Note: Set after Sam and Kelly are caught kissing in the store together by Pete.
Note 2: It's AU… nothing after they are caught is the way it happened in the movie…Sam doesn't have that disease and she's not going to die.
Note 3: Robin's a little younger in this story, she's about five or six in here.
"Looks like there's going to be some new neighbors down the street," remarked Mr. Arnold. "Noticed a limo pulling into the Anderson's old house. That place has been empty for three years, now. It's about time someone moved in…"
His wife looked out the window. "A limousine! Oh, my…and look, they have a nice girl. She looks about your age, Jasper. I wonder why they've come to Putnam."
Jasper looked up moodily from his soup. "More rich people…"
Robin slurped at hers. "I wonder if she wants to play with me? Will she mom? Will she?"
Betsy Arnold started to nod at her younger daughter but her son cut in sourly. He really needed to stop holding a grudge against Kalvin. It really wasn't Kalvin's fault that Sam liked him. But, she guessed, it was in Jasper's eyes who had been with Sam for a long time. Maybe too long.
"She's too old to play with you," Jasper snapped. He finished and put his bowl into the sink. "I'm going to go mend those fence posts now. I'll be back for supper." He left, pulling his hat over his shaggy brown hair. Outside, he kicked angrily at stones. Pete had come over to the house just an hour before and told him that had found Sam making out with Kelley in the store last night. And then she'd left with him. God! Jasper was so mad. He wanted to break something… namely Kelley's face. He ripped up grass and threw it as hard as he could. It fluttered around him. How could Sam do this to him?
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Sam smiled and kissed Kelley again. He was so wonderful. She wanted to stay here forever with him. They were lying on the rocks by their falls. She thought of them as 'their' falls, anyway. She wanted to stay here with Kelley and forget the outer world. She wanted to marry him and move out of this town. She wanted to get away.
"What are you thinking?" Kelley asked, turning on his side towards her.
She shrugged. "Nothing at all. I'm glad that you're here. I want this moment to last forever. For time to freeze…" She laughed shyly. "That sounded dumb."
Kelley shook his head. "Nothing you say sounds dumb." Then he kissed her again.
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Jasper swung the hammer down with all his strength, envisioning Kelley's face on the head of the nail for the millionth time.
"They're not alive, you know? You don't have to kill them…"
He looked up, startled. A girl was standing a few meters away, her short red hair fluttering in the slight breeze and a smirk to match her twinkling blue eyes. He must have given her a confused look because she pointed at the hammer in his hand and the nail that he had driven deep into the post with a shrug. "They're just nails…"
He blinked and looked down at the nail. It had been driven in with one hit. He looked up sheepishly at her. "Just working off some anger."
She nodded. "Tell me about it. I just moved here and already my parents want me to go to dinner with these people. I don't even know who they are and they have a son, how lucky for me, right?" she said with mock happiness, clasping her hands together in front of her chest. "Maybe we'll get married and live here forever and ever!"
He hit another nail in, this time with three hits of the hammer. "Uh…"
She smiled. "Sorry, I like to rant. I'll leave you to your nail killing and see you some other time when you don't look deadly with a hammer…although while looking scary like you're going to bash my brains in, you do look very macho."
He smiled and she walked away, down the field. He watched her go and wanted her to stay and talk to him some more. Lucky guy it was that was going to have dinner with her…
Then, he turned back to his work, wondering who she was.
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"Jasper? That you?"
He put the tools down by the door and went into the house. His mother was up to her elbows in flour. "Yeah. What are you doing?" He could see a whole bunch of dinner things set up for dinner and the dining room was all set up for more than the family.
She smiled warmly. "Will you go get me some more potatoes from the shed? The Bradshaws are coming to dinner. They're the people who moved in down the street. Don't look at me like that, Jasper, they're nice people and they're coming to dinner. Now go get me those potatoes then go get washed up. I won't have them thinking we're untidy."
He nodded and went out to the shed.
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"And here's our son, Jasper," Betsy Arnold said as Jasper re-entered the house, his hair still slightly wet from the shower.
"Good to meet you, Jasper," said, he supposed, Mr. Bradshaw. "This is my wife, Annie and Shelly, my daughter."
"Good to meet you, sir," Jasper replied, and turned to see the girl he had met the field. "You?"
She smiled and repeated, "And you."
Mr. Bradshaw looked puzzled. "You two know each other?"
Shelly shook her head and extended her hand to Jasper in greeting. "We met in the field. He was repairing a fence and I stumbled on him in my exploring." She hid a grin as her father took on a troubled look. "But we didn't even introduce ourselves. It's nice to meet you, Jasper."
He mentally shook himself and took her hand. "You too."
The parents went into the living room and Shelly stopped him from following for a minute. "I'm glad it was you."
He nodded. He couldn't stop grinning. "So, what was that you said about marriage and living here forever?"
She punched him in the arm. "I'll think about it…I suppose at least I know that you'll be able to repair our fences…"
"In the meantime, would you like to go to dinner?"
She smiled. "Dinner, already? Hmmm."
