Table of Contents [Report This]
Miss Parker's day was not off to a good start. She had not slept well, but still had a very hard time getting herself going. After getting dressed, she noticed a small spot on her skirt. Nothing major, but enough to make her look forward to chewing the dry cleaner out royally. Before that, though, she had to change clothes, since Miss Parker could never show up at the Centre looking anything less than perfect.
On the drive in, traffic was horrendous, the lights were all against her, and then the car started making one of those expensive sounding noises. She was late arriving to work and then discovered that someone had actually had the audacity to park in her space. That meant stealing someone else's and then trekking through the garage to the lift.
Only to find an "OUT OF ORDER" sign adorning it's door.
She stalked into the tech room ready to take a bite out of Broots, only to find his computer dark and the room empty.
She felt like a child whose favorite toy had been taken from her.When he finally did show up, he was obviously distracted. He hardly even stumbled over his apology for being late.
"What's wrong, Broots? Geeks 'r Us have an all night sale last night that kept you up too late?" she asked, fingering his shirt collar.
"No, actually, it's Debbie."
That was one of the few things he could have said that actually got to her. She leaned close.
"What's wrong with Debbie?"
"I don't know! She won't tell me!"
He turned to look at her and she could see the frustration on his face.
"She came home from school yesterday afternoon and she was fine. A couple of hours later, she came running down the stairs saying that she just had to call her mother. I asked her what was up and she just rolled her eyes at me and told me that she had to talk to Laura. I reminded her that Sunday is Mother's day and we had planned on calling her then, but she insisted that it just couldn't wait that long. Well, we called the last number I have for her and some guy answered. He said that Laura wasn't there, that she had taken off a couple of weeks ago with some guy she met at a casino. He had no idea where she was or even if she'd be back. Debbie just ran back upstairs and shut herself in her room. I tried to get her to talk to me, but she wouldn't. This morning, she didn't want to go to school. I finally just had to lay down the law and tell her that if she couldn't give me a good reason, she was going whether she liked it or not."
"Laid down the law, Broots?" Parker asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Um... yeah... sorta'... more or less... I mean... I can't let her just not go, can I?"
"Let who not go where?" Sidney asked, strolling in to join the duo.
"Debbie... she didn't want to go to school this morning but she wouldn't tell me why. She said that she wasn't really sick, she just didn't want to go."
"So you told her she had to?"
"Yeah... you don't think I should have made her?"
"Obviously she had her reasons... "
"You think I should go get her?"
"No, Broots, you should get to work. We have a lab rat to catch, remember?"
"But Sid said... "
"Yeah, and the expert on kids there is the one responsible for the lab rat we're after," Parker hissed back. "Don't worry. She's a smart kid. She'll handle it."
"Does that reassurance come from your vast knowledge and experience in child rearing, Parker?" Sidney replied.
He had meant the words as a joke, but the pained expression she turned on him was like a knife in his chest. He could almost swear he saw tears in her eyes before she quickly turned away.He watched her walk across the room, wondering what was bothering her. He laid a hand on Broots' shoulder.
"I'm sure Miss Parker is right. Debbie is a bright girl. She'll talk when she's ready, and she knows that someone will listen."
He raised his voice on the last sentence, knowing that Parker would catch his meaning. When she was ready to talk, he'd be there to listen. She regained her composure and walked back over to join the two men.
"How about if I pick her up after school today?"
Broots breathed a sigh of relief.
"Actually, I was hoping you'd talk to her. I thought it might be one of those... "
He started blushing and looked around quickly to make sure they were alone.
"Female things," he finished in a whisper.
"Female things? You mean like 'boys'?" Parker whispered back at him. Broots went white and his jaw dropped.
"Boys! No way! She's... she's too young for boys... she still sleeps with a doll!"
"But does she wear pajamas with little cowboys on them?"
"Hey, they're comfortable... "
Knowing that any further comments would just make matters worse, he turned to his computer.
"Don't we need to get started looking for Jarod?"
A couple of hours of fruitless searching later, the computer suddenly beeped and went dead.
