you do in the city. It is peaceful here, and if you like the chirping of crickets, you hear a lot of them at the cottage.”

“I was thinking, Ms. Parker, that I could open a hardware store here.”

“It’s Janice, Mr. Shepard. The one hardware store that we do have, is just a neck above water. There doesn’t seem to be that much need for hardware any more. Not like there used to be. When a new house is built, then the contractor buys enough nails, screws, hinges and whatever else they need to build the house with. But, other than that, there isn’t much call for hardware. When people need something for their cars, they go to the garage on Elm Street for what they need. The hardware store here, is all but closed.”

“That is a shame. Hardware is needed no matter what the project. I will have to stop in there and talk to the proprietor. Maybe I can find out what it is that is going wrong. Maybe.”

“Well, I am sure that he would welcome any input, especially from someone in the business.” Just then a car drove up outside.

“It looks like my house inspector is here. Let’s go and take a look at the cottage. While he is inspecting, we can look at the inside waiting for his report. His name is Scott Andrew Block. He has been a house inspector for seventeen years.”

Janice let them in, and Scott went right to work. In the meantime, Eileen was mentally rearranging here and there. The children went to the bedrooms, and each one picked the room they liked. There was a bigger bedroom, but they said mom and dad would want that one. The kitchen was spacious and had a counter in the middle. It also had a table and six chairs.

They looked at the living room, and you could fit a whole big apartment in there. The dining room was huge also.

“The widow Harkins loved her space. She said she had a little secret, that when she was a young girl, they had a two bedroom apartment that wasn’t more than a walk-in closet. So, when she had this cottage built, she wanted enough room to move around in.

In the meantime, Scott was going over every nook, crack, hole and cranny. He didn’t find anything in the basement, except that cracks and holes needed to be filled in. He knew John knew how to do that. Then he looked at the crawl space above the kitchen. There were no roach tracks, no termites, no bugs of any kind.

“Well, John,” Scott started talking to his friend. “The place is solid, I didn’t see any bugs. There are a few minor cracks and a few holes in the basement. But, other than that, the place is sound.”

“That sounds good, Scott, send me the bill to 1734 Ginger Lane, Pine Forest.”

“Friends don’t bill each other. We’ve been friends for years. I’m not going to let a bill ruin that friendship.”

“I have heard of true friends, before,” Janice stated. “But I have never seen it in action, until now.”

“John and I have been friends for almost as long as I have been a house inspector. As for the cracks and holes in the basement, they are minor, and John knows how to fix them.”

“Well, let’s go to the bank, and I will draw out the money necessary to pay for the cottage.”

“Don’t you want to talk about payment terms, Mr. Shepard?”

“Janice, I have seen what I need to see. If Roger tells me the cracks and holes in the basement are minor, then I will take his word. No, Janice, there is nothing to discuss about payment terms. I am paying cash for the cottage, outright. But, we need to go to the bank, so I can draw the money out, and have a cashiers check issued for the amount, made out to Parker Realty.”

“I wish all my customers were as easy to handle as you. I get customers that argue about the price of the land, or the price of the house and land. This cottage also has three acres of land that go with the sale. The cost of the cottage and the land, together, is one hundred and seventy five thousand dollars. That is why I said we could discuss payment terms.”

“Janice, the payment terms are this; I will pay cash for the cottage and land, without an argument. The three acres of land would be good for a garden. No, Janice, the only payment terms, if you will accept them, is cash.”

“Of course I will accept them. That is, if you can make that kind of payment.” Scott started laughing. “I don’t understand what is so funny.”

“Ma’am, John can not only pay that price, but he can afford ten times that much. His hardware business is very lucrative. He will be gone on trips between the states and Canada for most of four months. He keeps a good eye on his business. But, he never charges for the cost of airplane tickets to his customers.”

“I see,” Janice said, with surprise in her voice. “Well, let’s go to the bank, then.”

The group, Scott included left for the First Mercantile Bank of Pine Forest. When they all drove up to the bank. They all formed a group and went in. One of the tellers recognized Janice and greeted her right away.

