Ricky and Allison stood at the edge of the shore. The sun cast its glow around the two of them, warming them.
A gentle breeze wafted around them, lulling them into a contented peacefulness.
Allison wore a hot pink sundress. Her hair hung over her shoulders like expensive gold. It would be the last
time Ricky would ever see her. He tried to store every detail of her into his memory to recall at another time.
His heart was breaking. This is how his father must have felt when Callie left him. Love was a hard thing
"My mother is leaving my dad," Allison was saying. She was barefooted and the waves washed over her toes.
"My mother and I are going to Georgia. She has some family there. As soon as we are settled, my brothers will be joining us."
"I will never forget you, Allison," Ricky said to her through the tears that were ready to burst forth.
Allison was overcome with sadness. "I will never forget you either. You’re a special boy, Ricky."
An uncustomary blush crept over Ricky’s face. He turned away so that Allison couldn’t see it.
She turned to him then, her eyes catching the glimmer of the sun and the waves. Her voice was calm, and serene
when she called out his name. "Ricky?"
"Can you promise me one thing?"
Ricky met her eyes. "What is that Allison?"
"Would you take care of Eddie for me?"
Ricky thought he must have misunderstood. Allison couldn’t be serious. He was still sporting a black
eye from the skirmish the two of them had gotten into. He and Eddie weren’t the best of friends. Or anything resembling
friends. At best they were formal enemies.
"Allison," Ricky said softly. "I don’t think you know what you’re asking me to do here. Eddie
and I . . . we aren’t . . ."
"I know," Allison replied, annoyed. "The two of you can’t stand each other. But who will watch over
him and keep him out of trouble?"
Ricky rolled his eyes. He couldn’t believe he was even considering such a ridiculous thing. "Allison,
Eddie’s a big boy. He’s capable of making his own decisions in life, even if they are the wrong decisions."
"Ricky," Allison pleaded, "Eddie needs you. He needs someone to show him the right way to live."
"Why me?" Ricky asked, flustered. Lord, Why do I have to be the one responsible for Eddie? Why can’t
he take care of himself?
"Because you’ve been in his shoes before," Allison replied. "You know what it’s like to be on
the wrong side. You had Callie to pull you back onto the right side again. Well Eddie needs you."
A seagull soared through the air, squawking on his way down to catch a fish as it leapt from the water.
Ricky was not going to make this easy on Allison. "What if I say no?"
"You can’t say no. I won’t let you."
Far off in the distance a boat sailed across the horizon. Ricky watched its slow, steady progress. Allison
had her eye on the same boat.
"Then why’d you ask me, Ali, if you weren’t going to let me turn down your offer? Why didn’t
you just tell me what you wanted me to do."
She smiled then. A huge smile that lit up her face. "Because I thought I would be nice about it. I wanted
you to feel as if you had a part in the decision."
"Allison?" Allison’s mom appeared through the strand of trees. "It’s time to go."
"So you’ll do it?" Allison prompted, beaming another heartwarming smile in Ricky’s direction.
He let out an exaggerated puff of air. "It doesn’t seem as though I have a choice."
Overjoyed, Allison hugged Ricky fiercely, nearly knocking him off balance. She kissed him on his cheek, grinning
delightedly at his decision.
"Thank you," Allison said, just before she took off toward the trees at a fast gallop. As she got to her
mother’s side she yelled back at Ricky. "God will be pleased with you, Ricky."
She waved to him at last before darting out of sight.
One month later
Rus sat out on the porch, staring out at the strand of trees that bordered his mother’s property. The
sun was setting, casting a radiant glow of coppers and golds across the sky. He had come out to take a break from his mother.
Hannah had been released from the hospital only a few days ago. Already it seemed a year to Rus. All she’d
done since being home was nag and complain and make his life miserable. Not that he hadn’t done a good job of that himself
He tried to be patient, but his patience was wearing thin on him tonight. It was because of Callie. She’d
been on his mind more than usual. He’d thought about her all day. He remember the sound of her voice, the color of her
hair and its soft silkiness. He remembered everything about her and it brought an ache to his soul.
He longed to hold her to, to be with her, to share her fears and to comfort her. He had really botched things
up in Denver. He had let his pride get the best of him. He knew Callie had loved him. Why hadn’t that been enough for
him? He had really let himself down.
He had been a royal jerk. He hadn’t been sympathetic at all about Callie and her needs. He’d
been focused only on himself. He’d wanted security in their relationship. He had wanted to know that no matter what
happened from that day on, that Callie would be his.
Rus believed that it was God’s will that the two of them be married. But he had tried to take matters
into his own hands. He wanted to speed up the process before it was time. Now he could kick himself a hundred times and call
himself every kind of fool there was. He should have been patient. He should have let God handle everything. Instead, he had
destroyed the best thing that had come into his life in a very long time.
Rus had to admit that he missed Callie with every fiber of his being. He loved her and he had probably lost
her forever. She would probably never speak to him again. That left him with an emptiness that hurt like Hades.
Callie hated New Mexico from the moment they had arrived. There was nothing exciting about it. It was far
hotter than Florida and it reeked with humidity . It was nothing but a dry, vast land. There were rolling tumbleweeds, cactus
and sand. No matter what way you looked, you saw nothing but mile and miles of sand.
For the most part Callie was subject to staying indoors. The landscape was flat and provided very little
cover. She would be a walking target if she stepped one foot outside.
So she had become resigned to her new position. She spent most of her days reading, but even at that, she
often found herself bored and lonely. Achingly lonely.
There wasn’t a minute that didn’t go by that Rus was not on her mind. Even at night when she
dreamed, she dreamed of him.
Callie missed the sound of his voice, his thoughtfulness, and kindness. Even his anger. She often wondered
what he was doing. She wondered if he missed her or if he’d already forgotten about her.
