A Second Chance -- Chapter 9


A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

TUESDAY, May 3, 2016

Rachael got on the bus to see the girls in the back to frantically waving her back to the same seat she had sat on yesterday. They were all full of the plans for the sleepover that was planned for Friday. So far there were going to be six coming, the three girls, Janice, Mikki, and Rachael.

“Mikki is actually pretty cool,” Carly said, and both her partners shook their heads in agreement. I couldn’t believe how great that picture she took of you turned out.”

“Well, actually her dad took that picture,” Rachael clarified. “But apparently Mikki did all of something they call post, and that’s what makes the picture look so professional. Her mom says she is better than her dad at that.”

“I wonder if her dad does weddings,” Becca said. “I have a cousin who is getting married in June. I wonder if her dad would be cheaper.”

“Is cheaper something you really want with a wedding?” Rachael asked. “I would think quality is more important than price for something like that.”

“Hmm. I guess so. It’s just Kendra, my cousin, said that it was going to cost some $5000 for them to shoot her wedding. It seems like a lot of money.”

“I don’t know if he would want to shoot it anyway,” Rachael said. “He is some kind of finance guy in Toronto, so he might not want to give up a weekend to do it. But he really likes photography, so he might. You should ask Mikki.”

It was at that point where Mikki got on the bus, but today she was not alone. There was an exceptionally tall girl who got on at that stop. “Hi guys,” Mikki said. “This is Larissa, who is new at the school starting today.” Then she stopped. There were three seats across the back of the bus, but only two seats in the rows in front. There was no way that all six of them could sit together. Rachael decided to act.

“Look, why don’t you sit back here, Mikki,” she said. “Becca wants to talk to you about wedding photography. I’ll go up to our old seat and get to know Larissa.”

The tall new girl towered over Rachael. She was either six feet tall, or close to it, an unusual height for a girl so young. She also had a bit of a French accent. Rachael chose to speak French with her, and Larissa seemed grateful to be speaking in her native tongue.

“You will have to be my partner in French class,” Rachael said. “Between the two of us we will drive Mrs. Lafleur nuts. Did you just move into town?”

“Yes, on the weekend. His company transferred my father and he jumped at the chance to come. I wasn’t so eager, nor was mom, but Marc, my little brother was. He is really into hockey, so a chance to come to Canada was like coming to heaven for him. My dad said I had my years in Paris, and now it was his turn.”

“Paris. That is so neat. I would love to live there,” Rachael said.

“Yes, it was nice. And I had good work there.”

“What did you do?”

“Oh, I did modeling. It is about the only thing that is good about being so tall.”

“Tall and beautiful. You are gorgeous.”

“Thank you. Tell me, are there any tall boys in your school?”

“Hmmm. Mark Russett is pretty tall. He might not be as tall as you, but he would be close. He plays basketball and can dunk the ball. Of course, those are the eight-foot baskets in our gym, not the 10-foot high ones like in the high school. He is kinda cute. I’ll introduce you today or tomorrow.”

“Wow, that would be cool. He doesn’t have a girlfriend?”

“Not that I know of. And even if he did she wouldn’t be nearly as cute as you are.” Larissa had the lanky, slender look of the typical fashion model, with light brown hair down to her mid back, and a waist Rachael would die for. Her breasts were larger than Rachael’s, but not as large as some of the girls in her class. This was a good thing, Rachael decided, for if she was bigger up there she would look like a high school or college student.”

When the bus stopped at the school, Larissa hesitated in getting off. Mikki paused as the girls passed them, but Rachael nodded for her to follow the others, while she took her time with the new girl.

“Are you nervous?” she asked Larissa, still using French.

“Yes I am. I am supposed to report to the office. I was there yesterday. I guess you would have been in the classes with all the others. But my mom was with me, and I guess I didn’t pay too much attention. I’m not even sure where the office is.”

“Well come with me. I will take you there,” Rachael said confidently, hoping to boost the spirits of the girl. “We will be the Odd Couple of the school. You so tall, and me so short.”