“Good afternoon, Miss Parker.”

“Good afternoon, Tom,” Janice said with a smile.

“Hello Janice. Who are your friends?”

“Clients, Jim. This one, she said pointing to John Shepard, “is buying the widow Harkins cottage. He is paying cash.”

“Welcome, welcome. Please sit down and let’s talk about how you are going to pay cash.”

“Here is my bank information. It will take one hour for my bank to transfer the funds of one hundred and seventy five thousand dollars.”

“Well, Janice, this isn’t a client, he is a guardian angel come to help this poor town out of its slump.”

“Are things really that bad here?” Inquired John Shepard.

“The only business in town that has anything really going, is this bank. Even though our name is First Mercantile, we are not a part of the national chain of First Mercantile banks. But, our assets are plentiful, and the townspeople can live off of the interest. For a small town like this, that is saying something. Now you come along and want to buy a property for one hundred and seventy five thousand dollars. Our assets are going to soar, now, and Janice can definitely live off of the interest. Mr. Shepard, welcome to Pine Forest. Wait, I am being signaled.” Jim came back with a big smile on his face. “Mr. Shepard, your money came through. Janice let me have the deed, so that I can register it right away. Mr. Shepard, maybe you would like to open an account here.”

“I will see, Jim. Right now, I have to go back to Saginaw and get the movers going so we can get our furniture up here. Thanks for your patience. Scott, would you like to join us. I think it is dinner time.”

“It is my treat, Mr. Shepard. The realtor here always buys the meal for the client on the first day. Let’s go over to the restaurant, and get something to fill our tummys.”

Janice took her car, and John and family, plus Scott went in their car. They met at the diner, and went in together. Jaime was still working. She recognized John and his family. When she saw they were with Janice, she had a big smile.

“Good afternoon, Janice, John. It is nice of you to come back. I see you are with our local realtor. Does that mean you bought the Widow Harkins cottage?”

“Yes, Jaime, it does,” answered John, to Jaime’s inquiry.

“What can I get you folks?”

Janice ordered for all of them. She ordered the prime rib dinner with mashed potatoes, spring peas, peach cobbler for dessert. Of course, she also ordered milk for Jimmy and Kathy and coffee for the adults. It took a while for the cook to make all the orders, because prime rib takes a while to cook, even on a grill. Twenty minutes went by, and the cook rang the bell. Jaime went to get their orders. She passed them out, and then said she would be right back.

Chapter 2 - John Shepard and family take possession of the cottage.

As they sat there and ate their dinner, they talked about many things, including the square dance coming up next Saturday.

“Do you know how to square dance, John?” Inquired Janice.

“Yes, my whole family knows how to square dance.”

“That is good, then. The children have their own square dance area. This way they can have fun, and won’t be in the way of the adults. I knew there was something about, you, John, when you came in my office. Does your wife know any card games?”

“Yes, I do,” answered Eileen Shepard. “I play canasta, hearts, five hundred rummy, gin rummy, Skip-Bo, Phase ten, Uno, and many others. I even play bridge.”

“Okay, then. I asked because on Ginger Lane, the wives get together once a week to play canasta. Sometimes they play other card games, as well. You should enjoy yourself really well there. Are we done then?” Everybody said yes. “Then let’s pay the bill and you can go to your new home, here are the keys to the cottage. Good luck.”

Janice paid the bill after leaving Jaime a ten dollar tip. With the sale she made today, she could afford to be extravagant. With the money from the sale in her account at the bank, she was now in the upper crust of Pine Forest society. Janice went back to her office, and John with his family and Scott, drove to their new home. When they got there, George Simons came over to talk to them.

“I see you bought this cottage.”

“Yes, George, we did,” John Shepard answered his new neighbor. “But, we have a dilemma. I have to go back to Saginaw for a few hours, and the children are tired. The only thing we have right now, is the floor. They need a bed to sleep in.”

“Let me call Ruth McGuire. She has three daughters. Your daughter could spend the night there, and your son could spend the night at my house. I am sure my son would love the company.”

