Chapter Thirty

Keith spent most of the night trying to decide what to do. He didn't want to go into town tomorrow, he wanted to stay at the farm with Cheri. He didn't want to go to sleep, he wanted to keep his rendezvous at the tree with Cheri as well. However, with the way things were going, it looked like he wouldn't be getting either. Cheri was too intimidated by her mother. Therefore, for either of them to do anything against Gladys's instructions would be out of the question.

Yet, there was still hope.

Hadn't Cheri wanted to stay out late yesterday before going in for dinner? Progress. How about all the times she disappeared and made Gladys have a cow? There was progress there too. Although, those could also be declared 'events of convenient separation'. Cheri clearly didn't like being around her mother for very long, so of course, she'd look for ways to avoid her. Well, whatever it was, it was frustrating to Keith. He had dealt with difficult mothers before and he was sure he could handle one again, he just had to get Cheri to stand up for herself.

"She scares me, Keith…"

Keith sighed. He knew now that his fatal mistake before had been trying to change Cheri. Cheri was the kind of person who could only change herself. She couldn't be commanded or told, that only made her more resistant. However, at the rate she was going, Cheri would be avoiding her mother forever. She was just so afraid, but why was she so afraid? It wasn't as if he could just ask her; it was obviously a touchy subject and Keith knew Cheri and touchy subjects didn't mix well. There was nothing he could really do. Nothing but just be there for her. Somehow that wasn't enough.

"Can't sleep?"

Danny. Keith frowned knowing right then what was to follow. The very last thing he wanted was another heart-to-heart with that big mouthed carrot-top. It was obvious the redhead didn't believe in professional/patient confidentiality. "Go to sleep, Danny."

"I will. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

Was he okay? Well, he at least knew he wasn't going to fall for this again. He decided to get Danny's mind on other things. "I'm fine and no, I'm not going to raid the Reyes's fridge with you."

"Even if you could possibly see Cheri?"

Keith hesitated, but only for a moment, "Even if I could see Cheri."

"Just as I thought! You're finally over her."

Keith bit back his tongue. Danny was just trying to get a reaction and even though he was succeeding -Danny was good at that- Keith was going to deprive him of any satisfaction. He flipped over and closed his eyes.

"Keith?"

"Shut up and go to sleep."

There was a pause, "So you're not over her yet."

He could bet his britches he wasn't! Actually, Keith was far from over Cheri Reyes and Gladys or no Gladys, he was going to make this work.

"Keith?"

"Sleep or I'll tell Mom you're bugging me."

He could just imagine the grin on his brother's face. "I thought you were more mature than that."

"I'm not. Now go to sleep."

And thankfully, he finally did.

Cheri got up early the next morning, taking extra time with her hair and picking out an ironed shirt. She couldn't remember the last time she had gotten dressed up for somebody, but for some reason she wanted to dress up for Keith. It made her kind of happy, but then she remembered the trip into town.

"Oh well, at least Keith's going to be there. It's not like you can just gracefully opt out…" Or could she? Stretching the elastic around her ponytail, Cheri Reyes suddenly remembered last night's resolution and the idea that had followed. She had quickly trashed the idea of refusing in front of the rest of the group remembering her mother's ability to win even in public circles, but no one could make her go if she conveniently disappeared, could they? And if she took Keith with her… The idea of hiding away really appealed to Cheri. The only problem was returning home later to an enraged mother and possibly a concerned father. Why didn't she want to go? Was it really so important not to go that she'd risk all that?

Maybe. Keith really was important to her. Yes, but it's not like going into town would force her to give him up. She'd just have to share him with everyone else, and that was okay. She just didn't really want to go anywhere with her mother.

A knock came on her door.

"Who is it?"

The door opened and her Gladys's head appeared. "Good, you're up. I need you to give me a quick hand with breakfast. Your father's still out in the barn and Shirley and I want to leave early so we can get the most out of our day."

Cheri frowned and pulled a brush through her tidy ponytail. "I'll be down in a couple of minutes."

Her mother nodded, "Alright. I'll be in the kitchen." She hesitated and Cheri could see her eyes sweep up and down her attire, "Maybe you could think about putting on a dress too. We are going into town after all."

"Okay." Cheri didn't want to wear a dress, but she nodded anyways, not wanting to cause conflict. So she'd have to trade her blue jeans and cotton blouse for a dress, so what? The day had just started; she didn't want to varnish it.

