Skyler sat with Fred and Jillian at one of the fires set up on the beach. It was nice to hang out with the sound of the surf nearby, the warmth of the fire and friends. There were three fires in all and they were surrounded by groups of friends and friends of friends. The crowd had thinned as it got late. Some heading home, some pairing off and wandering along the shore and into the dunes.
She hadnt really expected French to show up. This wasnt her kind of thing. But she could dream. And she felt like she must be dreaming as the apparition emerged out of the darkness into the circle of light cast by the fires.
She stood a few yards away, looking at one of the groups nearby. Skyler hopped up and jogged over. That, she indicated the group French was looking at. is Alyssa Henderson. Shes my age, Mz. I dont do minors.
French shrugged and gave Skyler a smile and nod.
Anyway, Skyler continued. She doesnt date anyone who owns the means of production, on principle. That would be you.
Yeah, yeah, let me guess, her parents own what? Off-shore oil concerns? An investment banking company?
Actually her Moms a well known civil rights lawyer and her Dad runs the Cristoph Fund. You know, the people who do all of the famine relief stuff.
Whore her friends? French hadnt the foggiest idea why she cared. Except she was a little curious who that guy was that Fry was leaning up against. They were facing in the other direction and she had her head resting on his shoulder.
Thats Felicity, John, Sarah, a friend of Walters, Bobby and I dont know the woman he came with. She looks familiar, but they came late and I havent been over there in a while. Anything else you want to know? Hi, by the way.
Just making conversation. Looks like you had quite a party. I stopped by to say hi then I have to run.
Come walk with me. She took French by the hand and led her down the beach.
French didnt like where this was heading, but figured it was inevitable. They walked for a while, next to the surf and then up into the dunes.
Skylers heart was racing. She knew the outcome, but couldnt help herself from pursuing it. She had to know.
Um, French. Can I ask you something?
Is it food related?
No. What did that have to do with anything?
Skyler stopped and looked at her. Her hair was still in the braid she always wore in the kitchen. She was dressed in black, what else. Slacks, blouse and a light jacket. Even though the day had been warm, it cooled quickly on the beach at night.
Skyler decided that it was now or never. I need to say something and I need you to listen. I promise Ill only make you incredibly uncomfortable for a few minutes, then we can forget it and move on.
No. Please? French peered off into the darkness, but she didnt leave. When she looked back, Skyler began. I gather from the way my brothers been moping around and quietly fuming, that youre not seeing each other anymore. She waited for a response, but got none. Well, I know youre not. In my defense I would like to state that I havent been a minor for four years. So, if theres even the remotest possibility that youd consider us. I have to ask. You know I like you, youve known for years, but I...
You didnt even think about it.
I dont have to. The reason I stopped by was to ask you to stay away from the restaurant this summer. Even in the half light French could see from the look on Skylers face she hadnt put that very well. What I mean is, I have some unfinished business with Mitchell and I dont want you to get in the middle. I wouldnt think twice about it if I didnt like you. You know that. But you and I are not happening. Ever. Lets be friends and leave it at that. Okay? Besides, Im not the kind of person you should be hanging out with, hasnt your mother told you that?
She tells me plenty. And I dont like any of your answers. But I promised to make you uncomfortable for only a few minutes. Times up. But I cant let you go like this. She lunged at French, tripping her into the sand.
Hey! Watch the shirt. French fought off Skylers hands as she tried to tickle her. Im not ticklish and I just got this cleaned. What was that about a few minutes?!
Youre such a stick in the mud. Someone has to ruffle your feathers.
I have an entire paid staff to do just that. I dont need volunteers.
I bet theyre all in love with you.
Youd only have to work for me for two minutes to understand the absurdity of that remark.
Skyler had heard a few stories, but was sure the hard edge only enhanced Frenchs appeal. She sat next to her in the sand. Thanks for not bolting. I needed to say that.
Glad to help. And she meant it. But she didnt think shed done anything useful.
They walked back to the fires and Skyler rejoined her friends. Fry had seen them approach and turned away as she saw French brushing sand from her pants and straightening her shirt. Did the woman have no shame? She reminded herself that Frenchs private life was her own business. She couldnt overcome the urge to say hello though, so she walked over as French was heading away.
Thought I didnt see you skulking in the shadows?
Hey Fry. Didnt want to barge in. No one likes hanging out with the boss at a party.
Ill make an exception. Stay, come meet my friends.
I have to run. In the faint light that reached them from the fires she could see Fry was wearing a sweatshirt and cut offs. You should get back to the fire, youll freeze in those.
Come on Mom, stay for a while. We can discuss the case.
Im not spending the night crouched around a fire singing kumbaya and discussing a murder. That should be too weird even for you. As if to illustrate her point, someone began tuning a guitar.
Youre afraid of fun arent you?
Well have to debate youre latest theory another time. I have to go.
Where are you going?
Another party and Im beyond late, so if youll excuse me Ill be off.
See you tomorrow?
Yeah. Dont stay up too late and oversleep. And stay out of trouble.
Fry hated to see French leave. She couldnt make out her figure against the darkness. Shed disappeared seconds after she walked away.
Continued in Chapter 15.