Kelley opened the door and saw the Arnolds in the dining room with three other people. He stopped when the girl turned her head to look at him, recognition flashing on his face. "Shelly?"
She froze too then quickly regained her composure. "Kelley. Wow! Didn't expect to see you here. I thought you went back to Boston."
He came into the dining room. "I'm working here for the summer." It sounded strange, even to him.
"He and Jasper got in a big fight and they burnt down the diner and now they have to rebuild it," filled in Robin, who was sitting beside Shelly.
Shelly smiled. "That's quite an accomplishment…"
Jasper, who was sitting on the other side of Robin, flushed and smacked his sister lightly on the arm. "It's a long story…"
"Yeah! They-" she was cut off by Jasper putting his hand over her mouth.
Kelley sat down across from her and smiled. She was still looking good, if a bit skinny, since she'd been sick the last two months of school and maybe longer. He hadn't seen her since she'd gotten sick. She looked good. He looked over at Jasper. Evidentially, he thought so too, even if he didn't know her very well.
The dinner conversation started up again and Mrs. Arnold passed Kelley the potatoes.
After supper, the adults went out to sit on the deck and talk, Shelly went up to Robin's room with her and Jasper and Kelley went to their own rooms.
"Do you like it here?" asked Robin, showing off her mouse.
Shelly nodded, taking one doll from a shelf. It was a soft rag doll, Raggedy Anne, no doubt. When she had been little, the kids had called her Raggedy Anne. "Is it always so tense between your brother and Kelley?"
Robin nodded. "They both like Sam, she's been going out with Jasper since they were little. They were always together. Everyone said that they were going to get married and live happily ever after, just like in the books… Now, her sister told my mom that Sam's been going out with Kelley. Jasper's not happy with them…he's always hated rich people." She looked at Shelly, realizing her mistake. "I mean…"
Shelly shrugged. "I don't mind. I'd rather trade it all in. It's too much hassle and people just start liking you for your money, not for you."
Robin nodded, a serious look on her face. "Mom says we're lucky. We don't have too much money but we have enough."
"Your mother's a very smart woman," remarked Shelly, glancing out the window. "Well, I should go, my parents are leaving…" She handed Robin back the doll.
"You'll come back though, right?"
Shelly nodded. "Sure. You can show me the rest of your stuff."
"Okay, cool!' said Robin happily. She turned back to her mouse and Shelly left the room.
As she walked down the hall, she passed Jasper's room and glanced inside. He was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling. "Bye Jasper."
He sat up, surprised. "Shelly. Hey."
She stopped and leaned against his doorframe. "Not a big fan of Kelley's, I hear?" she remarked dryly.
He shook his head. "He's a prick."
She nodded. "He was a big one at Ralston Hall too. I guess things don't change…"
"Yeah, well, I wish he would leave," muttered Jasper darkly, glaring out the window in the direction of the garage and Kalvin's room. "He is the biggest, snobbiest rich ass ever to walk the planet."
Shelly grinned. "Obviously you haven't met most of the boys at Ralston… but yeah, he is rather full of himself, isn't he?"
He nodded, his hands clenching into fists. "Sometimes I just want to…" He struck his fist into his hand.
"But that wouldn't help, would it?"
He looked up at her. "It would for me…"
"Shelly!" called her father from downstairs.
"I'll see you around then…" she said and left down the stairs with a wave.
Shelly pushed open the door to the general store and went inside. It was packed with stuff and was pleasantly cool; a nice change from the hot weather from outside. The weather hadn't changed in the past three weeks that she'd been here. She browsed up and down the shelves, looking for the things on her list. Grabbing a can of tomato soup, she said, "Now, where would the salt be?"
Finally, she spotted the last thing. Crackers, low fat, of course. Linda couldn't bear to get fat so she had to have low-fat crackers… Shelly made a face. Her father's latest wife, the third one to date. She was okay, most of the time. A little too crazy about appearances though.
The bell tinged and through the gaps in the shelves she saw Jasper come into the store. He was wearing his trademark green cap with an old shirt and worn-out jeans. She smiled to herself. He was nice, and cute, and very gentlemanly. She watched him chat with the guy working at the cash register and pull off his green baseball cap, only to put it back on seconds later. He smiled that adorable grin at nothing and walked towards her aisle.
He rounded the shelf and caught sight of her. "Shelly. Hey. How's it going?"
"Fine, thanks." She reached out with her free hand to grab the crackers, feeling the stack of things in her other arm tip alarmingly.
"Here. I'll get that for you." He snagged the crackers for her and followed her to the counter. "Hey Pete," he said at the cash register. "Is there any double chocolate cookies left? Robin wants 'em."
Pete shook his head as he checked in Shelly's things. "Vanessa and I ate the last box last night… sorry bud." He turned his attention to Shelly. "That'll be forty-one dollars and thirty-six cents."
"Thank you." She paid for her things and waited for her change.
Jasper scooped up a few bags from the counter and led the way out to her parent's jeep. "There you go."
"Why, thank you kind sir… and could I offer you a ride home? After all, it is almost four o'clock." she asked in joking tone. "I thought you were done work at three…" she continued in a more serious tone, her eyebrows bunching together. "That's what your sister told me last time I saw her."