There were more than a few stares at the pair of them as they walked to the office, which was right at the main entrance, and wouldn’t have been hard for Larissa to find.

Inside Mrs. Deboer was out in a few seconds after Larissa came in. “Our new student. Welcome. I see you have met Rachael here. Good, good. I think the two of you have the same schedule. I had planned on someone else to be your peer mentor, but if you are comfortable with Rachael, I can give her the job. She certainly needs some citizenship points this term, although lately she has been doing better.”

Oui, Rachael, sil vous plait, ” Larissa said, then remembered she needed to speak English. “Yes please, I would like Rachael.”

Mrs. Deboer scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to Rachael. This pass will allow you to be a bit late to your first class. Don’t make me regret giving it to you. You will need a few minutes to show Larissa the lockers, and the various facilities in the school. Since you are in the same classes, you will be able to show her to the other various rooms today and tomorrow.”

“And after,” Rachael said. “I am sure Larissa and I are going to be good friends.” The new girl beamed hearing that comment. Mrs. Deboer smiled too, knowing how important acceptance could be for a new student. She handed Larissa a lock, a slip of paper with her schedule and locker number, and a pile of books.

“You might not need all of these, with only a couple months left in the term, but they can help you get caught up, if your old school was on a different schedule. I can arrange tutoring if you need it in any subjects.”

“You might want to use Larissa as a tutor in French,” Rachael said. “She is from France, after all.”

“Yes, we always need good students to help, Mrs. Deboer said. “And I might call on you too for that Rachael. Mrs. Lafleur tells me that your French is much better than your marks earlier in the year indicated. Now that you have straightened things out a bit, you might want to volunteer.”

“I will definitely help. I have been helping some of my friends already. And for Larissa, it will be a good way to meet more people.”

“Do you have a book bag or backpack?” Mrs. Deboer asked, pushing forth the pile of books.

“No. Not yet. I should get one?”

“That is up to you. Most of the students carry a backpack,” the principal said.

“We can carry half the books each,” Rachael said. “Her locker is near mine. Let’s go.”

As they walked towards the locker the bell rang, and suddenly they were alone in deserted halls. This made it easier to carry the books, and there were no longer people gawking at Larissa.

“Everybody stares at me,” she told Rachael, nearly in tears. “Like I am a freak.”

“I wish I could be that kind of freak,” Rachael said with a laugh. “They are staring at you because you are so beautiful. Yeah, you are tall, and hanging out with a shrimp like me probably makes that more noticeable. You might want to find taller girls to be friends with.”

“Oh no, Rachael,” she said. “You and Mikki have been so nice to me. I was worried that I wouldn’t meet any friends here. And Mikki is going to try to get me into her sleepover this week.”

“Oh, you know about that?” Rachael said. She had planned to ask Mikki if they could add Larissa into the list. Her friend seemed to be spreading the niceness that Rachael had started. “You really should come. It will be a lot of fun, and you will meet some more girls. In fact, you probably can give us some modeling tips.”

At the locker they put away the books other than English, Math, and History, the subjects of the morning. Then they hurried off to the English class, with Rachael pointing out the cafeteria, washrooms, gym and other notable areas as they hurried along.

At the closed classroom door, Rachael tapped, and then opened the door. “Ah, Miss Cartright. Back to your old habits, I see,” a disapproving Mrs. Cathcart said, accepting the pass from her as she crept down to a seat.

“My apologies, Rachael,” she added after reading the pass. “I see that you have been showing our new student around the school. And you seem to have been fairly up on our subject matter lately, so I can’t complain. But let’s take a break from parsing sentences for a moment to meet our new student. Could you stand and tell us your name child?”

Larissa stood shyly. “I am Larissa Hafleur. This is my first day at the school, and my first week in Canada. I hope to get to know all of you soon, and I am sure some of us will become friends.”

“Very good dear,” Mrs. Cathcart said. “And your English was very good. I understand it is a second language for you. Any of you” she looked out at the class “who might think Miss Hafleur’s accent is odd, or funny, should realize that it is much better than the English accents that you demonstrate when attempting to speak French.”

