This story is a tag to the episode Candace Gets Busted. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor girl at the end of it, and just knew Phineas and Ferb would make Linda understand what had really happened if given a chance - or at least convince her to hear Candace out. So, of course, my muse decided to give them that chance...
Linda Flynn-Fletcher could not believe it. Candace had thrown a party the night before. A party! After she'd been explicitly told not to! All she'd said was that she was going to invite Stacy and Jenny over, and when Linda had called she could barely hear Phineas when he'd answered the phone. And then the chanting in the background, and Candace trying to get them to stop…
Linda gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut at the memory. She was angry, very much so, but even more than that, she was disappointed. She had trusted Candace. And Candace had betrayed that trust. It hurt - a lot.
With a sigh the redheaded woman relaxed enough to go back to her self-appointed task of doing the breakfast dishes. She could have used the dishwasher, but she needed to do something with her hands - and she had no intention of cleaning up the mess left behind by all the kids. When she was done she'd do the laundry, and then maybe she'd dust before cooking and baking up a storm. She'd wait to actually talk to Candace until she knew she could do it without taking her daughter's head off.
A sound from the living room had Linda's head snapping in that direction. She was surprised to see Candace quietly cleaning up the mess her guests had left behind without any prompting. The teenager's body language screamed dejection and apology as she scrubbed and dusted, throwing away piles of rubbish and getting ready to vacuum. A part of her was sympathetic to the sad girl all of a sudden, but the feeling was quickly squashed with loud rattling of plates and glasses.
Linda couldn't say how long it was before she noticed Candace putting away the vacuum cleaner and hesitantly placing the cleaning products on the kitchen peninsula along with the rag she'd been using. After a brief glance, the girl went wordlessly back upstairs, head and shoulders drooping, eyes downcast. Linda watched her go before putting away the bottles. She'd grab the rag when she did the laundry.
It was when Linda was doing that same laundry in the garage, still somewhat fuming, that a light clearing of a throat caught her attention, causing her to look over at the open doorway to the house and see both Phineas and Ferb standing there, their pet platypus Perry between their feet. She guessed it had probably been Ferb who had made the noise.
"Hey, Mom," Phineas said, his tone not nearly as enthusiastic as it normally was.
"Hi, boys," Linda replied, keeping her agitation in check. The boys hadn't done anything to warrant her temper.
"Um, how long is Candace going to be in trouble?" the redheaded boy asked, his green-haired companion's eyes echoing the question.
The query drew Linda up short. She hadn't actually thought about a time limit yet; she and Lawrence had discussed the subject of punishment the night before but hadn't come to any firm conclusions. Her husband had looked like he was ready to let Candace off lightly once the girl had made her silent, unobtrusive appearance at breakfast, but wisely left it alone after one glance at his wife.
Linda sighed. "I don't know yet," she finally answered. "She's done something serious here that requires a suitable punishment. I specifically told her no wild parties, and that's exactly what she turned around and did as soon as your father and I were gone."
Phineas frowned. "But…"
"There's no 'but' here, Phineas," Linda interrupted firmly. "We came home and there was a party going on. She was told that she wasn't supposed to throw a party, and she was supposed to be watching the both of you. Your father and I had to give up our plane tickets and hotel reservations, not to mention our passes to the antique showerhead convention to deal with the situation. All of that money, wasted. And even worse than that, Candace betrayed our trust in her."
"That's just it, Mom, she didn't. At least not intentionally."
"Phineas, I know how much you and Ferb look up to your sister. But this is one time you're both going to have to accept that she's done something truly wrong and has to live with the consequences."
Ferb cleared his throat again. "Mother, we understand you're angry," he began in his usual quiet voice. "Considering what you saw last night it's perfectly reasonable for you to feel that way."
Phineas nodded. "Yeah, definitely. The problem is, you don't know the whole story."
"The whole story?" Linda parroted. Her eyes narrowed a touch suspiciously. "You're not trying to make excuses for her, are you?"
"Of course not," Phineas immediately replied. "We just want you to know the truth so you can make the best decisions."
"Well, that and Candace is really quite depressed over the whole thing," Ferb added.
"She didn't even look at us when she walked by us sitting at the top of the stairs after she finished cleaning up this morning," Phineas said.
Linda pursed her lips as she glanced back and forth between her sons. Their intentions seemed to be just what they claimed, as usual. And that set off a mental debate: she wasn't sure she was ready to stop being angry, the image of her backyard filled with loud music and chanting teenagers flashing before her, yet another part of her - the one that had seen the sadness in Candace's demeanor that morning and felt sympathy - wanted a good reason to forgive the girl. All of her wanted to heal the hurt of betrayal the party had inspired. The boys' wide-eyed gazes didn't help the situation any.