He shrugged. "Yeah, well, I was going to walk, actually. Couldn't take anymore of Kelley. He was really buggin' me today…"
She unlocked the jeep and opened the trunk for him. "Well, he does have a talent for pissing people off…"
"Yeah, he's a natural…" replied Jasper sullenly. He thought about the last time that he'd seen Sam and Kelley together. They'd been sitting under the tree in her front lawn, giggling and talking quietly, not even noticing him or anyone else around.
"You're thinking about her, aren't you?"
He looked over at her. "What?"
"Sam, you're thinking about her," she said matter-of-factly.
He nodded. "How'd you know that? Reading minds now, are you?"
She shook her head. "No, my step-brother used to get that way after his girlfriends dumped him. It's a forlorn look, like you're seeing her with someone else. Kelley, maybe?" She saw a flicker in his eyes before they became flat again. "It is him, isn't it? That's why he bugs you so much and that's why you were so angry in the field that day. Right?" There was no note of success in her face, only a flat acceptance, like she was stating a fact.
He nodded again. "It kills me. Every time. I don't even know why I'm telling you this but we've been-we were together ever since we were young until now. Until he came here." He closed his eyes. "I know I can't have her anymore. She's given herself to him, totally. She's moved on but I can't because we were together for so long and I've never even thought that we were going to break up. Even if it isn't official yet."
Shelly wanted to hug him but instead took the bags from his hands and dropping them into the back of the jeep. As she took the last bag, she brushed his hand with her fingers and he grabbed hers tightly, the bag slid down, forgotten, to the crook in her elbow. She looked up into his face and saw him staring intently at her.
"Hey, you forget your crackers!"
Jasper let go and turned back as Pete came to the car smiling.
"Almost forgot your crackers…" He handed them to Shelly.
She felt like her smile was pasted on. "Thanks." She threw them into the back of the jeep, and then narrowed her eyes at them. This was because I got mad in the store, wasn't it? She shook her head. And now I'm arguing with crackers. Idiot. "Ready?" she asked Jasper.
He nodded and said goodbye to Pete before getting into the car.
They drove in uncomfortable silence until they got to his house and she parked in his driveway.
"So," he started.
"So," she repeated.
"Uh, thank you for the ride. I'm glad I didn't have to walk home and I'm glad I didn't have to drive home with Kelley because I would kill him. Y'know, we should do this again sometime." He watched her fiddle with a ring on her thumb, twisting it on and off.
"We should," she agreed. "I'm glad I moved here. Uh, because there are a lot of nice people here and it's nice here and green. It's not green like this in New York," she finished lamely. Idiot, she said again, wanting to smack herself on the forehead. What is wrong with you? Just because he's looking at you and not getting out of the car doesn't mean that you should babble… She took a breath and let it out slowly, glancing at him as she did. He was still watching her.
"How about tonight?" he asked.
"What?" she replied blankly.
"You want to hang out tonight?" He said it casually. It didn't matter. Sam had already made her choice. So, he would move on. And you should, he said to himself.
"Sure. That would be-"
He leaned over and cut her off by kissing her. His hand came up and brushed her hair back from her face. When he pulled back, she was looking at him blankly.
"Until tonight then," he said, flashing her a quick, lopsided grin before going inside.
"Until tonight," she repeated faintly and watched him go inside. Then she started the car and drove back home.
Kelley heard the car pull up and looked out the window to investigate. It didn't sound like the truck, rather like a well-maintained, expensive car. It was. He saw Shelly and Jasper talk then Jasper kiss her and then leave to go into the house. Shelly sat there for a few seconds and then drove off. He felt a little jealous and wondered why. He had Sam. He'd already taken her from Jasper. Wouldn't it be funny if he did the same with Shelly? But there were two problems with that. One, he liked Sam. A lot. Maybe even loved her. He didn't want to hurt her. And two, Shelly would never even touch him. She knew all about him at Rawlsten Hall. He still felt jealous. Damn! Maybe if he hit on her a bit, not in front of Sam, of course, maybe that would rile Jasper up a bit. Yeah, that would make him feel better… He turned away from the window, too late to see Jasper come out of the house and set off towards the fields, pulling the green cap over his hair in a familiar fashion, whistling happily.
Shelly pulled into her driveway, shut off the car and stared dreamily out the window at the sky. That kiss had been nice. She couldn't wait until tonight. It would be fun. She got out and brought half the bags inside. "Hello? Dad? Linda? Where are you guys?" Finding a note on the kitchen table, she walked outside, reading in a sarcastic tone, "Dear Shel, Gone to New York for a while. Had to get some stuff from the apartment. Be back by Friday. Glad that you went to get groceries, now you won't have to get them until we get back. We'll pick up something nice for the weekend. Love, Dad & Linda
Yeah, right. Thanks for the notice, Dad…" she fumed pushing open the screen door and feeling satisfied as it slammed against the wall. "I'm glad that you and Linda can go into New York and not tell me. I'm glad that you're leaving me here until Friday without any way to call you. I'm really gla-"
Jasper pushed her back against the wall beside the door and kissed her. His hand rested on her lower back, holding her to him and the other leaned against the wall, making sure they didn't fall. His hat fell off onto the ground but Jasper ignored it.
