Robert Talligan felt his mouth drop open at the girl who sailed into his Trig class at Silverton High that bright February day. Her brown hair fell to her shoulders and her blue eyes seemed to smile all on their own.
Rob had lived in the little town of Silverton all his life. Ever one knew him and he had long ago gained the unfortunate rap of being the “The Bad Boy.” He loved it though. He had lived on the edge for so long, he’d forgotten what it was like to be simple. To be good. Not that Rob even cared.
But that day, life changed for Rob.
“Who is that?” He whispered to his friend, Mike.
Mike stole a glance and smiled, “That’s Lacey McLewis. She the daughter of the new preacher at the Baptist church in town.”
“A PK huh?” Robert grinned, “So if she’ll go out with me …”
“Yeah right, man!” Mike scoffed quietly, “No way is the Preacher going to let his daughter go out with you, Talligan. Besides, she has an older brother and a twin brother, too.”
“So you’ve already checked her out?” Rob smirked, “How’d you manage that?”
Mike rolled his eyes, “You know my mom is a staunch churchgoer. She gave me all that Sunday afternoon at dinner.”
“Well, I’m getting that girl to go out with me, Mike. Watch me!”
“Ten bucks says you won’t.”
♥ ♥ ♥
Rob didn’t get a chance to talk to Lacey during Trig. Nor during English and Chem.
But at lunch, as she got her food and was looking for a place to sit, Rob grinned wickedly at Mike. “Watch me, bro. Watch the pro at work!”
Rob stood and sauntered over to Lacey, “Hey babe? What’s up?”
“You’re ego, apparently.” She said coolly, “And don’t call me babe.”
Rob felt his mouth drop open for the second time that day. She’d just … she’d just told him off! He was more enthralled with her now. No one had ever talked to him like that.
Lacey must have noticed his look of utter shock, “Hm. Must hurt getting told off like that.” She grinned, almost as wickedly as he had just grinned at Mike, “Name’s Lacey McLewis.”
She held out her hand and Rob finally snapped from his stupor and shook it, “Rob Talligan. It’s, uh, nice to meet you.”
“I’d say likewise, but I’m still not sure.” She cocked her head, brown bangs falling in her eyes. “Was there a reason you assaulted me with your inflamed ego as I was getting ready to eat?”
“Um, yeah. I was wondering if you wanted to sit with me and my friend Mike.” He shrugged, suddenly feeling ill at ease. “But I’m … I’m sure you wouldn’t want to sit with me and my big ego.” He couldn’t resist a wink.
Lacey scowled, “Yeah, you’d be right about that.” And with that Lacey McLewis turned on her heel and stalked to the opposite end of the cafeteria.
“So … where’s my ten bucks?” Mike asked, as he took a sip of his coke.
“Shut up.” Rob glowered at Lacey. “Make no mistake, Michael. I intend to get Lacey McLewis on a date. If it’s the last thing I do.”
~ ~ ~
It’s an untold truth in life that when you can’t have something, that that one thing will consume your life. And that truth was indeed accurate for Robert Talligan.
Rob could barely think straight the rest of the day. It also didn’t help that Lacey was in almost every single one of his classes. And all she did when she caught him staring was glare. He’d never felt this totally obsessed over anyone before. Not even over Marissa, the skinny blonde cheerleader that he’d fell for last year.
Lacey was grace and poise in his eyes. She wasn’t super skinny, but she wasn’t fat by any means. Her hair wasn’t perfect, but it was close. Her blue eyes were the shade of an ocean in the Pacific.
In short, she was the most beautiful girl Rob had ever seen. And he wanted her.
So he walked up to her after school as she was shoving books into her bag from her locker, trying to be as meek and humble as he knew.
“Hey. So I’m sorry if you got the wrong impression this afternoon at lunch,” he shuffled his feet, “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Oh really?” She slammed her locker and turned to him, “And what were you trying to do? Because it sure seemed like you were flirting. And I can tell you plainly that I’d rather have a guy be himself around me than try and be something he thinks a girl wants.”
She paused to take a breath and Rob took the opportunity to jump in, “Okay! I get it, Lacey.” She bristled at the use of her name, “And I honestly didn’t know girls felt that way.”
“Maybe some don’t. But this one does.” She cocked her head, “You have guts to come back up too me you know.”
“Yeah, cause you’re so scary!” He smirked, only half kidding, “But honestly, I want to get to know you better, Lacey McLewis.”