Broots shrugged. "Probably another system compromise. It's been happening a lot the last few days."
The phone rang and Parker grabbed it up.
She listened for a moment before hanging up.
"They want you in the systems control center."
"Me?" Broots squealed.
"No... they're hoping Sidney can talk the computer into coming back online," she commented sarcastically. "Of course, you."
"I don't know. Maybe they're desperate."
"You'd better get yours down there pronto, Techno boy, and get this pile of junk functioning again."
"Yes, Miss Parker."
It was amazing how fast the man could move when leaving her presence.Sidney shook his head, a small smile playing on his lips.
"Miss Parker... "
"Not now, Sidney."
She picked up her phone and dialed a number.
"Meet me in the garage in 5 minutes."
She turned to the doctor.
"Go practice your head shrinking on someone else. I have to take my car into the shop. Jarod probably thought it would be funny to put sugar in my gas tank or some other juvenile prank."
"Why do you blame all your problems on Jarod?" Sidney asked, walking out into the corridor with her.
"Same reason I blame the rain for flooding. It's usually responsible."
On the ride back from the garage, Miss Parker sat in the back seat while Sam confidently handled the big black sedan. When her phone chirped, she answered it in her usual manner.
There was silence.
"Let me rephrase: What the hell do you want?"
"Um... Miss Parker?" a strange voice asked.
"This is Blue Cove Middle School. We're trying to get in touch with a Mr. Broots. We've been unable to reach him at his home or office number. Yours is listed as an additional contact. I wonder if you know how we might reach him."
Parker remembered the look on his face as he headed toward the systems control center.
"You can't. He cannot be disturbed at the moment. Is Debbie alright?"There was a pause.
"Look, you said yourself I was listed as an additional contact. If something's wrong, I might be able to get a message to him."
"Oh, don't worry. She's fine. She's just been suspended for the rest of the day and we need for someone to come and pick her up."
"I'm on my way."
She hung up before the woman could protest and leaned forward to tell Sam of their new destination.
As the car screeched to a halt in front of the school, several students stopped to stare at the vehicle and the two people who emerged from it. Parker stepped up to one boy.
"Where's the principal's office?"
Not surprisingly, the boy was completely tongue tied and unable to answer. After asking again and again receiving no response, she stepped around him and started towards the door. They finally found someone who pointed them in the direction of the office where Debbie Broots sat in a chair opposite another girl. The other girl was nursing a split lip and the two were staring at each other hard enough to start a fire.
Debbie looked up in surprise when Parker entered the room.
The girl nodded.
"Nothing." She looked down, suddenly fascinated by her hands.
"You don't get expelled from school for nothing, Debbie."
"Not expelled, just suspended, Mrs. Broots," a well-dressed gentleman corrected as he entered the room.
"I beg your pardon?"
"The name's Parker. Miss Parker. I'm a friend of the family."
"I'm sorry. I thought you were Miss Broots' mother."
The other girl suddenly laughed.
"No. Her mother dumped her and took off with some guy!"
Parker saw Debbie suddenly draw in her breath and clench her teeth together. So that's what this was all about. A woman sitting next to the girl touched her gently on the shoulder.
"Now Tawny, that's not a very nice thing to say."
"But it's true, Mom. I heard her tell Kelley that she doesn't even know where her mother is! I mean, it's pretty bad when your own mother doesn't even want to be around you."
Debbie was trembling with suppressed rage, her hands clenched into fists. Parker waited a moment, but neither the girl's mother nor the principal responded to her comment.
"Excuse me, but don't you feel that remark was a little out of line?"
The principal made a dismissive gesture. "Perhaps it was rude, but it was certainly no reason for Miss Broots to strike her." The other woman put her arm around her daughter and lifted her chin defiantly.
"We've always taught Tawny to speak her mind. She has the right to say whatever she wants to."
"Well, so do I."
Parker crossed the room in two strides and leaned over close to the girl. "Debbie's mother may not be around, but I am. She's my friend and I look out for her. You hurt her again, and your worst nightmares won't prepare you for me."