Her arms wrapped around his neck and her fingers went through his hair as the note fluttered to the ground, forgotten.
He pulled back and grinned. "I couldn't wait 'til tonight."
She smiled shyly and looked at him. "Well, you're going to have to wait until I get the rest of the bags out of the car."
He leaned down to scoop up his hat then jumped down off the porch and said gallantly, "I'll get them for you." He gathered up the groceries before shutting the trunk and coming back towards her.
She felt a little guilty and took half of them off his hands.
They both turned and looked down Shelly's driveway to see Sam stopped in the entrance of it, probably on her way to Jasper's house.
No doubt to see Kelley, thought Jasper jealously, then realized that Sam looked a little jealous herself. "Hey Sam."
"What are you doing?" she asked, glaring from him to Shelly behind him.
"Bringing in groceries," he said matter-of-factly. "I met her at the store and since her parents aren't home, I'm helping her and then I'm going to welcome her into the neighborhood by cooking her dinner." He glanced quickly at Shelly but she was just staring at Sam.
"You don't know how to cook and she came into the neighborhood three weeks ago," replied Sam icily.
"Well, we went to his house three weeks ago and now was the only time he could come here because my father promised his family a dinner in return. Only, none of Jasper's family, except for Jasper himself, could come and my parents had to go on a business trip at the last minute so it's just the two of us…" said Shelly quickly before Jasper could reply.
Sam nodded, seemingly accepting this. "Well, I'm going to go visit Kelley. Have a nice dinner," she said, adding Kelley in, wanting Jasper to feel what she felt.
He nodded. "See you around then, Sam." Then he followed Shelly inside.
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Sam's face flamed and she continued to walk to the Arnold's. When she got there, she was so angry at Jasper; she wanted to hit him.
Kelley came bounding down as he saw Sam, a joyous look on his face. "Hey Sam. What's wrong?" he asked, noting the angry look on her face.
"He is at Shelly's, having dinner with her, alone. He's just trying to make me jealous." She frowned then noticed him there. "So, what do you want to do?"
Her change of moods so quickly shook Kelley for a minute but he recovered quickly. "Whatever. Doesn't matter. Want to go to the falls?"
She nodded, the smile coming back onto her face and she kissed him.
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"So what do you want to do tonight? Go out or stay in?" asked Shelly as she handed him the last plate to put away.
Jasper looked out the window at the setting sun. "Well, we could go into town with Pete and Vanessa. They wanted to go skinny dipping but we could just swim."
"We could do that… skinny dipping with Pete and Vanessa. That some kind of tradition?"
He grinned. "Something like that. Do you want to go?"
"I'll have to phone Pete then. Dad's making me work on Mable's Table from six to nine but Pete wanted to go when it was dark anyways."
"I'll get my suit then drive you over." She pointed out the phone then went up the stairs to her room. She checked her drawers then went into her closet and began to go though her drawers in the closet. "I know it's in here somewhere… ah ha!" She grabbed it then came out and spotted Jasper lying on her bed admiring her room.
"Paint those yourself?"
She glanced quickly up at the paintings on the wall. There were three of them. One of her mother and father, her first mother, Anya Eva O'Brian, in front of Ayres's Rock. One of her good friends from India, Derek, framed by the Himalayas. And one of a group of leopards in the Sahara Desert. "Yes. They're not that great. My dad really liked them though. Framed them and showed them all off to his friends. I became a big freak show among his friends. Everyone wanted to see Jonathan Bradshaw's prodigy of a daughter. So I stopped. Haven't even sketched since then." She took a breath and took her eyes off of the paintings. "We should go. Can't have you late for work, can I?"
Jasper followed her out of the room, watching her eyes linger on the painting. Well, he'd have to do something about that.
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"Pete tells me that you're the one that's making Jasper happy lately. That true?"
Shelly opened her eyes and quickly glanced at her watch. Eight-thirty. She'd been sitting here for two and a half hours reading but even that got boring. Only a half-hour left.
Vanessa cracked her gum. "Hel-lo?"
"What?" Shelly looked up at Vanessa who looked back at her skeptically.
"You the one he helped in the store when Pete was working?"
"Yes," Shelly said slowly. She didn't want this girl to be one of Sam's friends who wanted to kick her ass.
"Oh," replied Vanessa. "So you're comin' swimming then?" She sat down beside Shelly.
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Well, I'm glad that Jasper's happier, anyway. He's been moping ever since she's been going out with Kelley…" She glanced sideways at the other girl. "I'm Vanessa. Sam used to be my best friend and now she's real uppity ever since she started going out with him. I'm really glad that you're here to help Jasper over this emotional pain," she added wickedly.
"Ha ha ha," Shelly replied slowly. "I'm Shelly. I moved in down the road from Jasper."