The rest of English went well, along with Math and History. Then it was lunchtime.

“Did you bring a lunch?” Rachael asked as Larissa and Mikki walked to the cafeteria with her.

“No. They told me they serve hot food here,” Larissa said. “I brought money though.”

“Well, some people call it food, Rachael laughed, “but that is debatable. Mikki, you should go to the table, and save us some spaces. You might need to squeeze in next to Tony. I’ll stay up here and watch to make sure Larissa gets through the line without problems.”

As Larissa was waiting to get food, something-pasta today, Rachael was approached by Lucy Davners, the girl from the basketball incident a few days ago. “Rachael, can you help me,” Lucy said softly. “I heard you were helping Mikki plan a modeling sleepover. I really, really want to go to that. You are a friend of Mikki’s. Can you get me in?”

“Well, there were only supposed to be six, and I think we are up to seven now,” Rachael said hesitantly.

“I need to go,” Lucy said. “I want to be a cosmetologist when I get out of school, and I’m really good at makeup. If you guys are all getting made up for photos, it would give me great experience. I know I have been a bit of a pest to you guys, but you are turning into the new cool kids. Can you please, please, please get me in?”

“Well I’m not the decider,” Rachael said. “I can ask Mikki, and she will have to ask her mother if she can have eight. That seems to be a lot.”

“Oh thank you, thank you,” Lucy said, then paused. “Who is the tall freak in the lineup over there?”

“That is Larissa, my new friend,” Rachael said coldly. “And she is going to be one of the girls at the party.”

“Oh. Oops. Sometime my mouth says things without asking my brain if it should,” Lucy apologized, and then slunk off.

Larissa was through the line. “Your Canadian money is so strange to me: loonies and toonies. I am used to Euros. What are you going to eat?” She said as they walked to the table.

“I make my own lunch,” Rachael said. “A sandwich and a bit of a salad. Today I’m getting the last of the roast beef from Sunday, since my little brother has recently turned into a Bologna lover.”

“I have been to Bologna,” Larissa said. “It is a pretty city. What kind of food goes in a Bologna sandwich?”

“It is a sausage. I don’t know what they call it over there,” Rachael confessed.

“Mortadella? That is a Bologna sausage.”

“No, we have that here, and it is different. I’ll bring one in tomorrow and show you then. Look, here is the gang.”

Rachael introduced the kids at the table. The boys were getting used to having girls sit with them, and even pretty girls, but Larissa’s height was intimidating. But Mikki was there, and Larissa knew her from their bus stop. Apparently the girls only lived a half block apart. The sleepover wouldn’t be far for Larissa to travel.

“By the way, Lucy wants to come to the sleepover,” Rachael said.

“No way,” Mikki said abruptly. “I don’t want that bitch coming to my house.”

“Well, she says she is really good with makeup,” Rachael said. “And we really don’t have anyone good at that, do we? Unless Larissa does makeup.”

Larissa had been looking into the red glop on her plate, with stray bits of soggy pasta floating in it, with a look that said this was not what she considered good Italian food. “No, I get makeup done for me when I do modeling work,” she said. “They have people who do it for me. Mom won’t let me use much makeup at other times, so I’m probably no better at it than any of you. Is this really food? I mean, it looks like pasta of some sort, but it tastes all mushy and the sauce looks like tomato soup.”

“You have just learned why most of us, the girls anyway, bring food in. Even the salads here are … well, not really food,” Rachael said.

“Yeah, but at least I can eat the salad,” Larissa said. “Hopefully it will keep me alive until after school. Does anyone else want this … stuff?”

One of the boys jumped at the chance for free food, and gladly took the pasta and started to vacuum it into his mouth. Larissa just shuddered and picked at her salad, moving the most wilted leaves out of the way.

“You should walk home with us tonight,” Rachael said. “Normally you have to get permission from your parents, but you are new, and probably can get away with it. Mikki, are you coming with us?”

“Yes. It was fun sitting with the girls on the bus yesterday, but I missed you, and little Bobby too. And it will be fun walking with Larissa for the last part of the trip instead of doing it alone.”