Finally Linda chewed on her lower lip for a long moment then blew out a controlled breath. "All right," she said quietly. "Tell me what you think I need to know."
"Okay." Phineas took a deep breath and began. "Right after you and Dad left for the airport, Candace called Stacy and asked if she and Jenny wanted to come over and just hang out. Ferb and I asked if she needed any help with snacks or entertainment, but she told us no, so we went upstairs. A little while later the doorbell rang and we heard Candace answer it. They all seemed pretty excited, so Ferb and I went to the top of the stairs to see what was going on. Stacy had brought along a movie."
"She said it was for their party viewing pleasure," Ferb added.
Phineas nodded. "That's right. And that's when Candace told her they weren't having a party. Jenny had brought along her cousin Sarah who was in town for the weekend. They all sat down in the living room to talk, so Ferb and I went back to our room."
Linda frowned slightly. "So how did all those other people end up in our house?" she asked, a bit confused.
The boys gave each other a quick look. "Well, we can't say for sure, since we weren't downstairs, but we got the impression that people passing by heard Jeremy and his band playing and sort of invited themselves," Phineas said. "Ferb and I came down when we heard the music and all the people laughing and talking. We looked for Candace and found her trying to turn down a speaker Jenny's cousin had turned up pretty loud."
"How loud had the music been before that?" Linda asked.
"A bit louder than you'd care for," Ferb answered, "but nothing beyond what Candace usually plays her music at."
"When we found Candace," Phineas continued, "we complimented her on a great party, but she insisted it was only an intimate get-together. Then Jeremy came over and thanked her for hosting everything."
Ferb shrugged. "To be fair, she sounded nervous when she responded to him."
Phineas considered that. "I suppose so. Then Candace told us we could stay downstairs if we stayed out of the way, so we sat on the couch eating snacks. From then on, Candace was running around trying to keep people from making messes and touching things they shouldn't, or going into rooms they shouldn't be in. At one point she went over to where people had left the door open to shut it, and we heard her wondering who all these people were and saying that she hadn't invited them. We didn't think anything of it at the time, since it seemed like everyone was having a good time and nothing had gotten out of hand. Then people started watching Ferb and I eating chips, and Candace came over to find out what we were doing. Someone said that we threw the greatest parties, and Candace insisted again that it wasn't a party, but if it were one it would be hers."
"They didn't seem to understand that right away, though," Ferb said.
"No kidding. It was only after Candace said it again to her science teacher that everyone seemed to get excited about it being Candace's party. They even started chanting."
"Wait a minute," Linda interrupted sharply. "Did you just say Candace's science teacher was at the house?"
Phineas blinked. "Um, yeah. He spent a lot of time in the kitchen drinking punch."
Linda's jaw dropped. There had been an adult at this party? And he had done nothing about it? She saw a severe tongue-lashing in that man's future. But for now, there was more of a story to hear. "So what happened next?"
"Not a lot, really. Candace did more running around trying to keep things from getting out of hand, and then you called. Since I happened to be next to the phone, I answered, but I could barely hear you. That's when Ferb and I decided to lead everyone to the kitchen after I gave the phone to Candace. She made everyone go outside when she hung up, hoping everyone would go home, but they didn't."
"Well, they did disappear briefly," Ferb amended. "But they came back just before you and Father came in the house."
Linda blinked at the non-sequitur then decided to ignore it. This was no time to indulge the boys' imaginative fantasies. "Let me see if I have this straight. You're saying that Candace really only invited Stacy and Jenny, and everyone else just sort of… showed up?"
Phineas and Ferb shared another look. "We can't be sure about Jeremy and his band, but otherwise yeah. She didn't mean to throw a party, although since it happened it's great that it ended up being as successful as it was." Phineas concluded his statement with a small shrug.
Linda stared at her sons for a long moment before letting her shoulders drop with a sigh. "I think I'd better have a chat with Candace." She smiled. "Thank you for telling me this, boys. You were right; I needed to hear it to make the right decisions."
"Any time, Mom," Phineas said brightly, his enthusiasm restored. Ferb gave her a thumbs up.
She stepped over to them and gave each of them a hug, then kissed the top of both their heads. "Now why don't you two see if there's anything you can come up with to do outside," she told them fondly. "I think Candace and I need some uninterrupted girl time."
"Can do, Mom." Phineas led Ferb a few steps into the garage before he stopped and looked around. "Hey, where's Perry?"
Linda chuckled to herself and went inside. She had no doubt the platypus would show up again before the day was out. He always did. She had more important matters to attend to.
