ThrillerSparksLast Song - 17
Yeah,” she said. “Of course I like airplanes.”supposed she had an image in mind-a Learjet or Gulfstream parked in a personal hangar on the far side of the property-but it was a fuzzy image, since the only private jets she’d ever seen were in photographs. Still, this wasn’t what she’d expected at all: the sight of someone older than her father flying a remote-control toy airplane and concentrating on the controls.plane whined as it skirted over the trees, swooping low over the Intracoastal Waterway.
“I’ve always wanted one of these things, and I finally broke down and got one. Actually, this is the second one. The first one accidentally ended up in the water.”
“That’s too bad,” Ronnie sympathized.
“Yeah, but it taught me that I should probably read all the directions next time.”
“Did you crash it?”
“No, it ran out of gas.” He glanced at her. “Do you want to try?”
“I’d better not,” Ronnie demurred. “I’m not good at things like that.”
“It’s not too hard,” Tom assured her. “This is one of the beginner planes. It’s supposed to be idiot-proof. Of course, the last one was, too, so what does that tell you?”
“That maybe you should have read the directions?”
“Right,” he said. There was something about the way he said it that made him sound just like Will.
“Did you and Susan talk about the wedding?” he asked.shook her head. “No. Will mentioned something about it, though.”
“I had to spend two hours today at the florist’s looking at flower arrangements. Have you ever spent two hours looking at flower arrangements?”
“Consider yourself lucky.”giggled, relieved to be out here with him. Just then Will came up behind her, freshly showered and dressed neatly in a polo shirt and shorts. Both name brand, but she supposed she should have expected that.
“You’ll have to forgive my dad. He sometimes forgets he’s an adult,” Will quipped.
“At least I’m honest. And I didn’t see you racing home to help.”
“I had a volleyball game.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that was the reason. And I gotta tell you, Ronnie here is a whole lot prettier than you let on.”Ronnie smiled with pleasure, Will cringed. “Dad…”
“It’s true,” Tom added quickly. “Don’t be embarrassed.” After making sure the plane was flying straight again, he glanced at Ronnie. “He gets embarrassed a lot. He used to be the shyest kid in the world. He couldn’t even sit near a pretty girl without his cheeks turning bright red.”, meanwhile, was shaking his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe you’re saying this, Dad. Right in front of her.”
“What’s the problem?” Tom looked at Ronnie. “Does that bother you?”
“Not at all.”
“See?” He tapped Will’s chest, as if he’d proved his point. “She doesn’t care.”
“Thanks for that.” He grimaced.
“What are dads for? Hey, you want to give this thing a whirl?”
“I really can’t. I’m supposed to bring Ronnie home so we can have dinner.”
“Listen to me. Even if they serve you eggplant on rutabaga with tofu, I want you to eat what they put in front of you and then make sure you compliment them on the meal,” Tom admonished.
“It’ll be probably just be pasta,” Ronnie said, grinning.
“Really?” Tom seemed disappointed. “He’ll eat that.”
“What? You don’t want me to eat?”
“It’s always good to experience new things. How’d it go at the shop today?”
“That’s what I needed to talk to you about. Jay said there’s a problem with the computer or the software-everything keeps double printing.”
“Just at the flagship or everywhere?”
“I don’t know.”sighed. “I suppose I’d better check it out, then. Assuming, of course, I can land this thing. And you two have a good time, okay?”few minutes later, after getting into the truck, Will jingled his keys before starting his engine.
“Sorry about all that. My dad sometimes says the craziest things.”
“Don’t be sorry. I like him.”
“And I wasn’t that shy, by the way. My cheeks never turned bright red.”
“Of course they didn’t.”
“I’m serious. I was always smooth.”
“I’m sure you were,” she said, reaching over to pat his knee. “But listen. About tonight. My family has this weird tradition.”
“You’re lying!” Will shouted. “You’ve been lying all night and I’m sick and tired of it.”