After lunch was the double science period, then French, where as expected Mrs. Lafleur was more than a little intimidated by having a native French speaker in the class. Of course the material was far too simple for the new girl, but she did sit with Mikki, and help her with her pronunciation and tenses, just as Rachael had in the past. Rachael moved over to help Janice Schlepper, who also had trouble with French.

After school Mikki, Larissa, and Rachael met at their lockers, and went over to pick up Bobby. “Wow, you are really tall,” the boy said first, but then redeemed himself by adding “but really, really pretty too.”

“You are very handsome too,” Larissa said. “But very short.” They all laughed at the joke, even Bobby, who really wasn’t sure what was so funny.

As they walked to the stores, Rachael told Mikki about the room in the library, and her idea to have a movie night starting next week. The girls were both enthusiastic about the idea, particularly if Mark Russett could be there, Larissa suggested. “And Tony DaSilva is sure to come,” Rachael added, since he lives next door to the library. Too bad that Robert won’t be able to come. He lives on a farm and can’t get in easily.”

They introduced Larissa to DaSilva’s, and the new girl promptly announced that it was a proper store, like the ones back home. Tony was already in, working, and he gave Larissa a sample of Bologna sausage, which the girl decided tasted better than what she had for lunch. Larissa then surprised the girls by speaking in Italian to Mrs. DaSilva, who was surprised to hear her language spoken, even though with a French accent. Larissa was her new favorite customer, particularly when the girl ordered a large sack of goods, cheese, cold meats, vegetables, and fruit.

Bobby got his apple. Mrs. DaSilva had gotten into the habit of picking a particularly big and shiny one for the boy. Actually, Rachael bought quite a few things for the dinner tonight.

They bypassed the library, Larissa saying they had the same thing in France, called a Bibliotheque. Then they stopped into the Bread Baron, which Larissa called a Boulangerie. She was also impressed here and bought another selection of breads, rolls and pastries. “They told us about the big grocery, but the bakery and vegetable sections there were not as good as these two stores,” Larissa said. “My mother will be so pleased to learn that there are good stores here too.”

Rachael bought a single loaf of bread, and Mikki picked up a selection of desserts for her family, then the girls headed down towards the Verdun house.

“Three jeune filles,” M. Verdun exclaimed as they approached. When Larissa found out that the old soldier spoke French, she started in that language at full speed, and Rachael could barely keep up. Finally she got in a few words, also in French. “Since you have company here, I think I will take the others next door to see my patient.”

The two nodded, and continued chatting about France, so Rachael led Mikki and Bobby next door to Miss Lajoie’s home. When they rapped on the door, Rudolph barked, and was growling when the piano teacher opened the door. But when he saw Bobby, his tail started to wag.

“Please come in girls. Bobby, would you like to take Rudolph for a walk? Just around the block, and hold the leash tightly. I haven’t been able to take him out with Goldie laid up, and he needs the exercise. Is that all right?” she asked Rachael.

“That is fine,” she told her brother. “But hold tight, if he sees a squirrel he might want to chase it. There aren’t many cars on the street, but you don’t want to let Rudolph get hit.”

With that Rachael turned her attention to Goldie. The dog was laying in her crate, and clearly not happy with her cast. There were only a few marks where she had tried to chew at it, so the pepper seemed to have worked. Rachael put her hand on the dog and immediately realized that Goldie was running temperature. Not an dangerously high one, but enough to exhaust her. Then, to her amazement, Rachael felt the temperature start to drop towards normal as the force flowed though her hand into the dog.

Next the girl looked into Goldie’s leg, and saw the bone was knitting together well. In fact, it looked as though the dog had been wearing the cast for four days, not one. There was every indication that the cast would be able to come off in a week, if not sooner.

As she fed energy into the dog, Rachael told Mikki that she had made the cast for the dog.

“How did you know what to do”? Mikki asked, and Rachael had to think fast. “I read a lot, you know,” she finally said. “I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up, so I’ve been reading about dogs. And I really seem to get along well with animals.”