Jasper watched Shelly and Vanessa talk then glanced quickly at his father. Mr. Arnold was inside talking to the electrician. He loped over to Shelly and Vanessa and sat down beside Shelly, stretching an arm across the back of the bench behind her. "Hey."
"Hey. Comin' swimming tonight, Jasper? Bring your suit?" Vanessa asked sweetly.
He shook his head. "Only boxers." He grinned at Shelly who stared at him like he'd just grown another head. "Hey, at least I have some sort of swim gear…" he said accusingly at Vanessa.
"I have it. I'm just not wearin' it…"
"Jasper! Get over here now and quit flirting!"
"Oops, the boss is calling. See you guys." He jogged back to the site ducking behind his scowling father.
Shelly felt a tingling sensation on the back of her neck and looked around. Finally, she saw Kelley standing on the rooftop, holding a bunch a shingles she supposed he was supposed to be putting down on the roof. Instead, he was watching her and she had a sneaking suspicion he'd been watching all along. She felt like giving him the finger but instead she waved at him sweetly, knowing it would get him even madder than anything else. He narrowed his eyes at her. She turned around and began talking to Vanessa. She wanted to learn more about Jasper.
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"So you goin' in naked?" asked Pete from the backseat of the jeep.
Shelly glanced up into the review mirror, startled. They had been talking about the Fourth of July Fair and Shelly had tuned out because it had nothing to do with her. Obviously, she missed the transition. "Me? No."
"Why not?" he whined.
Vanessa slapped him on the arm hard and he turned to her. "I was joking, honey. Come here." He kissed her.
"I don't even know you. Any of you. I really don't feel comfortable taking my clothes off in front you three."
"Not even for Jasper? Ouch, buddy. That's got to hurt…" he patted Jasper on the chest who was sitting in front of him.
"Stop it Pete…" Vanessa said. She pulled him by the shirt towards her. She kissed him and then they started making out.
Shelly turned away from the mirror and back to the road. "So how far away is this place?"
"Next left up here…there. Now all the way down to the beach."
She stopped the jeep and they got out, moving over the dunes towards the water.
Immediately, Pete and Vanessa started stripping down. "Come one, you two!" yelled Vanessa, now unclothed.
Jasper covered Shelly's eyes, yelling, "You two should be brought in! It's wrong to show a young civilized lady that!"
Pete laughed as he and Vanessa dove into the water.
Jasper and Shelly sat down in the sand and watched the stars while Pete and Vanessa splashed around in the water.
Shelly shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. It was a clear night, a little on the chilly side but that was okay. She gazed up at the moon, noticing the way it shone down over the water casting an ethreal light over the whole area. Her fingers itched for a paintbrush, something they hadn't done in a very long time.
Jasper noticed her arms covered in goosebumps. He wrapped his arm around her and felt her shift and sigh contentedly as her back rested against his chest.
Shelly felt the warmth spread into her as he pulled her to sit against him. "I don't feel like going for a swim tonight…"
"Me either." He entwined his fingers with hers and looked up at the moon. "This is weird."
She played with their hands, twisting her fingers around his. "Why?"
He half shrugged. "I can't understand how I can feel like this after being with Sam for so long. I guess it's the same way that Sam feels with Kelley. I'm glad that you're here."
She smiled. "Me too."
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Later, when Pete and Vanessa got out of the water and put their clothes back on, Jasper and Pete built a fire. They all sat around it and snuggled.
Pete and Vanessa started making out again and Jasper turned to Shelly. "So, if you aren't busy on the fourth of July I was wondering if you wanted to go to the fair with me, but only if you want to," he added quickly.
Shelly gaped up at him.
"I know you're probably going back to New York or one of your friend's houses in the Hamptons or something but it was worth a shot."
"No, no other plans. I would love to go with you, Jasper."
He smiled in relief. "Wow, uh, cool. Okay."
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Kelley watched Jasper work with a grin on his face. He had his stupid green hat on and was whistling happily as he put the nail gun to the wood and squeezed the trigger a few times before moving on. "What's with you?"
Jasper looked up, looking confused at Kelley talking to him. "What do you mean?"
"You come back late last night, you're Mr. Happy today. Sam comes by to see me and you don't even care… wanna tell me the secret?"
Jasper shrugged. "There's no secret." He put two more nails into the wood. "I'm just a happy guy."
"Bullshit!" Kelley punched him in the face. He continued trying to hit Jasper but Jasper backed away, dodging and blocking his swings. Finally, Kelley managed to tackle him and tried to hit him again.
Jasper pushed Kelley off of him. "What the hell, man?" He scrambled away, not wanting to fight with Kelley.
Kelley tried to jump on him again but Mr. Arnold grabbed him around the waist and pulled him back. "What's wrong, son?"
Kelley pushed him away. "Nothing. I'm fine and I told you before, I'm not your son." He stormed off.
Mr. Arnold turned to his son. "Jasper? You want to tell me about it?"
Jasper shook his head in bewilderment. "I don't know what it was about. I was just happy and he didn't like it…"
"Okay, well, try to keep away from him. He's a strange kid with lots of problems."
"I'll load up the tools in the truck and I can walk if you want me to."