“What do you, think, dear?” John Shepard inquired of his wife.

“I don’t see any harm in it.”

“Alright it is settled then. Jimmy will spend the night at your house, and Kathy can spend the night at your friend’s. By the way, what is your son’s name?”

“His name is Jay. He is nine going on ten.”

“So is Jimmy.”

“Two boys the same age, having a sleepover. Jimmy’s first one in his new neighborhood.”

“Just that, we didn’t bring any sleep clothes for either of them.”

“That is all right, John,” George replied. “Jay has a pair he can borrow for the night.”

“Alright, then, he can spend the night at your house.”

There was something the Shepard family didn’t know. Ginger Lane had a very big secret only few people outside of the lane knew about. No, they weren’t axe murderers or anything like that. But this secret had to do with Jay Simons.

“I will tell you what, George. Let’s wait until I come back from Saginaw. I will bring Jimmy’s and Kathy’s sleepwear.”

“Okay, John, sounds good to me. It is only six o’clock now. We have plenty of time. How long did you say you will be gone?”

“About three hours. I have to call the movers and tell them we are ready to have the truck come and start loading. They will make sure that all the furniture is covered in plastic, and the dishes are already packed. Everything but the furniture is packed and labeled. I had better get going. Be back soon.” John Shepard hugged and kissed his wife and hugged and kissed his children on the forehead. After telling them he loved them, he left.

“I will be back over when John gets back.”

George left, and Eileen Shepard and the children went to investigate more of the house. The first thing they did, was look for the bedrooms. There was one bigger than the other two, and that Eileen told the children, was for her and daddy. Then they went to look at the other rooms. There was a bedroom that looked like it was for a girl. Of course, Kathy claimed that right away. The other bedroom was for Jimmy. It had wallpaper that looked like a brick wall. Jimmy loved it.

They went back in to the kitchen, where they all sat down. They talked a little, while they waited for John to get back.

“Mom, what if I don’t like spending the night at George’s?” Jimmy asked.

“Then you come back here. Maybe your father will bring the beds, as well the sleepwear. That is a very big maybe, though. We will wait and see, I guess.”

“Mom, did you meet this lady George called Ruth?” Inquired Kathy.

“No, dear, we haven’t met anyone, except George.” It was then the doorbell rang. Eileen went to answer it.

“Hello, I’m Ruth McGuire, this is my sister Elaine Schwimmer, and this is Dotty Winston, and Georgia Williams. We live here on the lane. Welcome to Pine Forest and Ginger Lane. May we come in?”

“Yes, please, come in.” Eileen told the ladies. “By the way, I’m Eileen, and my two children are in the kitchen. Please, follow me.”

“George told us we were getting new neighbors. Better watch out for him, he likes to gossip and spread rumors.” Ruth told Eileen.

They went in the kitchen, where Jimmy and Kathy were sound asleep.

“The poor dears,” Elaine Schwimmer remarked. “They must have been really tuckered out.”

“Yes,” stated Eileen. “They had a very busy day today. Let’s take some chairs and go and sit in the living room.”

Very quietly, they removed the chairs to the living room. They sat down and talked.

“Anyway, I brought some donuts, coffee and milk for the young ones.”

“Did someone say donuts?” Inquired Jimmy Shepard.

“Oh, honey, we thought we would let you sleep, at least until your father returns. Well, ladies, looks like we can have our treats in the kitchen after all.” Eileen told the assembled group.

They all went in the kitchen, where Ruth McGuire opened the box of donuts. The children were the first to select their favorites that were there. Jimmy like the ones with the little sprinkles on them. Kathy liked the chocolate covered donuts. After everybody took their donut, and Dotty Winston poured the coffee for the adults and milk for the children, they talked some more while they ate.

“Do you play canasta, Eileen?” Asked Georgia Williams.

“Yes, I do. I play a lot of different card games.” Eileen Shepard answered her new neighbor.