“Don’t even go there!” Ronnie shouted back. “You’re the one who’s lying!”dishes from dinner had long ago been cleared-Dad had served spaghetti and marinara sauce, as predicted, with Will making sure to clean his plate-and they were now sitting at the kitchen table holding playing cards to their foreheads in a game of liar’s poker. Will was holding an eight of hearts, Steve a three of hearts, and Jonah a nine of spades. Piles of change were stacked in front of each of them, and the pot in the middle overflowed with nickels and dimes.
“You’re both lying,” Jonah added. “Neither of you knows how to tell the truth.”offered Jonah his game face and reached into his pile of change. “A quarter says you don’t know what you’re talking about.”dad started shaking his head. “Bad move, young man. It’s over. I’m going to have to raise you fifty cents.”
“I’ll see that!” Ronnie cried. Both Jonah and Will immediately followed suit.paused, all of them eying one another before slapping their cards down on the table. Ronnie, seeing that she’d been holding an eight, surmised that they’d all lost to Jonah. Again.
“You’re all liars!” he said. His winnings, she noticed, were twice as much as anyone else’s, and as she watched her brother drag the change pile toward him, she observed that at least to this point, the evening had gone pretty well. She hadn’t known what to expect when she’d brought Will over, since it was the first time she’d ever brought a boy to meet her father. Would he try to give them space by hiding out in the kitchen? Would he try to become buddies with Will? Would he do or say something that embarrassed her? On the drive to her house, she’d already begun thinking of escape plans she could use as soon as they finished dinner.soon as they stepped inside, however, she had a good feeling. For starters, the house was picked up, Jonah was obviously under orders not to cling to their sides or question Will like a prosecutor, and her dad met Will with a simple handshake and an easygoing, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Will was on his best behavior, of course, answering questions with “Yes, sir” and “No, sir,” which struck her as endearing in a southern kind of way. The dinner conversation was easy; her dad asked some questions about the work Will did at the garage and at the aquarium, and Jonah went so far as to put his napkin in his lap. Best of all, her father didn’t say anything embarrassing, and though he brought up the fact that he used to teach at Juilliard, he didn’t volunteer that he’d been her teacher or that she’d once played at Carnegie Hall or that they’d written songs together, nor had he mentioned the fact that until a few days ago, he and Ronnie had been completely estranged. When Jonah asked for cookies after he’d finished, both Ronnie and her dad burst out laughing, making Will wonder what was so funny. Together, the four of them pitched in to clean up the table, and when Jonah suggested that they play liar’s poker, Will had agreed enthusiastically.for Will, he was just the kind of guy her mom wanted Ronnie to date: polite, respectful, intelligent, and best of all, sans tattoos… It might have been nice to have her mom there, if only to assure her that her daughter hadn’t gone completely off the deep end. On the other hand, her mom probably would have been so excited about the whole thing that she would have either tried to adopt Will on the spot or gushed to Ronnie a million times after he was gone about what a nice young man he was, which only would have made Ronnie want to end the whole thing before her mom got too carried away. Her dad would do none of those things-he seemed to trust Ronnie’s judgment and was content to let her make her own decisions without inserting his own opinions.was really weird, considering he was only just starting to get to know her again, and also kind of sad at the same time, because she was beginning to think she’d made a big mistake by avoiding him for the past three years. It might have been nice to talk to him when her mom was driving her crazy.in all, she was glad she’d invited Will over. It certainly was easier for him to meet her dad than it had been for Ronnie to meet Susan. The woman scared the living daylights out of her. Well, maybe that was an exaggeration, but she was definitely intimidated. The woman had made it abundantly clear that she either didn’t like Ronnie or didn’t like the fact that her son liked Ronnie., she wouldn’t have cared what someone’s parent thought of her, and she wouldn’t have given a second thought to the way she’d been dressed. She was who she was, after all… This was the first time in what seemed like forever that she’d felt she didn’t measure up, and it had bothered her far more than she’d thought it would.darkness fell and the game of liar’s poker began to wind down, she sensed Will watching her. She returned his gaze with a smile.
“I’m almost out,” he announced, fingering his pile of change.
“I know. I am, too.”glanced toward the window. “Do you think it would be okay if we went for a walk?”time, she knew with certainty that he was asking because he wanted to spend some time alone with her-because he cared about her, even if he was unsure whether she felt the same way.met his eyes directly. “I’d love to go for a walk.”