Mr. Arnold nodded. "That could help. You could get a ride back from someone. I saw Shelly walk into the store this afternoon. She might still be there."
"Thanks." Jasper started towards the store but his dad called him back.
"I'm glad that you're making her feel at home here. She 's a good kid."
Jasper nodded. "Thanks dad. I'm glad you approve." He grinned. "See you at home."
"Get going!" said his dad, pushing him jokingly towards the store. "Don't want her to leave with someone else, do you?"
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"Jasper. Hey. How's the car?"
Jasper looked up and saw Sam leaning against the doorframe. "Hey Sam. What's up?"
"Haven't talked to you in awhile… been busy?"
He nodded. "Yeah."
"So, you going to the Fourth of July Fair?" she asked nonchalantly.
"Yeah, you?" he replied, not looking up from the engine of his car. He willed her to go away because Shelly was coming any minute. He stole a quick glance at his watch. Noon. Yup, she'd be here soon.
"Yeah, I think so." She moved towards him, brushing her hand over the hood of the car. "I was wondering if you wanted to go with me?"
"I can't. I already have a date, Sam. And aren't you going with Kelley anyway? What happened to him?"
She giggled. "You think that Shelly's really serious for you? Come on, Jasper. Get real."
"And Kelley's just head over heels for you? Yeah, he's going to marry you and you'll live happily ever after…"
"Come on Jasper," she said again. "Just go to the fair with me. We'll have fun and it'll be like before."
"You dumped me for that chump and now you ask me to go to the fair with you? I'm sorry, Sam. I can't do that." He wiped his hands off on a cloth and wiped his forehead then brushed by Sam, walking towards the house. He spotted Shelly at the house, talking to his sister and waved.
She broke into a huge grin and waved back. Robin tugged on her sleeve and she looked back down at Robin and the conversation started again.
Jasper looked back and couldn't see Sam. She must have gone back home or up to Kelley's room. He bounded over to Shelly happily and picked her up around the waist then swung her around.
She laughed and when he put her down, she turned around in his arms and he kissed her. "Hey."
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Pete pulled into Jasper's driveway and honked the horn. "Hey Jazz! Hurry up! We're going to miss the fair!" he joked.
Jasper came out and slid into the back of the car. "Ready. Now, let's go pick up Shelly."
"Bye Kelley!" mocked Pete as they pulled out of the driveway.
They pulled up to Shelly's house and Jasper got out. Pete honked the horn as he went up to the door. He knocked and glanced in the window. "Shelly? Shel?"
She ran down the stairs two at a time and called into the living room. "Bye Dad! Bye Linda!" Then she pulled open the front door. "Hey Jasper."
He grinned at her from the other side of the screen. "Hey. Ready to go?"
"Yup." She opened the door and took his hand. "Let's go before my dad goes all protective and starts reading me date rules."
"Yeah, let's, please. Bye, Mr. Bradshaw!"
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Shelly looked around. There were so many things to do and see here. She'd never been to a fair like this before. Jasper pulled her towards a booth after Pete and Vanessa.
"Win a bear for your girlfriend here, sirs!" the man at the booth said to Jasper and Pete.
Vanessa tugged on Pete's arm. "Oh, come on, Pete! Please!"
Pete shrugged. "Fine, fine."
The man turned to Jasper. "And you, Jasper? How about one for your beautiful girl?"
Jasper looked over to Shelly. She was blushing at the man's comment. "Nah, I think we're okay, Mr. Vanderbee. We're going to go check out the other stuff. You two have fun," he added to Pete and Vanessa. Then he left with Shelly. "So, what do you want to do?" he asked her as they stopped and watched the people go by.
"You're here with him?"
"You're here with her?"
They turned around to see Kelley and Sam looking outraged.
"What?" asked Shelly and Jasper at the same time.
"I can't believe you are here with that hick!" yelled Kelley.
"You're here with that girl? Jasper, I thought you were kidding!" Sam said, glaring at Shelly.
"Look, you dumped me, Sam! And you, Kelley, you stole Sam from me! You both have been trying to tell me that this girl wasn't right for me. Well, maybe she isn't but I think she is so until I find out that she's playing me, get over it!" said Jasper. "Come on, Shelly. Let's go." He started to leave but Kelley pulled him back around and punched him in the face. They started throwing punches back and forth and Shelly tried to pull them apart but someone grabbed her from behind.
Pete pushed Shelly into Vanessa's arms and went into the fight to pull Jasper away from Kelley. "Come on, Jasper. Let's just go. We can go to Cape Cod now. Come on, man."
Jasper nodded, wiping blood from his mouth. Sam was looking at him with an incredibly sad look on her face and she opened her mouth, as if to say something. He turned away. "Come on, Shelly." They moved off into the crowd before Kelley could get up.
Shelly was silent as she held his hand and they ran to Pete's car.
"Okay, we have my and Vanessa's stuff. We should drop by both your houses to get yours, right? You guys are coming, right?" Pete looked at the two sitting in the back. "Jazz? Shelly?"
"Yeah, we're coming," Jasper said gruffly.