“Well,” Ruth McGuire started to say. “We have a canasta game with the wives once a week, when the men are out having their fun. I …”

“Excuse me, Ruth, I don’t mean to be rude, but we were talking about the children don’t have their beds or their sleepwear. George Simons offered to have Jimmy spend the night at his house, with his son Jay.” Eileen said, sounding concerned.

“Jay is a nice boy. He loves to make friends. But, there is something you should know, now that you are officially members of the cul-de-sac community. Jay is what you call a transsexual. That is, he feels like a girl on the inside, but is a boy on the outside.”

“What is the cul-de-sac community?”

“It is the nickname the townspeople gave us, because the end of the lane ends in a turn around dead end. Just like the cul-de-sacs in the bigger towns.”

“I see,” Eileen said. “So, about Jay. Does he dress like a girl, and act like a girl?”

“Yes, he does. He even goes to school dressed as a girl.”

“I … uhm … I don’t really think I want Jimmy around that kind of influence. See, he and Kathy have been brought up to believe that boys will become men, and girls will become women. There is no in-between. It is even stated in the Good …”

“I don’t mean to be rude, Eileen,” Dotty Winston interrupted. “But Jay is a wonderful boy. He is just a little mixed up. We have a doctor just two doors down from you. He is also a psychiatrist. He has been treating Jay for about a year, now. His name is Dr. Wayne Schiller, and he tends to all of us here on the lane, when we get sick, or need something to calm our nerves, or, if we get too anxious about something.”

“Like anxious about Jay being around your children?” Asked Eileen.

“Oh, no,” replied Elaine Schwimmer. “Jay is friends with all of the children on the lane. It is just that he feels he is a girl inside of his soul. He is nine, going on ten, and for one so young, according to Dr. Schiller, Jay may be suffering from what he calls pseudo-transgenderism. He said that is where a young person thinks they are the opposite sex in their souls, but don’t have the mannerisms of that gender. But, you don’t have to be afraid of Jay. He is harmless.”

“I will have to discuss this with John when he gets back. He should be here in about an hour, or so. Then we will see what the verdict is. I think we should get to know everyone, before we start making any plans about the children staying at someone else’s house for a sleep over.”

“Well,” Ruth answered Eileen’s query. “We are having a block party tomorrow, so you can meet everyone who lives on the lane. Some of the men are still working yet. But, please, Eileen, don’t be afraid of anyone here. We are a close knit community here on the lane, and while we do have police protection, we watch out for each other.

“We watch out, especially, for the children. We are not isolated here, but this is the only street in town that is six blocks long and ends in a sort of cul-de-sac. So, you see, Eileen, there really is nothing to fear here, from anyone of us.

“The only person on the lane that is slightly different, is Jay, and he is struggling to make new friends. Other people outside of the lane, keep a wide berth around Jay when he is taken in to town to go shopping, or anything else. That is because they have an unwarranted fear of Jay, because they don’t know what to think about him. But he is harmless, he really is.”

“Well, like I said, before. I will wait until John gets back, and I will talk to him about this.”

“Talk to me about what, dear?” John said, coming in to the kitchen.

“You’re home early, dear,” Eileen Shepard said, giving her husband a kiss and a hug. “These ladies were just telling us about George’s son, Jay. They have been telling me that Jay is a transgender child, but the doctor that lives two doors from us, is actually treating Jay for what he calls pseudo-transgenderism. This doctor is also a psychiatrist. Also, dear, we are having a block party tomorrow, so we can meet the people who live in the lane.”

“That sounds wonderful,” remarked John Shepard. “But, I am concerned about George’s son. See, while we are not Bible thumpers, as that term is used disparagingly, we do believe that we were made male and female in our bodies. The children go to Sunday school, and they are learning about what is in the Bible.”

“May we set the Bible aside for a moment?” Inquired Dotty. “There are many people, young and old, who are the same way that Jay is. Most of these people are what is known as a true transsexual. I am hoping that once you get to know Jay, you will have the same attitude towards him, that we do. See, John, we not only protect Jay, but we protect all the children and watch out for all of us. Like we said, we are a close knit community here on the lane. Did you ever hear the phrase,’it takes a village’?”