“She is a beautiful dog,” Mikki said.

“Thank you my dear,” Miss Lajoie said. “I love her dearly, and it upsets me greatly when she is in pain.”

“Well, I think she is a lot better now,” Rachael said as she stood up. “Has she been eating?”

“Not at all,” Miss Lajoie said. “I think Rudolph helped himself to her portion this morning.”

“Do you have canned food, or dry?”

“Both. They get canned on Sunday.”

“Can you get her a bit of canned, maybe half what she normally eats. I think a little food will help her along, and some water.”

The woman did so, and was thrilled to see Goldie slowly clean the food dish, and then drink deeply from the water before lying back down.

“We will be back tomorrow to check on her again. Call if she is doing poorly, no matter what time it is.”

“I will. You know dear, you are a saint. Goldie looks so much better now than she did just an hour ago.”

“Let’s go out and see if your other dog is back, or if Bobby had kidnapped him.” They found the boy and the dog rolling about on the front lawn after having walked around the block twice, according to Bobby.

As Miss Lajoie took Rudolph in, Larissa looked up as they came back. “Did you know that this man was at the D-Day? He helped to liberate my country. Every year our school comes out from Paris and all the students tend to the graves of the brave men buried there. I did not know that any were still alive that went there.”

“He is a hero,” Bobby boasted. “My grandpa.”

“All of them were heroes, Larissa said. “My great grandfather told us about the time of the Nazis, and many horrible things happened. My people will always keep the Canadians, the British, and the Americans in out hearts for ridding us of those people. I know the Germans are our friends now, but we owe our country to people like this. I know when my family hear of Monsieur Verdun, they will want to come to thank him personally.”

Rachael considered for a moment. The old man didn’t normally enjoy too much attention, since he considered it was the ones who were left in France who were the real heroes. But he did enjoy speaking in French, and looked as though he might enjoy meeting Larissa’s family. “Why don’t you bring them over on Saturday afternoon. About 3 p.m. I will make some little sandwiches for them and they can have tea with the sergeant.”

“That would be lovely,” Larissa said. “I can’t wait to tell them. You know, after meeting you and Mikki, and then finding those nice shops, and now meeting this hero, I am starting to like Canada.”

A few minutes later, Rachael and Bobby left the other girls to walk home as they turned into their own house. There Rachael found her mother was in a state, and needed her help in getting ready for her date with Steve in three hours. Bobby didn’t get vegetable sticks, but was satisfied with one of Rachael’s cookies as the girl went up to help her mother. He sat and read his books as the two females went upstairs to panic.

“Calm down Momma,” Rachael ordered. “What is the problem? We have lots of time before Steve comes.”

“I don’t know if I should wear my hair up or down. Or what to wear. And, oh God, I haven’t had to do my makeup for years.”

“Let’s start with the hair. I don’t think Steve is a hair up kind of guy. I mean, he’s not taking you to prom is he? It’s just dinner and maybe a little dancing. So leave the hair down. Okay?”

“Okay. What do I wear?”

It isn’t like you have a lot of choice, do you. Definitely don’t wear a work uniform though. That might not go well in the place you go to eat. And if he takes you to your café, they might ask you to start waiting on tables.”

Maria looked strangely at her daughter, and then burst out laughing. “You are hilarious. And that’s just what I needed to calm down. This is just a date. A first date, and my first date in 14 years, but just a date. Steve is a nice guy, but if it doesn’t work out, it isn’t the end of the world.”

With Maria calmed down they were able to pick out an outfit for her: one of the better skirts from the yard sale, and then Maria’s best blouse. It was white, with a silvery pattern throughout that looked like a maze. Rachael joked that it would let Steve stare at Maria’s breasts, and claim he was doing the puzzle.

They laughed, and then started working on makeup. Rachael was not a lot of help here, as she just wore schoolgirl basic makeup, and the only other makeup from her memories was punk, and that didn’t seem appropriate. In the end Maria, who never work makeup to work, just went with a basic look, similar to what she had done for church on Sunday.

“That is perfect,” Rachael said. “Your eyes really pop with a little makeup.”