Willbeach stretched for miles, separated from Wilmington by the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. It had changed, of course, since Will was a kid-growing more congested in the summers, small bungalows like the one where Ronnie was living replaced by imposing oceanfront mansions-but he still loved the ocean at night. When he was young, he used to ride his bike over to the beach, in the hope of seeing something interesting, and he was almost never disappointed. He’d seen large sharks washed up on the beach, sand castles so intricate they could have won any national competition, and once he’d even spotted a whale, not fifty yards from shore, rolling in the water just beyond the surf., the place was deserted, and as he and Ronnie strolled barefoot through the breaking surf, he was struck by the thought that this was the girl with whom he’d like to face the future.knew he was too young for such thoughts and was under no illusion that he was even considering marriage, but somehow he felt that if he met Ronnie ten years from now, she might be the one. He knew Scott wouldn’t understand the concept-Scott seemed unable to imagine a future that stretched past the upcoming weekend-but then Scott wasn’t so different from most of his peers. It was as if their minds ran on separate tracks: He wasn’t into one-night stands, he wasn’t into scoring to see if he could, he wasn’t into acting just charming enough to get what he wanted before cutting someone loose in favor of someone new and attractive. He just wasn’t like that. He would never be like that. When he met a girl, the first question he asked himself wasn’t whether she was good for a few dates; it was whether she was the kind of girl he could imagine spending time with over the long haul.supposed that had partly to do with his parents. They’d been married for thirty years, started out struggling as many couples did, and over the years had built the business and raised a family. Through it all, they had loved each other well, celebrating their successes and supporting each other during tragedy. Neither of them was perfect, but he’d grown up certain that they were a team, and eventually, he’d absorbed that lesson.was easy to think that he’d spent two years with Ashley because she was beautiful and rich, and though he’d be lying if he said that her beauty was irrelevant, it was less important than the things he thought he saw in her. She’d listened to him just as he’d listened to her, he’d believed he could tell her anything, and vice versa. But over time, he’d felt increasingly disappointed in her, especially when she’d tearfully admitted that she’d made out at a party with some guy from the local college. Things were never the same after that. Not because he worried that she’d do something like that again-everyone made mistakes, and it had only been a kiss-but somehow the incident helped crystallize his thoughts about what he wanted from the people he was closest to. He began to notice the way she treated other people, and he wasn’t sure he liked what he saw. Her ceaseless gossiping-once something he considered harmless-began to annoy him, as did the long waits she made him endure while she readied herself to go out at night. He felt bad about eventually breaking up with her but consoled himself with the fact that he’d only been fifteen when he first started dating her, and she was the first girlfriend he’d ever had. In the end, he felt he had no other choice. He knew who he was and what was important to him, and he didn’t see any of that reflected in Ashley. He figured it was better just to end the relationship before things got any harder.sister, Megan, was like him that way. Beautiful and smart, she’d intimidated most of the boys she’d ever dated. For a long time, she had flitted from one guy to the next, but not out of vanity or flightiness. When he’d asked why she seemed unable to settle down, her answer had been straightforward: “There are guys who grow up thinking they’ll settle down some distant time in the future, and there are guys who are ready for marriage as soon as they meet the right person. The former bore me, mainly because they’re pathetic; and the latter, quite frankly, are hard to find. But it’s the serious ones I’m interested in, and it takes time to find a guy like that whom I’m equally interested in. I mean, if the relationship can’t survive the long term, why on earth would it be worth my time and energy for the short term?”. He smiled, thinking about her. She lived her life by her own rules. She had driven Mom crazy during the last six years with her attitude, of course, since she’d quickly eliminated pretty much every guy in town who hailed from the kind of family of which his mother approved. But he had to admit, he thought Megan had gotten it right, and thankfully, she’d been able to meet a guy in New York who satisfied all her criteria.a strange way, Ronnie reminded him of Megan. She was an oddball, a freethinker, and stubbornly independent, too. On the surface, she was unlike anyone he could ever imagine finding attractive, but… her dad was great, her brother was a hoot, and she was just about as smart and caring as anyone he’d ever met. Who else would camp out all night to protect a turtle nest? Who else would stop a fight to help a little kid? Who else read Tolstoy in her spare time?who else, at least in this town, would fall for Will before knowing anything about his family?, he had to admit, was important to him, too, as much as he wished it weren’t. He loved his dad and his family name, and he was proud of the business his dad had built. He appreciated the advantages that his life had brought him, but… he wanted to be his own person, too. He wanted people to know him first as Will, not Will Blakelee, and there wasn’t another person in the world he could talk to about it, other than his sister. It wasn’t as if he lived in Los Angeles, where celebrity kids could be found in every school, or was at a place like Andover, where practically everyone knew someone who came from a famous family. It wasn’t so easy in a place like this, where everyone knew everybody, and as he’d grown older, he’d grown somewhat cautious about his friendships. He was willing to talk to almost anyone, but he’d learned to put up an invisible wall, at least until he was certain his family had nothing to do with the new acquaintance or was the reason a girl seemed to be interested in him. And if he hadn’t known for certain that Ronnie knew nothing about his family, he’d been convinced when he’d pulled up in front of his house.