“Yes, I have, many times. I will have to ask a Lutheran pastor about this. I only hope this is not an indication of the decay of society and the actual end of the world. But, I will have to ask my pastor. Where is the Lutheran church here?”

“It is over on Pine street. That is the cross street right there by the diner. You turn right, when you see the diner, and go two blocks. The church is right on the corner of Pine and Locust streets. Pastor, Wilkes, will welcome you to the congregation, and then you can talk to him about anything you wish. But, he does know about Jay.

“On Sunday, come to church with my sister and I. We are members of the Lutheran congregation here in Pine Forest. I think you will find his sermon very interesting.”

“It isn’t that I fear Jay, it’s just that I was taught something completely different. That is what I taught my children. Now, we are told that there is this boy who dresses and acts like the girl he believes he is. I’m not sure that I am comfortable with that. The movers won’t be here until tomorrow morning, around ten or ten thirty. I want to draw up a few plans to build an addition to the cottage. Jimmy, would you like to help me?”

“Yes, Dad.

“Kathy, do you still want to spend the night at Ruth’s and meet her three daughters?”

“Yes, dad. I would love to meet them.”

The sleeping arrangements, if you will, having been made, Kathy left with Ruth to go to her house. With her nightgown and tooth brush in hand, they walked the two blocks to Ruth’s house. As they entered the house, Kathy saw three girls watching television. She went to the bathroom, after being told where it was, and left her tooth brush in the covered tooth brush holder. The cover was to prevent dust from getting on the tooth brushes. Kathy then went back to the living room.

“Girls,” Ruth said, interrupting their television program. “I want you to meet someone who just moved in to the neighborhood. Come and meet Kathy Shepard. She’s going to be spending the night.”

“Hey, Kathy, I’m Francine, these are my sisters, Darlene, she’s nine, and this is Tanya, she’s seven, going on eight. I’m eleven. It is nice to meet you, Kathy.”

“It is nice to meet all of you, too. My daddy couldn’t get our beds up here until tomorrow when the movers bring everything on the big truck. I have been on sleepovers before, but those were all weekend long. What do you do here, when you have a sleepover?”

“Well, we do a lot of things. We play around with each other’s hair to see what styles suit us best. We polish each other’s fingernails, we have a fashion show, and we play games. We do a lot when we have a sleepover.”

“Alright, where do I sleep?”

“In the guest room, or you can sleep in one of our rooms. We all have bunk beds, in case we do have a sleepover.”

“Well, I don’t want anyone to think I am picking favorites, so, let’s get your mom to make straws. The short straw, then I sleep with Tanya, the medium straw, I sleep with Darlene, the long straw, I sleep with Francine. But, when we do our sleepover thing, we all do them together. Right?”

“Yes,” stated Francine. “I will get my mom to make the straws and then bring them in. She can hold them while you pick one. That will be the one in whose room you will sleep in.

“So, you bought Mrs. Harkins place. Everybody in town loved her. She helped people as best as she could, and when she died, everybody in town turned out for her funeral. Even the businesses closed because they went to her funeral. You have bought a good house. Okay, so what do we want to do before bed time?”

I think we should get the straws picked first, before we do anything else,” stated Kathy Shepard.

“I think you’re right, Kathy. Wait here while I get my mom to make the straws.” Francine disappeared in to the kitchen, there was talking the girls couldn’t make out, because they had a swinging door at the kitchen entrance, and it was closed. When Francine came back out, she was with her mom.

“Francine tells me that you don’t play any favorites, and that drawing straws is the only way you all can solve the sleeping arrangements. Alright, ladies, Kathy gets to pick only one. So, let’s see just how good she is.”

All the straws were even at the top, so as not to give the length of the straws away. Kathy started reaching for one, then pulled her hand away. She thought for a moment, and then she picked the straw that in the middle. That meant that Kathy will sleep in Darlene’s room.