“One of the curses of being blonde,” Maria said. “With light lashes and brows, your face can wash out a bit.”

“You just need some lipstick, and you will be perfect. And now I better get downstairs, because I need to feed a bottomless pit.”

“What are you doing for dinner?”

“Just pizza,” Rachael said.

“Oh, I will need to give you money then,” Maria said.

“Nope. I’m going to make a pizza from scratch. I got the fixings at DaSilva’s today. It will be a canned sauce. I really need to learn how to make a good tomato sauce from scratch. Mrs. DaSilva said she would give me some from her family recipe. But I got mozzarella, pepperoni, and sausage for toppings. I got a can of mushrooms last weekend shopping. We should be able to have a healthy pizza in no time, for a fraction of the price of the store ones.”

“You are such a little genius, daughter of mine,” Maria said, hugging her. “Let’s go downstairs.”

“Wow Momma, you look beautiful. And not so tall,” Bobby said, confusing Maria until Rachael told her about the comment he had made on first seeing Larissa.

“Another new friend?” Maria asked. “You will have to ask her in one day. I would like to meet her. Is she as nice as Michaela?”

“Yes, I think she is. And I deliberately didn’t ask them in today because I knew you were going to be getting ready for a date. Imagine if I had brought two girls in with the state you were in.”

Rachael made the pizza crust using biscuit dough that rose as the oven heated. She sprinkled the sauce and ingredients on top, and had the pie nearly baked when Steve knocked on the door. Rachael let him in, as Maria fixed her lipstick.

“Hi Steve, Mom is nearly ready.”

“Wow,” was all the policeman could say as he saw Maria walk down the stairs. “I don’t think I’ve ever dated a girl who was ready on time. We have a few minutes before our reservations at Chez Luigi’s. But with the smells coming from your kitchen, I wonder if we should book a table here.”

“My daughter cooks,” Maria said. “She had made a pizza for Bobby and her. I don’t think there would be enough for four. Besides, I have heard good things about Chez Luigi’s. I would love to eat there.”

“And afterwards we will head out to Kiki’s for some dancing, if you are up for it.”

With only a little more small chat, they headed out the door, with Maria ordering Rachael not to wait up for her. A few minutes later, Bobby headed into the kitchen and sat down in front of the oven window, willing the pizza to be done.

“Only another fifteen more minutes, Tiger,” Rachael said, and the boy groaned.

“I can’t wait fifteen more minutes. I am hungry now.”

“I think you will live. I know how much you like pizza. You are going to have to tell me if mine is as good as the ones from the school, or the ones that Momma brings home from the café sometimes.”

“Yeah, Momma hasn’t brought home dinner for a long time,” he said. “I liked the food she brought. But I like the food you make even better. Even sallid.”

“Good idea. We have just enough time to make a salad. Are you up for it? And then it will be a healthy pizza meal for us.”

They worked together in the kitchen, and had two plates of salad ready just as the pizza was done. Rachael left it to rest on the counter while they ate their salads. Actually, Bobby pretty much inhaled his, since the smells of the cooked pizza were distracting him. Finally Rachael cut the pie and gave him two large slices, and took one herself. In the end Bobby had a third slice, and declared it “Best pizza ever.” Rachael had to agree. She was pretty sure that the recipe would be a hit at the sleepover on Friday. She made a mental note to ask all the girls coming what kind of pizza they liked, and plan out the toppings.

After Rachael had washed the dishes, and Bobby had another bath (he smelled like dog again) they read for more than an hour in bed before he fell asleep. Rachael did her homework, and read for a while, and finally realized that her Mom was not going to be home until later, and she was too tired to stay up. She got down on her knees and prayed.

Dear Lord

Thank you again for everything. I don’t usually ask you for things, but could you please let my Momma have a good time tonight? She hasn’t been out for ever so long, and she really deserves some fun in her life. Steve is a good man, and I would love to have him as a father, but it is most important that Momma loves him. Please keep Bobby, Mikki, Grandpa, Miss Lajoie and her dogs, and everybody else safe.


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