“Oh you would, would you?” She tossed her brown hair over her shoulder.
“Yeah. I would.”
“Well then, you’ll have to talk to my father.”
“Oka – wait! You’re father?” He felt his courage slip a little.
“Yes. Any date has to pass my father’s approval.” She squinted at him, “Or you could come to dinner tomorrow night and meet my whole family. See if I’m even worth it.”
“Oh, I think you’re worth it.” His smirked returned.
“Hm … funny. Cause every other boy I’ve ever had over has turn tailed and ran after a dinner with my family.”
His smirk faltered for half a second once again.
What’s wrong with her family? He shook his head. It doesn’t matter. I’m gonna getting Lacey McLewis if it kills me.
~ ~ ~
“Welcome to my home!” Lacey waved a hand at the large, southern style home that was before him. It was on a quiet little dead end street a short ways out of Silverton. Painted white, it had flower pots on the large, wrap-around front porch along with a porch swing and side table. Green shutters were on every window.
The racket coming from inside was what he noticed however as Lacey swung open the door. A cheer sounded from a room on his left as he slipped off his shoes in the spacious front hallway.
“They’re watching the final game before the Superbowl. Their team is still in.” Lacey rolled her eyes. “And I’m assuming that their team is also winning.”
“So you know a lot about football?” Rob asked, trying to make conversation as he nervously followed her to the living room.
She laughed, “Wouldn’t say a lot. But I know more than most girls.”
She turned to the left and they walked into what Lacey proclaimed as the media room. A flat screened TV that must have been at least a 64 inch was mounted on a red wall in front of them. A football game played on it and the three people on the large, brown sofa sat glued to it. Glass cabinets were on either side with more movies than anyone could watch in a life times. A coffee table sat under the TV with a Blu-ray player and two game consoles.
“Dad. Rob is here.” Lacey tapped her father on the shoulder and he turned to smile at Rob. His easy smile and bright, laughing green eyes conveyed a friendliness Rob hadn’t expected at all. He’d expected a sour, fire and brimstone spewing man.
“Rob! Heard a lot about you!”
Is that good or bad? Rob wondered with a cringe. For once he wished his reputation wasn’t so checkered. For gosh sakes! He was trying to date the Preacher’s daughter!
The game went to a commercial and Lacey’s father muted it. “I’m Pastor McLewis. This is Brad and Andy, Lacey’s brothers.” One looked a lot like Lacey. He had ice blue eyes and dark brown hair that hung a little in his eyes. The other had fairer hair and green eyes that were filled with just as much laughter as Pastor McLewis.
A squeal from the doorway caused Rob to jump. A blur of color launched itself at him and he barely managed to catch it. It giggled and wrapped its little arms around his neck.
“Rob’s here! Rob’s here!” The high pitched voice chanted as it wriggled out of his arms and to its sister. Rob blinked as the little person finally stood still long enough for him to see who – or what – it was.
A little girl, with hair as brown as Lacey’s and eyes as green as her father’s, grinned at him. Her hair was pulled into two curly ponytails and her pink tutu and rainbow shirt and leggings made her look like a little princess.
“This,” Lacey said, swinging the littler girl into her arms, “is Princess Margie. Queen of our castle.”
Lacey tickled her and the little girl giggled, “Mommy says dinner’s almost ready.”
“Alrighty, Margie. Run and tell Mommy we’ll be in in a sec.” Her father smiled so tenderly at his little girl that a pang of jealously stole into Rob. He’d never had a family like this. In fact, he’d hardly had a family at all.
Margie danced off in a flurry of pink and Rob shuffled nervously.
“Hey. Come on and I’ll introduce you to my mom and the rest of the family.” Lacey tugged him out of his stupor and into the hallway again.
“You mean there is more?” he asked, bewildered.
Lacey laughed, “You’ve only met half! Why do you think it’s so hard for me to get a date?” She grinned slyly.
“Lacey?” A soft voice called from the large wooden staircase that must have led to the upper level. A girl with poufy black hair and dark skin was staring shyly at them from the top step.
“Armani! Go get Favor and come say hi to Rob.”
The girl, who couldn’t have been more than twelve blushed before hurrying away to do as Lacey bid.
“Uh … did I miss something?” Rob asked as he continued to follow Lacey into the dining room and up to a door in the far wall. “Is that a foster kid or something?”