Gladys smiled, "Thank you. I'll see you down in the kitchen."

The door closed.

Cheri sighed in relief. She had always preferred to deal with her mother in the morning, but this morning, she wasn't sure if she wanted to deal with her at all. Help with breakfast, Cheri. Wear a dress, Cheri. Alright, which dress? She had several she seldom wore for anything but church. She had just entered her closet when a knock came again.

"I'll be down in a minute…"

But a few seconds later, the knocking came again.

Cheri sighed in irritation and pulled down a yellow dress, taking it with her as she strutted over to the door and threw it open. "Mom, I'm going as fast as I-" She stopped suddenly when she realized her caller wasn't her mother at all, but someone else entirely. "Keith?" he always had a strange way of popping up, didn't he? Not that she minded so much now.

"Can we talk?"

"Sure," She instantly let him inside, closing the door behind him. "Why up so early?"

He didn't answer, but went over to her dresser and picked up a photograph. His silence was bothering her. There was something very pressing on his mind, she was sure. She couldn't help but fear the worst. Maybe he couldn't take it? Maybe her mother caused too much of an obstacle for their relationship? Maybe he was going to take it all back and suggest himself that they should only be friends or something less.

"Keith?"

"What are you doing holding a dress?" A small smile curved up the corners of his mouth.

Cheri looked awkwardly down at the hanger she held and the pale yellow garment upon it. "Mom told me to wear one."

"And you're going to?"

Cheri shrugged, "I figured I should. After all, I didn't want to start this day off on the wrong foot."

Keith nodded, replacing the frame to her dresser. His semi-smile still maintained, but didn't exactly meet his eyes.

"So…" Cheri took the dress of the hanger and tossed it carelessly onto the bed. "What did you want to talk to me about?" She returned to the closet, placing the empty hanger on the rack.

"I wondered if you were going into town today with the rest of them?"

"I don't really have a choice. Please tell me you're going."

"Of course. Wouldn't dream of making you go alone."

Cheri wasn't sure if she liked this comment or not. His tone, it kind of made her think that he thought she couldn't 'go alone'. Like she was weak or something, but wasn't she? She decided to swallow back her suspicions. "I wouldn't be alone, Laurie would coming too and Tracy and your mom and your brothers…"

"Is your dad going?"

Cheri shrugged, "Probably not, but you never know." She returned to her bed and sat on it. Keith came over a joined her.

"I don't really want to go."

"Me either."

They sat for several long seconds saying nothing at all.

Cheri glanced over at Keith. He wasn't looking at her; his eyes were focused on some undefined spot on the floor. He looked about as happy as she felt, which was near the zero line. Neither of them wanted to go, so why were they going? Then again, what was so bad about going?

"Keith?"

"Hm?"

"Can I ask you a dumb question?"

He attempted to laugh, a slight smile curving his lips once more, "Sure, Cheri. Ask me a dumb question."

"Why don't we want to go to town?"

He thought about this for a moment. "I think…I think it's because your mother suggested it and deep down neither of us really want to do what she planned. Like last night, with the charades."

Cheri nodded. She supposed that made sense. "Would it kill us to go?"

"No, but do you want to?"

"Not exactly.

"Because…"

"Because Mom wants me to." So it did make sense; he was right.

This time, Keith's smile was genuine. "See?"

"Yes, I see."

He reached over and took her hand. "So tell me, Cheri Reyes, what do you really want to do today?"

Cheri took her hand back, not sure if she were comfortable with the gesture yet. "I don't know, hang out with you, I guess."

"You guess?"

Another knock came on the door.

Both Keith and Cheri jumped and looked in that direction.

"It's probably my mother again," sighed Cheri and she got up to answer it. "Yes?"

It was Danny. "Is Keith around?"

Cheri glanced over her shoulder to the man inside her room. "He's around. Why?" She looked back to the redhead.

"I just needed to ask him something."

"Which is?"

"Are we all really going into town?"

Cheri turned again and looked at Keith, opening the door a little wider. "I don't know, are we?"

Keith shrugged and slid off the bed coming over to the doorway. "Why don't you tell me?"


Author's Note: I'm afraid this chapter wasn't the best, but please bear with me. It was just another one of those awkward transitional chapters. LOL. Stay tuned for a better chapter thirty-one! Just trying to wind this story down!