It was then, that they decided to watch the late show movie. Tonight was The Creature From The Black Lagoon. They sat and watched the movie, after Ruth had made them a bowl of popcorn to share.

Darlene showed Kathy where she could put her nightgown. The movie was great. They really hung on to each other, when the creature climbed on to the boat, to get the girl. When the movie was over, all four girls were yawning, so, they decided to get ready for bed.

Since this was Friday night, they really didn’t have to go right to bed. What they did was, they had an impromptu fashion show. Kathy wore one of Tanya’s dresses, and shoes. Francine did the emcee thing, when Kathy came in to the bedroom from the hallway. Next was Tanya, then Darlene, and, of course, Francine was last.

After the fashion show, Francine asked Kathy if she had to go home right away in the morning.

“The reason I ask, Kathy, is because it would be great to have a full weekend sleepover. That way, we can style each other’s hair, polish our nails, go down to the mall and just look around. I could ask mom for a few dollars so we could each get a pair of plastic earrings.

“Do you have pierced ears, Kathy?”

“Yes, Francine. I have had pierced ears for a few years.”

“Good. Because then we could buy the earrings, and wear them right away out of the mall. Then we come back here and do something else. Just what, I haven’t the foggiest.” The girls giggled when Francine said that in a pseudo British accent. “I heard my father say that once, just like that, I think.” They all giggled again.

Tanya was wondering about Kathy. This was the first time they had met her.

“Kathy,” Tanya said. “Do you like to play with dolls and doll buggy’s?”

“Yes, Tanya, I do. I like to pretend I am a mother taking her baby for a walk in the park.”

“I like to do that, too,” Tanya added.

“It sounds like you two have something in common,” Ruth said, coming in to Darlene’s room. “Tanya does have two dolls with a buggy for each one. You are welcome to use one while you’re here.”

“Thank you, but I do have my own doll and buggy. I could bring it over the next time I stay for a sleepover.”

“That sounds very good. Are you girls sleepy?”

“No, mom,” Darlene answered. “We were thinking about watching another movie.”

“Well, I asked, because the movie Young Frankenstein is coming on.”

“Alright, mom, we will be right down,” Darlene added.

The girls went downstairs to watch Young Frankenstein.

They laughed at the antics of Marty Feldman as Igor (pronounced I-gore) son of Igor (pronounced E-gore). Young Frankenstein was a very funny movie. When it was over, the girls went upstairs to go to bed. Kathy was given the lower bunk, while Darlene slept in the upper one. After saying goodnight, the girls were asleep in no time.

When morning came, each of the girls took their turn taking their bath. When they were all finished with their baths, and they were dressed, they went downstairs to have breakfast. Breakfast was pancakes, bacon, orange juice and milk.

When the breakfast was finished, the girls all chipped in and helped with the clean up. Kathy’s job was to put the dishes away, and was told what went where by Ruth, who supervised the clean up. She actually did clean the dining area, but the girls did the dishes. When you have one girl washing, two girls drying and one girl putting the dishes away, the clean up goes really fast.

With the clean up completed, Kathy said that she should go home and let her mother and father know how the sleep over went. She told Tanya, Darlene and Francine to come with. Ruth had no objection.

“I think it would be nice to meet our new neighbors. I have already met them. You girls go with Kathy. She also has a brother named Jimmy.”

“Alright, Kathy, we will go with you,” Said Francine.

Kathy and the three girls went over to Kathy’s house. It was early yet, nine thirty, and the movers hadn’t been there yet. As they walked in the house, they saw Jimmy, Kathy’s mom and dad, asleep sitting up at the kitchen table. When they saw this, Kathy put her forefinger to her lips in a “shhhh” motion. They went upstairs, because Kathy wanted to show her new friends what her new room looked like without furniture in it.

“I wanted this for my room right away when I saw it.”

“It’s really pretty,” Francine said, looking at Kathy’s room with envy.

“I wish I had this for my room,” added Tanya.

“My room isn’t this pretty,” remarked Darlene.

“Let me show you Jimmy’s room. It is very nice, for a boy’s room.”

