The final chapter – which I hadn't intended to write, but Math Girl and McHammy wanted to know the story of Scott and Katie and since I didn't know it myself I thought I'd better think of something. So here it is. Loopstagirl – I found a use for a certain thing after all!
Thanks to everyone who reviewed or added this to their alerts. Whirlgirl – really sorry I can't reply but thanks for all the comments – you always give me something to think about. (I think Grandma would have gone to evening service and made all the other boys go with her - well, tried at least! And James is 18, Ross is 20)
Nearly two weeks later, the novelty of being back at home having long since worn off, Virgil wasn't in the best of moods. He could only get around with the aid of crutches, but his back was still painful, which made using them difficult. He was stuck in the house going out of his mind with boredom. He couldn't even play the piano. Gordon was out with Alice most evenings and, although Alan was doing his best to entertain him, he thought he'd go mad if he had to spend another minute indoors. He wished he could get his hands on James McCauley. It seemed he wouldn't even get the chance to face him when he finally got back to school - now he was out on bail McCauley was keeping a low profile and hadn't been seen since his arrest. Virgil hoped he was as miserable as he was. At least his father was coming home for a visit, although given that he spent most of his time shut up in his study these days, he was unlikely to be much of a distraction.
Sure enough, after a quick lunch Jeff retreated to his study. It bothered him to see Virgil so fed-up and he wondered what he could do to cheer him up. Sitting in thought for a while, he finally came to a decision and went to find his son.
When Gordon came home from school he wondered where Virgil had gone. When his grandmother told him he'd been in his father's study for the past four hours, Gordon felt a momentary panic. Four hours? What on earth had Virgil done? The only time you spent more than a few minutes in the study was if you'd done something which merited a lecture. He himself held the record – just over an hour and a half. It was pretty impressive if a housebound Virgil had managed to get himself into four hours' worth of trouble!
But when Virgil and Jeff finally emerged some twenty minutes later, Gordon realised that whatever they had been discussing, it hadn't been anything bad. Virgil looked happier than he had for days, totally energised, in fact. His father looked pleased with himself too.
"What's going on?" Gordon asked.
"Nothing," Virgil said. "We were just talking."
His father didn't elaborate, but his smile of approval at Virgil's non-committal reply made Gordon suspicious.
As they ate and Virgil seemed more animated than he'd been since coming home from the hospital, Gordon grew even more curious. But it wasn't until later that evening that he got the chance to speak to his brother alone.
"Come on then, Virg. What went on between you and Dad?"
Virgil was drawing and barely managed a reply.
Virgil glanced over at him.
"Nothing in particular. Just chatting."
"Well it must have been some chat. You've cheered up no end. And if Scott couldn't manage it after spending an hour on the phone to you last night, I'd love to know what Dad could say to make a difference."
"It's private, okay?"
Virgil actually felt bad about not being able to tell his brother, but he appreciated the need for secrecy. His father had admitted, before revealing his plans, that he'd only told him now because he thought he needed something to take his mind off things and give him something to look forward to. Well, it had certainly worked! He couldn't wait to speak to Scott and John about it. He could well understand why his father had decided not to tell the younger ones. Gordon and Alan were incapable of keeping anything quiet. And although Jeff agreed with Scott that Gordon was likely to be an asset, he'd decided it was too great a burden to place on him just now. So for the time being Virgil would have to keep things to himself. He didn't think he'd have too much trouble there, though Gordon's curiosity was bound to be irritating.
Sure enough, Gordon had to keep probing.
"You can tell me, Virg."
"And have the whole world know? I don't think so."
"Oh, so there is something to tell?"
"No! Now why don't you go and call Alice or something so I can get on with my drawing?"
"She's out with Jo tonight," Gordon informed him. "I was planning on spending the evening with my favourite big brother."
Virgil gave him a weary look. "Lucky me."
"Come on Virg. Tell you what, I'll tell you a secret and then you can tell me what Dad said."
"You don't have any secrets, Gordon." Virgil turned his attention back to his drawing.