“What are you thinking about?” he heard her ask. A light breeze rippled through her hair, and she tried in vain to collect the strands into a loose ponytail. “You’ve been kind of quiet.”
“I was thinking about how much I enjoyed coming over.”
“To our little house? It’s a bit different from what you’re used to.”
“Your house is great,” he insisted. “And so is your dad and Jonah. Even though he crushed me in liar’s poker.”
“He always wins, but don’t ask me how. I mean, ever since he was little. I think he cheats, but I haven’t figured out how.”
“Maybe you just need to lie better.”
“Oh, you mean like you telling me you work for your dad?”
“I do work for my dad,” Will said.
“You know what I mean.”
“Like I told you, I didn’t think it mattered.” He stopped walking and turned to her. “Does it?”seemed to choose her words carefully. “It’s interesting and it helps explain a few things about you, but if I told you that my mom worked as a paralegal at a Wall Street law firm, would you feel any different about me?”, he knew, he could answer with complete honesty. “No. But it’s different.”
“Why?” she asked. “Because your family is rich? A statement like that only makes sense to someone who thinks that money is all that matters.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Well, what did you mean?” she challenged, then shook her head. “Look, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t care if your dad is the sultan of Brunei. You happened to be born into a privileged family. What you do with that truth is completely up to you. I’m here because I want to be with you. But if I didn’t, all the money in the world wouldn’t have changed my feelings about you.”she spoke, he watched her growing more animated. “Why do I get the feeling you’ve given that speech before?”
“Because I have said it before.” She stopped walking and turned to face him. “Come to New York, and you’ll understand why I’ve learned to say what I mean. In some clubs, all you meet are snobs, and they’re so into who their family is or how much their family makes… it bores me. I stand there, and all I want to say is, It’s great that others in your family have done something, but what have you done? But I don’t, because they don’t get it. They think they’re the chosen ones. It’s not even worth getting mad about, because the whole idea is so ridiculous. But if you think I invited you over because of who your family is-”
“I didn’t,” he said, cutting her off. “I never thought that for a second.”the darkness, he knew she was considering whether he was telling the truth or simply saying what she wanted to hear. Hoping to put an end to the discussion, he turned and motioned behind them, toward the workshop near the house.
“What’s that place?” he asked.didn’t answer right away, and he sensed she was still trying to decide whether she believed him.
“It came with the house,” she said at last. “My dad and Jonah are making a stained-glass window this summer.”
“Your dad makes stained-glass windows?”
“He does now.”
“Is that what he’s always done?”
“No,” she answered. “Like he told you at dinner, he used to teach piano.” She paused to brush something from her feet, then changed the subject. “What’s next for you? Are you going to keep working for your dad?”swallowed, resisting the temptation to kiss her again. “I will until the end of August. I’m going to Vanderbilt in the fall.”one of the houses up the beach drifted the faint strains of music; squinting into the distance, Will could see a group congregated on the back deck. The song was something from the eighties, though he couldn’t pinpoint it.
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