She locked her gaze on the girl.
Standing behind Debbie, Sam had to fight to keep the smile off of his face. He had seen that gaze turned hardened sweepers into quivering puddles. The girl didn't stand a chance. Moments later, her chin trembling and her eyes threatening to spill over, the girl lowered her head.
"Sorry," she mumbled softly.
Parker straightened up.
"Didn't hear you."
"I'm sorry," she repeated, slightly louder.
She looked over at Debbie.
"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
"And... " Parker prompted.
"I won't do it again."
"Good. Make sure no one else does it either."
She turned around. "Let's go, kiddo."
She put an arm around Debbie and left the room, Sam close on their heels.
Debbie remained quiet on the walk out to the car. When they got there, Miss Parker held out her hand to Sam.
Without a word, he handed them over.
"Call for another ride."
She got in behind the wheel and took off in a cloud of dust. Knowing that she wanted some time alone with the little girl, Sam didn't bother trying to hide his smile as he pulled out his cell phone to call for a pickup. In the car, Debbie remained silent, staring out the window. Parker just kept driving, knowing that the girl would speak when she was ready.
Finally, a small voice spoke up.
"I'm sorry, Miss Parker."
"Sorry for what?"
"Sorry for getting in trouble. Sorry that you had to come get me."
"Don't worry about it. I had told your Dad I'd pick you up after school today anyway. This will just give us a little more time to spend together." The girl looked over at her.
"Why were you picking me up?"
"Well, your Dad is a little worried about you."
"Oh." She turned back to the window.
"Oh? That's not much of a comment."
They kept driving in silence.
"Well," Parker finally asked, "What do you want to do today?"
Debbie was quiet for a moment.
"Do you think we could stop by a drugstore?"
Her question was so soft that Parker barely caught it. She started to ask her to repeat it before she realized what is was... and the probable reason for it.
"Sure. I need to pick up a couple of things myself."
No wonder the girl couldn't talk to her dad. In the drug store, Parker put several other things in her basket before heading over to the feminine hygiene section. She grabbed what she needed and turned to the girl with her.
"What do you need?"
Debbie chewed her lip, looking at the vast selection.
"I'm really not sure."
After a bit of discussion, she made a selection and put it in the basket.
As they waited in the checkout line, Debbie smiled up at her companion.
"Thanks for doing this with me. I was too embarrassed to ask my dad."
"I understand. I went through this without my mom, too."
Parker gave her a quick hug, running her hand down Debbie's back as she did so.
When they got back into the car, Parker asked her, "If you don't mind, there's someplace else I'd like to stop."
"That's fine," Debbie assured her."I'm in no hurry to have to explain this to my dad."
When they walked into the lingerie shop, the sales associates immediately recognized Parker. A quick game of 'scissors, rock, paper' followed and the loser walked up to the two.
"Miss Parker! Welcome! It's so lovely to see you again!"
"Cut the crap," Parker glanced at the woman's nametag. "Audrey."
"Of course, Ma'am. What can I do for you today?"
"Debbie is in need of a bra."
She glanced down to see a smile starting on the girl's face.
"Of course," Audrey replied enthusiastically. "What size does she need?"
"I'm not sure."
"Ah, I see. Our first, is it?"
"No, it's her first. I've been wearing one for years and I really don't care whether you do or not."
Debbie fought down a grin. Part of the fun of going places with Parker was seeing the way people reacted to her.
Audrey opened and closed her mouth several times, unable to reply. Finally, she decided to stick with what she did know.
"Well, how about we... I get you measured here and then we'll look at specific styles. We do have some lovely selections in our junior line."
After measurements were completed, the associate directed the duo to the appropriate area of the sales floor.
"I think we can take it from here, Audrey. Why don't you get back to your friends there before you pass out from the exertion?"
Debbie stifled a giggle.
"That wasn't very nice, Miss Parker."
They laughed together.
After making several selections, they started towards the cash register. Parker noticed Debbie slow down to look at some underwear.