"Yes I do. I don't tell you everything. I didn't tell you what happened between Scott and Katie Reynolds."
Well, that got Virgil's attention. The pencil fell from his fingers as he looked at his brother in surprise.
"Knew that'd get you interested," Gordon smirked. "Scott said he hadn't told you the whole story."
"Whole story?" Virgil wondered just what his brother had said.
"Yeah. You know what Scott was like when he was sixteen – a different girl every five minutes. They were falling over themselves to go out with him."
Virgil remembered alright – he'd been none too impressed when his older brother had suddenly developed interests beyond his brothers.
"But the one girl who turned him down was Katie Reynolds. And no one ever knew why. Scott didn't talk about it either – must have been a bit of a shock to find that he wasn't totally irresistible. He still hasn't got over it. He only told me about it to cheer me up when I was having trouble with Alice."
"So what happened?" Virgil asked. "You know why she turned him down?"
"No, that's just it. Scott doesn't know either. He really thought she liked him. He went to some party thinking he'd make his move, all dressed up to impress her – you remember what he was like, always fussing about his clothes, taking hours over his hair. Anyway, they were at some barbecue, he started talking to her, got around to asking her on a date. The next thing he knows, she's slapped his face and walked off. So he goes after her to find out what he's done wrong and she picks up this bucket of water they've put out in case there was a fire and throws it over him."
Virgil stared at him. "Bucket of water? I didn't know that."
Gordon was in full flow now. "No one did – well, only John. Scott said he was lucky there wasn't anyone else around otherwise it would have been all around town in five minutes. He just got back in his car and came home. He had to call John to bring him some dry clothes so he could get changed before he came back into the house. He didn't tell us because obviously we'd never let him hear the end of it. Of course, now that I'm more mature-" He ignored Virgil's laughter here. "Now that I'm more mature I can sympathise. Women are complicated, you know. Look how hard I had to work with Alice."
Virgil shook his head. "And Scott never knew why she did it?"
"No, she never spoke to him again."
"I've told you something, now you have to tell me. What did Dad say to snap you out of the mood you've been in ever since you came home?"
"Gordon! It's a secret. I can keep a secret, unlike some people. What do you think Scott would say if I told him I knew about Katie?"
"Ah, but you wouldn't tell him, would you? You can keep a secret."
"Yes, I can. Which is why I'm saying nothing about what went on between me and Dad."
With that he went back to his drawing. Gordon watched and nagged for a while longer then gave up and went to find Alan.
When he'd gone Virgil put down his pencil and thought for a moment. He could keep a secret alright. He'd been keeping one for the past six years for that matter. So Scott didn't know why Katie had turned him down? Virgil could have told him. So could Katie's brother Jack for that matter.
Virgil remembered that time six years ago very clearly. At eleven he'd been a very different character, the experiences which had changed him so much still ahead of him. Although he'd thought at the time that he was grown up and level-headed, he had to admit that in his own way he'd been as much of a brat as any of his younger brothers, with poor Scott bearing the brunt of it. He'd idolised his brother, so when Scott had started to get interested in girls, leaving him with less time to spend with his brothers, Virgil had been seriously put out. He'd done everything he could to get Scott's attention, but when his brother had started to drive he'd been able to escape more easily. Virgil hadn't liked it one bit and the two of them had had some pretty nasty arguments.
So when Scott had offered to drive him over to his friend's house for the third time in a week, Virgil had started to get suspicious. Jack Reynolds had a sister and Scott was obviously interested. Virgil knew Katie well and he didn't like her. Aside from having to listen to Jack's complaints about her – he was thankful he didn't have a sister if they were all like that – he'd spent enough time with her to find her seriously irritating. She seemed to live in front of the mirror and she was always complaining about the noise he and Jack made when they played. When she'd suddenly started asking about Scott he'd been happy to talk about him, not realising why she was so interested. It took a while, but eventually he came to realise that his enthusiastic praise of his brother hadn't been the best idea, because Katie had obviously decided that Scott was perfect boyfriend material.