“Nope. She’s my sister.” Lacey pushed the door inwards and then turned to point to a woman who was pulling something that smelled delicious out of the oven, “And that, Robert, is my mother.”
The woman pushed a strand of blonde hair off her forehead, “Nice to meet you, Robert.”
“Please, call me Rob, Mrs. McLewis.” Rob smiled, feeling more at ease with her than anyone else in the family.
“Only if you’ll call me Patty. Mrs. McLewis is so formal!” She laughed as she turned to stir something on the stove.
“Catch me!” Rob turned just in time to intercept the flying Margie, who laughed as he flung her onto his shoulder.
“Where’d she go?” He asked laughing as she wriggled in his arm, “Do you see her Lacey?”
But Lacey was staring at him with such a mixture of awe and something else on her face that she didn’t answer. Rob swung Margie off his shoulder and she wobbled unsteadily back into the dining room.
The patter of feet sounded and Armani and another girl who looked a lot like her walked timidly into the kitchen from a back stairway.
“Rob, this is Armani and Favor. They’re both twelve years old. Say hello to Rob, girls.” Patty pushed them both in front of her.
“Hello.” Favor said, smiling a small smile.
“Hi,” Armani ducked her face.
“It’s nice to meet you girls.” Rob didn’t know why it was so important for this family to like him, but suddenly it was. He glanced at Lacey and saw the gentle way she was looking at the two girls in front of him and he marveled. He’d just met this girl two days ago and already there was so many angles to her.
“Girls, go set the food on the table and go get your brothers and father.” Patty directed and the girls scampered off.
“Sorry if this is all a bit much for you.” Lacey smiled, not looking the least bit sorry, “It’s a lot of people to remember, I know.”
“It’s not that bad,” Rob lied. He knew he was going to have a heck of a time remembering everyone’s names.
And of course, Lacey had to call his bluff, “Name ‘em.”
“What?” Rob asked as he stared dumbly at her. He heard Patty laugh as she scooped something into a bowl.
“Name everyone.” Lacey smirked at him again and his brain turned to mush.
“Um … Your mom’s name is Patty. You’re Lacey.”
“You’re stalling, Tarzan.” She poked him.
“Your sister’s are Margie and Favor and …” He was drawing a blank on the third girl’s name already.
“Starts with an A.” Patty helped as she pushed the door open with her hip.
“Um … A-armani?” He thought that sounded right.
“Yep. How about my brothers?”
Now that he’d totally forgotten. He squeezed his eyes shut. “Dang it.” He mumbled.
“Ha! I knew it!” Lacey poked him again, “I knew you didn’t remember everyone!”
“Hey! Give me credit! I got over half of em. And Armani is a hard name to remember.”
“Okay, I’ll give you that much. But Mom did help you!” Her eyes laughed as she pushed the door open and gestured him to sit at the massive wooden table.
Pastor McLewis was there already and as soon as they were all seated, they bowed their heads. Rob followed, knowing they were praying. He’d gone to church once upon a time. When he had had a family and when God had cared. But now God seemed like he could care less about Robert Talligan and his problems.
A loud “Amen” startled him from his thoughts.
The food was quickly passed around and Rob had never tasted anything so good. Each bite he savored and he ended up eating two heaping platefuls.
“Well, his appetite sure fits the McLewis style, Dad.” Andy, the fair haired boy, laughed. Rob grinned back and glanced across the table at the furiously blushing Lacey.
“That it does, my boy.” Her father, grinning bigger than his son, turned to Rob. “But we still need to have that talk.”
Rob felt his own smile fade slightly at that thought.
♥ ♥ ♥
“So you want to date my daughter?” Pastor McLewis leaned back in the swing. Rob sat across from him on one of the chairs, trying to look him in the eye and failing miserably.
“Yes sir. I do.”
“Well …” It had started as a dare. But was that the reason now? Rob bit his lip as he forced his eyes to meet Mr. McLewis’s “I want to pursue your daughter, sir. She is the most beautiful, intelligent, kind, caring, compassionate person I’ve ever met. She’s funny. Her eyes sparkle like jewels when she laughs and I want to make her laugh so much, sir. I want … I want to make her happy.”
“Hm.” Pastor McLewis eyed him. Rob started counting the seconds. 436 seconds passed before Lacey’s father nodded, “You may take my daughter on a date, Rob. But know this: if you hurt her, physically or emotionally, you’ll have me to answer too. And they you’ll have Andy and Brad. And Lacey’s sisters. Trust me, you don’t want to see the wrath of the McLewis clan.”