"Those are pretty."
Debbie blushed slightly and turned to go, but Miss Parker had walked over to the rack to stand next to her. She pulled out another pair, this one with smiley faces all over them.
"And these are sure cute."
"What size do you wear?"
She told her.
"But I could never get anything like that!"
"Because my dad would freak!"
"Your dad doesn't have to wear them." As Debbie burst into laughter, Parker shook her head.
"That is not a picture I need."
She finally convinced the girl to pick out several pairs of the decorated panties.
"Should make gym class a little more bearable, huh?"
Debbie looked up at her, amazed that the older woman understood her problem. After paying for their purchases, Debbie went into one of the fitting rooms to try out her new purchase.
As Miss Parker waited for her, another customer came over and touched her gently on the arm.
"I just wanted to tell you that you have a lovely daughter."
Parker started to correct her, then stopped.
"Thank you. She is a pretty special young woman."
After their purchases were stowed in the car, Debbie said that she just wanted to walk around the mall a little bit. Knowing that there was still something on her mind, Parker agreed. Some three hundred miles later (at least that's what it felt like to Parker), they stopped and plopped down on a bench. Debbie sat glaring into the window of the card shop.
"I really hate Mother's day."
"I know," Parker replied. "It's bad enough missing your mom everyday, but when all the stores and papers and everything are advertising 'Remember Mom on her Special Day' you just feel like smacking everyone in sight."
"Yeah. At least mine is still alive... or at least I guess she is. I was going to call her on Sunday, but now I can't even do that."
An idea came to Parker and she stood up, pulling Debbie up with her and heading for the card shop.
"Actually, there is something you can do."
She started scanning the rows of cards, hoping that she would find the one that she wanted. Finally, she did and pulled it out and handed it to Debbie.
"For my Dad on Mother's Day?" The girl looked at her in confusion.
"Why would they make a card like that?"
"Maybe for someone who has a really great Dad who also has to be a mother, too."
"You mean, like mine?"
"Don't you ever tell him I said so, but you sure got lucky in the dad department. He talks about you all the time and he would do anything in the world for you. He'd have probably even taken you shopping for the stuff we got today if you had asked him. He has to do everything for you, everything that a dad is supposed to do, but all the stuff that a mom is supposed to do, too."
"So, you think I could take him out for lunch... maybe buy some flowers or something just like I would my mom?"
"I think he'd like that very much. And he'd be really surprised, too. He expects something on Father's day, but not for Mother's day."
Debbie was nodding her head, liking the idea more and more the longer she thought about it.
"Did you do this for your Dad after your mom died?"
"No, but your dad is very different from mine."
A sad looked settled in her eyes for a moment before Debbie reached over and hugged her hard.
"Thanks, Miss Parker. That's a great idea."
In the car, Debbie was chattering away excitedly, making plans to surprise her father with a whole day of activities. She stopped suddenly and turned to the driver.
"What are you going to do, Miss Parker?"
"Actually, I'm going to go some place special. I can take you there now, if you'd like."
"Yes, I'd like that very much."
The car pulled into the lot at the cemetery and the two got out. Debbie took Miss Parker's hand as they walked across the quiet grounds. Parker looked at her with a smile and squeezed her hand gently.
When they reached the large marble marker, Debbie hung back as Miss Parker knelt on the ground. She ran her hand across the cold stone and closed her eyes as her mind filled with images of the woman who lay below. After several minutes, she stood up.
"Mom, there's someone here I'd like for you to meet."
She turned around and held out her hand to Debbie. The young woman stepped forward and took it.
"This is Debbie Broots. Debbie, this is my Mom."
Debbie leaned forward and laid a rose on the top of the stone.
"Hello, Mrs. Parker. Thank you for having such a wonderful daughter."
Brief note: My Dad's father died during WWII, when my Dad was only about 6 years old. He and his older sister were raised by a single mother. Until her death, he never failed to send her a card on Father's day as well as one for Mother's day.
Please, let me know what you think.
Move on to the sequel: Daddy's Little Girl