Virgil and Jack had discussed this one afternoon. On the way over Scott had confided that he was planning to ask Katie out at a party they were both going to the following evening. Neither boy was impressed. Jack just hated his sister and wanted to see her taken down a peg or two, whilst Virgil was filled with horror at the thought of the simpering Katie monopolising his brother's attention. They agreed they had to do something. An hour later and their plan was in place.
Returning home, Virgil sneaked into Scott's room. Hunting around in his desk for a while, he came across an old notebook. There were a couple of blank pages at the back and Virgil decided this would be perfect.
Retreating into his own room he sat at his desk and thought for a moment. Then, reaching for some paper, he began to write. An hour later he was done. Then came the tricky bit. Opening Scott's notebook he turned to the first blank page and began to copy what he'd just written. It was a slow process and he had to keep stopping to check he was getting it right. Time and again he had to erase something and have another go. But eventually it was done. As a finishing touch he drew an embarrassingly poor picture of a fighter plane on the final page, then shut the notebook. Hiding it under his bed he went to call his friend. Phase one was complete. The next part was up to Jack.
He'd had second thoughts the next morning, but yet another argument with Scott decided him. Jack called over that afternoon, patiently answering Scott's questions about Katie. When he left, the notebook was safely tucked in his pocket.
Then all Virgil had needed to do was wait. Sure enough, Scott had arrived home from the party early and in a seriously bad mood. Virgil had been sensitive enough to stay out of his brother's way, feeling more than a little guilty when he realised Scott was genuinely upset. The feeling was replaced by one of triumph though as Scott offered to take him for a drive the following afternoon, since he had nothing better to do.
He could imagine what Katie's reaction would have been when Jack had gone into her room to show her the notebook he had 'found' at the Tracy house. Virgil had known exactly what his friend was going to say. Yes, he might not get on very well with her, but she was his sister and he felt a certain loyalty to her... Certainly he couldn't ignore something like this... Katie needed to know what she was letting herself in for if she was going to go out with Scott Tracy...
So Katie had opened the notebook – the one with SCOTT TRACY printed so neatly on the front. Flicking through it with some interest, getting an insight into the mind of the boy she liked so much, she came to a stop at a page headed: WHY I'M THE BEST. As she read through the long list she began to think that one of the things Scott was best at - which he'd actually left off his list - was arrogance. The list of his good qualities seemed endless. In fairness to Virgil, his eldest brother was his hero and it was all pretty much accurate as far as he was concerned. If Scott could have seen the list he'd have been genuinely touched – he'd probably have had a tear in his eye even as he was throttling his brother. Katie just stared at it. It was definitely Scott's handwriting, otherwise she'd have wondered if Jack was playing a trick on her. Surely no one would really make such a lengthy list of their own accomplishments would they? Scott obviously thought he was God's gift. Still, he was rich, handsome, intelligent... Maybe she could forgive him his vanity.
But then she'd turned the page. And forgiveness was the last thing on her mind.
The next page was all about her. All the reasons why Scott should ask her out - which she had to admit she found flattering - and all the reasons why he shouldn't. Jack had enjoyed coming up with that list. Virgil had to admit his friend had a vicious streak – Grandma had never really liked him and she'd probably been right.
He could picture Katie's face when she came to the bit about how easy it would be to get her onto the back seat of the car. Six years later it still made him blush, thinking not only about what he'd written, but also how Jack had laughed at him as he'd explained the significance of the 'back seat'.
"Cars are about more than just the engine, Virg!"
Anyway, the trick had worked. Katie had been so insulted that she'd been itching to get her revenge on Scott. It had backfired though, he thought, remembering how Jack had told him how she hadn't been able to get another boyfriend for months. When word got round that she'd turned down Scott Tracy, what other boy was going to think he stood a chance?
And Virgil had got Scott to himself for two whole days before he'd recovered himself enough to find another girl.
Picking up his sketchpad again he turned to a new page. His conversation with his father had inspired him artistically, as well as giving him a whole new focus for his time in Denver. These sketches wouldn't be on display anywhere though. They wouldn't be passed around for his family to admire either – not for a while, anyway.
He could keep a secret alright...