Kathy took them to Jimmy’s room and showed them how the wall paper was set up.

“It looks like a brick wall,” remarked Darlene.

“That’s why Jimmy likes it so much. It will be nice to see how he wants his room to look when we get everything from the other house. My daddy said he was listing it with our realtor, so she can sell it for us. But, when Jimmy and I came up here, looking for our bedrooms, I picked mine right away, and when he saw his room, he loved it. I hear mom and dad downstairs.” The girls went down to the kitchen.

“Mom, dad, I want you to meet Francine, Darlene and Tanya. I want to spend tonight with them, too. Their mom said it was okay. We had a lot of fun, yesterday.”

“Well, I don’t see a problem,” John Shepard said.

“I don’t either,” added Eileen Shepard. “So, what did you girls do all night?”

“We watched scary movies. We watched The Creature From The Black Lagoon and then later, we watched Young Frankenstein. That was more funny than it was scary. Before the movies, we had a fashion show.”

“Well, Kathy, you can spend the night, but, I want a full report for my family book I want to write someday.” John Shepard laughed, while the girls all giggled.

Kathy knew that her mother wouldn’t write a book, and if she did, she would probably put everything in it that the kids, their dad, and anybody who gave her something juicy to write about. But, Eileen Shepard never even started the book she so facetiously stated that she was going to write one day.

“Did you bring your nightgown home to be washed?”

“No, mom, I’m sorry. I was in a hurry to show my friends mine and Jimmy’s room.”
“It doesn’t matter, right now, anyway. Just be sure to bring it home, before you go to bed tonight.”

“Yes, mom,” Kathy answered her mother.

“Kathy,” John Shepard started to say. “I would like to see Ruth’s house. Is she home?”

“Yes, daddy. You can come with us, when we go back. I also came to get a fresh change of clothes. Tomorrow is Sunday, and Ruth wants to go the Lutheran Church with her and my friends, here.”

“That’s fine, Kathy, because we will meet you there. Then your father will come and get you right before bedtime. Tomorrow, you start school here, so you will need your rest.”

“Yes, mom. Mom?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Where did the summer go? Didn’t we just get out of school for the summer, yesterday?”

“There is a saying that goes like this; ‘time sure flies when you’re having fun'. You did have a fun summer. Now, you spent the night in your new neighborhood with your new friends, and on top of that, you had fun. So, I won’t keep you and your friends, get your change of clothes, and give me a hug.”

Kathy gave her mother and father hugs and kisses, then went to get her change of clothes. She also looked, but her Sunday dress hadn’t come from the old house, yet.

“It is okay, Kathy,” Tanya stated. “I have a Sunday dress you can borrow.” The change of clothes she got, she brought with her, when they went house hunting. That was just in case they found a house. Well they found one and now Kathy needed clothes.

They went downstairs and Kathy told her parents they were leaving. She said an ‘I love you’ to both her mother and father, then they left for Ruth’s house.

When they got to Ruth’s house, Tanya told her mother that Kathy needed to borrow a Sunday dress.

“That is fine, dear. I’m sure one of your Sunday dresses will fit her.”

“Alright, mom,” Tanya said, answering her mother.

The girls all went up to Francine’s room, and there they listened to CDs. While they were playing the CDs, they were dancing to the music. Francine, Darlene and Tanya were very happy that their new friend could dance so well.

“How many sleepovers have you been to, Kathy?” Inquired Darlene.

“At our old house, I used to go to sleepovers every weekend, at different friends houses. We had a lot of fun. In the winter we would all get together, and build snowmen. One day, one of the girl’s older sister’s came with us, and she built a sleigh, seven reindeer, and a Santa Clause in the park by our house. It was up all through Christmas, until some boys knocked it down.”

“At least it was up for Christmas,” Tanya said, with a mischievious smile.

“So, what do we want to do? Today is Saturday, and there are late shows on until one o’clock in the morning. Our church service, isn’t until one o’clock in the afternoon.”

“I know what we can do,” Tanya said, excitingly.