Shelly just nodded silently. This was a big deal. Jasper had just told Kelley that he didn't love Sam anymore. In just seven weeks she'd made Jasper fall in love with her, well maybe not but it sounded that way. She wanted to jump up and cheer but she knew that she had to make sure Jasper really meant it…
"So, I'll drop Shelly off first to pack then we'll go to your house to get your stuff then we'll go back to pick up Shelly because she's on the way out of town," Shelly heard Pete tell Jasper. Jasper was nodding but he was watching her. She squeezed his hand in reassurance. He smiled quickly, not with happiness, then it was gone.
"Here Shelly. Hurry up and we can get there in time for the fireworks," Vanessa said nicely to her.
She got out of the car then turned back to Vanessa. "I think they already happened." Then she ran up to her house.
When they came back to her house, she was outside with a backpack slung over her shoulder. She slid into the front seat beside Jasper and dropped her bag onto the floor. He'd washed the blood off his face and put on a new shirt. His hat was in his hands and he was twisting it nervously. He glanced up as she got in and then he looked away, out the window. Pete and Vanessa were in the back, making out. "I offered to drive because I figured you wanted to talk to me."
It wasn't a reason but she nodded. "Sure, I mean, whatever works for you." She waved to her dad as they pulled out then turned back to Jasper. "I want to know if you meant what you said at the fair. I mean, if you didn't, it's okay. I understand if you want it to be Sam sitting here with you instead of me. It doesn't really matter to me…"
Jasper looked over to her. "No! I mean, yes, I meant it. I would rather you here than a million Sams. You've been the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. After her and Kelley started going out, I thought I wasn't going to ever get over it and then you came and you were so different than anything I've ever seen and I liked it! A lot! And I wanted to hang out with you more but I didn't know how and then I saw you in the store and I decided I would get over Samantha because she was over me. I don't know if I love you or not but I want to find that out and I want to know if you love me too because unless I've been totally getting my wires crossed, I think you kinda like me too. So that's why I'm here and you're here and let's just be here, together and have a good time at Cape Cod. Together. Okay?" He rested his hand on hers for a brief second then placed it back on the steering wheel. He glanced back at the road then back at her. "Shelly? Say something. Please."
She stared at him for a few minutes then said, "Okay. We can do that if you want to." She reached over and took his hand. He squeezed her fingers.
She wrinkled her forehead. "Wait a minute, you're not supposed to be driving…you're breaking the law, Mr. Arnold."
He slowly grinned but kept his eyes on the road. "What are you going to do about it, Miss Bradshaw?"
She shrugged. "I have no idea. I am so tired that I can't think straight." She closed her eyes briefly then looked over at him again. "Just as long as you don't kill us with your reckless driving, I'll do nothing."
He chuckled. "Come here."
She undid her seatbelt and leaned against his arm. He let go of the wheel with his hand and she scooted back until her lower back leaned against his thigh and his arm came around her shoulders and his hand rested back onto the wheel. She smiled and closed her eyes.
They stopped halfway at an all night diner to stretch their legs. Pete and Vanessa went into the diner to get something to drink and eat.
"No, I'm not hungry," replied Shelly to their inquiry to join them.
"I'll stay with Shelly," added Jasper before they could ask him.
"Okay," replied Pete as they went inside.
"You okay?" asked Jasper.
Shelly watched him pull off his hat and put it back on. "Yeah, sure. A little tired but good. You?"
"Are you sure about this whole thing?" she asked again. "I mean, I don't want you to feel obligated to me for whatever reason…"
He turned to her. "I don't feel obligated. I want you to be here."
She sighed. "Good. I keep having this horrible feeling that you're going to jump up and yell, 'What are you doing here?' and run to Pete's car and drive back to Putnam and go find Sam. Crazy, huh?"
He nodded. "Very crazy." And leaned against the car beside her. "Look at all those stars."
"Yeah, it's beautiful. I hate to sound cliché but I never got to see this in New York."
"Yeah, and everything is green here, not like New York," he added.
She leaned against him and elbowed him in the ribs. "I can't believe I said that… I acted like such an idiot."
"Yeah, you did," he agreed. "But you were cute. Hey, I have something for you." He went to the trunk and rummaged in his bag before pulling out a wrapped present. He brought it back and handed it to her. "Happy Fourth of July."
"Jasper!" she cried, "you shouldn't have."
He shrugged. "Yeah, well, I did. Now open it."
"Yes, sir!" she imitated but tore off the wrapping paper. It was a sketchbook and drawing pencils in black and other colors. She looked up at him in shock. "Jasper, this is so…something. I don't know what to say. Thank you." She hugged him as Pete and Vanessa came out of the diner.
"What's with you two?" Pete asked, looking from one to the other.
Shelly beamed at them. "Jasper gave me a present."
Vanessa turned to Pete and pouted. "You didn't get me a present, did you?" she demanded.
He shook his head. "But tonight I will…" he retorted, leering. "I'll drive."
¥ ¥ ¥
"This is a beautiful place, Jasper."
He nodded. "It's my grandparents' cottage. They don't come here often anymore."