Rob swallowed and nodded quickly. He hadn’t thought it would be that easy. He’d expected an hour long interview, complete with an essay and statement of faith. He ran his fingers through his dark brown hair, “So … I can ask her out? Tonight?”
“That is why we had this meeting, isn’t it?” Lacey’s father laughed, “Yes, yes. Go ask out Lacey. You’re the first to make it through dinner and the ‘interrogation’ as my children call it.”
Rob nodded again as Mr. McLewis opened the door and they walked back into the house. The whole family was watching Cinderella in the media room. There was a seat open, conveniently, next to Lacey and Rob slipped into it.
“I love this movie,” she whispered as Cinderella danced around the ballroom with Prince Kit. “So romantic.”
“So do you want to go ballroom dancing for our first date?” he whispered back, watching her face as it morphed into shock and then delight.
“He … Dad said yes?” Her blue eyes studied his face for the truth and a grin broke out, “I don’t care what we do.”
“Good. I’ll plan a wonderful surprise then, how does that sound?” He smiled back as she leaned back against the couch.
“Sounds like a dream come true.”
♥ ♥ ♥
Two weeks later, a very nervous Rob knocked on the McLewis door. Dressed in blue jeans and a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, he was hoping he didn’t look over dressed in the unusually mild February day. He’d told Lacey to dress casual and he hoped she’d listen.
“This date is gonna be so lame.” He muttered to himself as the noise of pounding feet sounded inside.
The door swung open and Brad stood there, grinning the trademark McLewis smirk. “Wow, you’re early.”
“Is that bad?” Rob asked with an uneasy chuckle.
“No. It’s just we McLewis’s are never on time, let alone early.” He waved Rob in, “Why don’t you wait in the family room. Lacey should be down in a sec.”
Rob moved into the family room. Pictures were on every wall. He smiled as he found a family photo when there were only three little McLewis’s. Lacey and Brad were babies and Andy was about two. The one next to it must have been when Favor and Armani were adopted, for Lacey looked to be about five. The final picture in the frame was a recent family photo on the beach. The family was all wearing white shirts and brown shorts. Rob studied Lacey. She was so beautiful. How lucky he was to be going on a date with her!
Someone cleared their throat and Rob turned to find the real Lacey standing there. She was wearing an oversized pink sweater with a cream colored scarf wrapped around her neck. Slim fitting blue jeans and brown boots completed her outfit and her hair was pulled up in a loose pony.
“You … wow!” was all Rob was able to say and he saw a little bit of color steal into her cheeks.
“Have fun you two.” Mr. McLewis’s voice snapped the couple back to the present. “Have her home by eleven Robert or -”
“Suffer the McLewis wrath,” Lacey laughed, “I’ll make sure we’re home, Daddy. No one wants your wrath!” She pecked his cheek and then turned to Rob, “Ready?”
“Been ready for weeks.” He grinned at her and they hurried out the door.
He held the door for her as she slipped into his car and soon they were headed down the road.
“So what are we doing?” Lacey studied him as he drove, “I’m assuming not ballroom dancing.”
“No, but I did try to find a place that does it. Alas, my reputation proceeds me and the horrors of my broken toe stories prevented anyone from accepting me.”
Lacey laughed. Rob felt his smile grow. How he loved making her laugh.
“But for real, where are we going?” Lacey looked out the window at the sunset. It bathed her face in a pink glow and Rob felt his mind wander.
“Oh! Sorry.” He blinked, “I thought I’d take you out to dinner and then a movie? I know it’s terribly lame and stereotypical, but I thought -”
“It’s perfect.” Lacey smiled and he saw the sincerity in her eyes. “It’s actually been my dream date for a long time.”
“For real? You don’t think its lame?”
“Not at all. Besides, I like to talk.”
“What are you implying sir?” There was mock anger in her voice and Rob felt suddenly at ease.
“I heard you talk. And talk and talk and talk and – ouch!” She’d smacked his arm and he rubbed it as he turned into Chiles. “What was that for?”
“For being you!” She smiled and Rob felt himself once again get lost in her eyes.
“Are we going to go eat?” she whispered, staring at him with a goofy grin.
“Of course, m’lady! Your wish is my command!”
“Then let’s get food!”
“As you wish.”