“What can we do, Tanya? Asked Darlene.

“We can go to the mall, and just window shop. Maybe try on a few skirts and dresses.”

“That sounds like a good idea. We have the whole day. Where is the mall? Inquired Kathy.

“It is on the other side of the community center. We can walk there, and it would only take us fifteen minutes.” Answered Francine. “Let me ask mother, if we can go.”

When Francine asked Ruth if they could go to the mall, Ruth had no objection. Ruth gave Francine enough money for them to get a lunch at the food court, if they were going to be there at lunch time.
Francine went back upstairs to tell the others.

“Mom said we can go, and gave me enough money for all four of us to get lunch in case we’re there longer. This mall was just built three years ago, and it has a lot of stores in it. Kathy are your ears pierced?”

“Yes, Francine they are. My mom had my ears pierced for about a year, now.”

“Great. Let me ask mom for a little more money, so we can all buy earrings. There is a store in the mall that sells decent plastic earrings. These are what they hypoallergenic. That means they won’t turn funny colors and infect your ears. Let’s all four of us go and ask her.” They all went downstairs, so Francine could ask Ruth if they could a little more money so that each of them can get a pair of earrings.

Ruth gave mthem each twenty dollars to buy something nice for each of them. When they had everything they needed, they headed for the mall. The Pine Forest Mall was on Pine street, just two blocks past the school.

When the developers said they were going to build a mall just two blocks from the school, the parents of Pine Forest became concerned that their children would skip school, just to be at the at the mall. But, their fears were baseless, because sine the mall has been open, not one student from Pine Forest skipped school just to be at the mall.

Pine Forest was a growing community. With a mall, and a business main street that was four miles long, Pine Forest was actual classified as a city. In fact, The sign at the city limits said; “Welcome to the City of Pine Forest, population, sixty five thousand.
Alpena, Michigan is also a small town and it is classified as a city. What people don’t know about Michigan, is that it has a lot of small towns that are called a city. So Pine Forest is, to all intents and purposes, a city. Of course, any town with a population of sixty five thousand people, is actually a city.

Anyway, the four girls started for the mall, but Kathy wanted to stop at her house first. When they entered the house, they girls went straight to the kitchen where Eileen Shepard was washing vegetables for dinner. She saw the girls come in.

“Hello, Ladies, what may I do for you?”

“Mom,” Kathy started to say. “We’re going to the mall. May I have some money to buy a new skirt and blouse, maybe a nice dress, or, even a pair of jeans and a shirt?”

“Mall, hey. Where is the mall here?”

“It is on the other side of the school. Francine said you can’t miss it.”

“Okay, I guess you can have enough to buy a few things. But, I am going to trust Francine with the money, because she is the oldest, and seems like she is responsible enough to handle the money. Francine have you ever went to the mall without your mother? I don’t mean as a group, like you are now, but by yourself.”

“Yes, Mrs. Shepard. I have gone to the mall and bought clothes for all three of us, when mother was busy.”

“Alright, then, I am trusting you with Kathy’s money. I am also going to give a few dollars so you can buy something mice, too. Like maybe a pair of earrings, or maybe a nice skirt, or dress, or something like that. If you girls are going to go to the mall and do any shopping, you need money.”

“Yes, thank you, Mrs. Shepard. My mom gave us money to buy all four of us a nice pair of plastic earrings. But, they will be hypoallergenic.”

“How is it, that a girl your age knows such a big word?”
“Mrs. Shepard, I’m a girl, of course I know such a big word.” Everybody giggled. “Besides, my mom told me a long time ago, that is what I had to look for when buying a pair of earrings or even a ring or necklace.”

“She is right about that. All those other silver or gold plated jewelry will just turn green and leave green marks on your skin. Those green marks could cause an infection. So, yes, hypoallergenic is what to look for when buying jewelry. Kathy, you drop whatever you buy here, on the way back.”

“Yes, mom, and thank you.”

“Yes, thank you, Mrs. Shepard,” Francine echoed.
Next time: The girls at the mall, Jay and Jimmy

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