She thought about Ricky too and Colby. Had Colby given up on her coming home? Had his uncle been found? Would
she be able to adopt him? Would he still want her as a mother?
The questions went on and on. She couldn’t help but feel remorse over her set of circumstances. She
didn’t expect anything to be the same when she got back home. If she ever got back home.
Joe Hines had spent the last month tracking down Callie Martin. It hadn’t been easy. Avoiding the cops
had been the most difficult part. But in the end he had picked up her trail and had followed her to New Mexico.
He wasn’t sure exactly where she was. But that was only a minor problem. New Mexico was a big state,
but he’d scour every inch of the place before he’d let Callie Martin get away again.
Ricky and Eddie were near the wharf waiting on a boat to come in. Eddie was suppose to be working there a
few hours a day to help out one of the shrimpers to unload his daily catch. Eddie hated the work and he complained about it
often. The work was grueling and slovenly. The loads were always heavy and a burden to carry. Eddie didn’t think he
was getting paid enough to come home smelling like dead fish every day.
Ricky thought he’d be a nice friend and had offered to help Eddie out. He had only grumbled at his
offer but accepted it nonetheless. This hadn’t brought them any closer together, however. But at least Ricky was trying.
He’d been trying nearly every day since Allison had left.
Ricky and Eddie talked about Allison all the time. It was the only thing the two of them had in common. Eddie
had really loved her. He had confessed this to Ricky only two days after Allison went off to Georgia. He had talked about
their differences and what had led them to break up. And he had decided that since people judged him from appearances sake,
he would live up to that image to the fullest. Since everyone expected him to be bad, therefore he was. He did nothing to
change that image, or to change the mind of those who judged him wrongly. It was a no win situation.
It was clear that Eddie had a chip on his shoulder. One, it seemed, that he held firmly to like a crutch.
Eddie and Ricky waited for almost an hour. The boat always docked at five thirty. It was almost six thirty.
Eddie was getting restless and bored. And with the boredom came self-destruction. Ricky tried to keep Eddie occupied and keep
his thoughts from being idle. Ricky talked about Florida and the friends he used to have there. He talked about school and
girls and anything else he thought might be of interest to Eddie.
But Eddie never took an interest in what he had to say. He stared off into the horizon with some cocky, dreamy
look in his eyes. Ricky tried to decipher its meaning, but really didn’t have a clue what it meant. He was struggling
here. He was trying to do what Allison had asked of him, to keep Eddie out of trouble. Thus far he had only succeeded by sheer
Ricky felt he was getting close to failing. Eddie was growing more and more discontented as each day passed.
There was not enough to keep him busy. All he needed was an outlet for his energy. But what did this town offer? Ricky had
wondered that himself many times since he’d been here.
Allison had been his only friend and they’d found things to do together. But for Eddie, it was different.
Adolescent boys had drive and stamina. They needed to filter that drive into something healthy and wholesome. But how could
you do that with limited resources? Without those resources they were bound to fall by the weigh side.
Ricky needed to talk to his dad about this. Maybe he had some good advice for him. Something that would maybe
save Eddie from himself.
Another twenty minutes went by. There was no sign of the boat so Eddie got tired of waiting and decided to
"Don’t you think you ought to wait for the boat?" Ricky was saying, running after Eddie in a hurry.
"I’m tired of waiting," Eddie stated with a bored drawl. " I’ve got better things to do than
wait around for some stupid boat."
"Like what?" Ricky wanted to know.
"It aint none of your business," Eddie replied. "Beat it and leave me alone. I know what you’re trying
to do and it aint gonna work."
Okay, so this wasn’t working out the way Ricky wanted it. He was quickly growing flustered.
"What do you mean?" Ricky asked. "What I am trying to do?"
"Allison was always trying to change me," Eddie acknowledged. "She was always preaching to me, thinking that
if she just said the right thing, that she just might save me." Eddie marched forward through the hot sand, his back straight,
his arms swinging angrily beside him. "Well let me tell you something. There aint no savin’ this kid."
Ricky grew angry. Angry at Eddie. Angry at Allison. He grabbed Eddie by the arm and swung him around. The
two of them faced each other. Agitated, Eddie tried to pull his arm free and only minimally succeeded.
"You know something, Eddie. If you gave me half a chance, I just might find that I like you, that I want
to be a friend to you. But you try so hard trying to keep me at a distance. Why is that?"
Eddie glared at Ricky. "Maybe ‘cause I don’t like you."
Ricky might have believe Eddie had it not been for the sudden appearance of what seemed like tears lurking
behind his lashes. He felt sorry for the kid. Eddie was a mess. He was from a dysfunctional family. His father didn’t
care for him much. His mother was never around. He had no one he could talk to, or depend on. Basically, Eddie was a loner.
Because his parents were distant from him, Eddie had never really learned to reach out to people, to connect with them on
a level that they could relate to and understand. Instead, he made it a practice to be ornery, ill-tempered, and anti-social
to keep people from getting to close to him.
It was obviously a lonely life for Eddie.
"You might not like me," Ricky admitted. "But I made a promise to Allison that I would take care of you.
And I’m going to keep my word. Whether you like it or not."
Eddie lashed out at Ricky, pushing him backwards into the sand. "Well you tell Allison, if you ever see her
again, that she’s no longer my friend."
Eddie trudged through the sand leading toward his home. Ricky was beside him in an instant. "But Allison
will always be your friend."
Ricky’s last statement fell on deaf ears. Eddie took off through the stand of trees and never looked
back. He didn’t need any friends. No one here liked him any way. His own folks didn’t even want to be bothered
with him. He was an outcast to society. One day he was going to make them sorry they every trampled on Eddie Lawrence Montgomery.