"Well, more room for us." She skipped down the path towards the small cottage to explore. She met Pete and Vanessa moving their things into the cabin and waved. They waved back and she continued on. She went to the end of the dock and leaned out, holding onto the railing. The water was black in the darkness but she could tell it would be clear in the light. The fireworks had just started and lit up the sky in greens, blues, reds and yellows.
"It's normally green in the day and it's sand down there," remarked Jasper coming up behind her.
"I like it."
He took her hand and led her back up to the cottage. "You can check it out tomorrow. Don't you want to see the inside of the cottage? Pete and Vanessa are busy exploring the cabin."
She frowned. "I thought you said they'd been here befo-… oh." She didn't look at the cabin as they passed it; instead she studied the back of Jasper's shirt. His muscles moved underneath the blue shirt and she wanted to touch them, to move her hands over them and feel their strength. Get a grip Bradshaw, she told herself as they entered the cottage. Jeez, you're a hormonally driven teenager. She smiled at Jasper as he turned around to look at her.
"I brought our bags in. They're in the second room on the left down the hall if you need anything. And I put your sketchbook and the pencils in there too. I hope you don't mind."
She shook her head. "Nope, not at all." She drifted into the room with her bags and checked to see if the sketchbook was really in there. She wanted to draw but stopped herself from pulling the book from the bag. What would she draw? There wasn't anything around. The sun had gone down and the only light in the room came from a small lamp beside the bed.
Jasper came into the room but stopped in the doorway to watch Shelly. Her red hair fell down to form a curtain around her face as she squatted by her bag, holding the sketchbook. She impatiently pushed her hair behind her ear and he caught a glimpse of her face scrunched in concentration as if she held an inner debate, then the hair fell back into its original place.
She groaned and threw her head back to get the hair out of her face and spotted him in the doorway. "Hi. Why are you just standing there?"
He moved nearer to her. "Just admiring the view."
"Oh. Okay. Well, admire away."
"I will," he said, pushing her onto the bed. "I will."
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He woke up the next morning with the sun streaming in the window beside the bed. The covers were half over him and Shelly was gone. "I'm happy I woke up early or you would have just ruined the picture," he heard her say from beside her. He turned and looked over. She was sitting in a chair, wrapped in a blanket, with her sketchbook on her knees. "What?"
Shelly moved back over to the bed. "I finished, like, five minutes ago. You're lucky. I would have killed you if you ruined my drawing." She put the sketchbook and pencil on the bedside table and leaned down to kiss him.
His arms came up around her and pulled her down. "Good morning."
She grinned. "Don't you want to see my drawing?"
"I guess so."
She rolled off him. "Fine. You don't have to." She pulled on underwear and a big button-up shirt. It came down to mid-thigh on her and then ran out of the room.
He stopped only to pull on shorts and followed her outside. He found her on the dock and cornered her at the end. "Show it to me or I'll chuck you in."
She sat down. "Fine."
He raised his eyebrows. "Well, that was easy." He sat down beside her. "Okay. Show me, oh great supreme maestro…"
She opened the book and he saw the drawing of himself sprawled on his back on the bed with the sheets covering his lower half and his head facing out at the viewer. "This is really good."
She let out her breath slowly. "Well, y'know. I'm just starting to draw again. That's going to go into the private collection. If my dad saw it, he'd freak." She grinned at him and he laughed.
"Well, let's hope he never does until we're married, right? If I remember correctly, you said, 'we'd get married and live here forever and ever…'"
She punched him in the arm. "We could go to New York and live in my dad's loft. He was going to sell it but now he's giving it to me for a graduating present." She made a face.
"Wow. That's a big present. Most girls get flowers or a necklace but you, you get an apartment. Very upper class of you."
She nodded along while rolling her eyes. "Well, you know me."
"No," he said seriously. "But I'd like to."
¥ ¥ ¥
Shelly opened the door with her key and then stuck it back into her pocket. Pushing open the door, she picked up the grocery bags and went inside, kicking the door shut with her foot. "Honey, I'm home!" she joked, going into the kitchen and putting the bags down onto the counter.
He came into the kitchen behind her and kissed her cheek. "What's for dinner?"
She laughed. "I bring in the groceries, they're not even unpacked, and you ask me what I'm going to make for dinner? Funny man."
He helped her put things away. "Okay, I'll make dinner."
She laughed again. "You can't cook."
"I'll learn. By, the way, your dad called to see how it was going. Checking up on his daughter and not even a month after she gets married and moves to the big city. I'm beginning to suspect he doesn't trust me…" He opened a package of crackers and started eating them.
She took the box out of his hand and put it away up into the cupboard. "Jasper, I'm surprised that your mother hasn't called. A big city vixen enchants her son and carries him away to the big city to live and your mother isn't worried?"
He grinned. "She trusts my judgements."
"Oh, good. Well, then you can go down to the movie store and use that great judgement to get a good movie for us tonight." She filled a pot of water and put it on the stove. "I will cook dinner tonight."
He pulled on his jacket and kissed her quickly. "Okay." He kissed her on the lips again then left, closing the door with a thump behind him.