Linda stood outside the closed door of Candace's bedroom for a long moment, listening for signs of what her daughter was doing inside and trying to come up with exactly how she was going to deal with the situation. She was starting to feel like she had overreacted a bit the night before - and a lot more that morning. But there really wasn't anything more to do than just deal with it head on.
With a sigh, the redheaded woman lightly knocked on the door then opened it a crack and stuck part of her face inside. "Candace?" she asked gently, not wanting to startle the girl.
The teenager glanced up from a magazine she had been listlessly leafing through and sighed. Sitting up, she put the periodical aside. "Hi, Mom," she said softly, letting her gaze drop to her lap.
"Candace, I…" Linda's words trailed off as she moved fully inside the room, her heart breaking at the lump of utter dejection sitting on the bed. It was then her turn to sigh. "Oh, Candace."
"Mom, you don't have to say anything," Candace began, not raising her head. "I know full well that you told me not to throw a party last night, and there was a party. I deserve to be punished. I only used my cell phone once, to reply to Stacy's text telling her I'd get a hold of her when I was done being grounded." She pointed at the pink flip phone on the night stand. "See? It's over there. I won't use it again."
"Candace, that's not…"
"If you want to just take it with you, I would totally understand. Whatever you and Dad have come up with I'm sure is more than fair."
Linda took a deep breath to keep from snapping at the girl to get her to stop babbling for a moment. It would sort of defeat the purpose of coming up there to talk things out calmly. "Candace, I was hoping we could talk about what happened last night." She was proud of herself for keeping her tone so even.
Candace looked at her out of the corner of her eye. "What is there to talk about? You called, heard all the noise, then came home and saw the party in the backyard. You had to have seen the mess they all left behind. What else do you want me to say?"
Linda shook her head with a small smile. It was interesting that even with all her guilt, Candace still hadn't admitted to actually throwing the party. "Why don't you start from the beginning and tell me everything that happened after your father and I left?" she asked as she stepped over and sat down on the edge of the bed where the magazine had been previously. "Once I hear your side of the story, I'll know what to do."
"Okay," Candace said slowly, confused. She looked contemplatively at Linda for a long moment, then began, her eyes dropping back to her lap. "Well, right after you guys left, I called Stacy and Jenny and invited them over. When they got here, Jenny had brought along her cousin who's here for the weekend and asked if it was okay for her to join us. I didn't think there would be any harm in one more person so I said it was fine."
"And where were your brothers?" Linda asked. She didn't doubt the boys' story, but she wanted to make sure she'd heard everything.
Candace rolled her eyes. "I sent them upstairs after they offered up some weird and outrageous ideas for snacks. That was the last thing I needed."
Linda fought back a grin. Yes, that was her teenage daughter, all right. "So what happened after the other girls got here?"
Candace shrugged. "We started talking, gossiping a little. Stacy was talking about cleaning her room with her feet when she got a call from Coltrane. Apparently Jeremy's band's gig had been cancelled, and Coltrane wanted to know if it was okay if they came over by us."
"So of course you said yes," Linda said. The girl had a shrine to Jeremy in her room; there was no way she'd turn down an opportunity to hang out with him.
"Well, yeah, but I thought it was only going to be Jeremy and Coltrane. The next thing I know, the whole band and entourage were here setting up their equipment. Then Jeremy told me they'd written a new song and wanted to know if they could test it out on us." Candace sighed heavily. "I told him they could."
"That doesn't surprise me," Linda commented as neutrally as she could. She was starting to see where the night had been heading, even without the benefit of Phineas and Ferb's earlier account.
The teenager shot her a quick, worried look. "I promise I told them it wasn't meant to be a band playing at a party. I made sure they understood it was just a little test for our intimate get-together." She paused. "But that seems to be when everything started to get out of hand."
Linda frowned in sympathy at the note of dejection she heard in her daughter's tone. "How so?" she asked softly.
Candace didn't appear to hear the gentle commiseration behind the words. "People came to the door to find out what was going on because they heard the band playing as they were passing by. And once the door was open more people heard and started coming over. I tried to tell them I wasn't having a party, but they weren't listening. Then I went over to turn down the music someone had turned up - like I needed that on top of everything else - and Phineas and Ferb came up and congratulated me on throwing a great party."
Now the girl looked her mother in the eye with a sorrowful, determined expression. "I wasn't throwing a party; it was an intimate get-together! That's all it was ever supposed to be!"
"I'm listening, Candace. Go on."
"I had the boys go sit on the couch to keep them out of the way," Candace continued after taking a deep breath to calm herself, "then tried to go around and get things under control." Her energy then fizzled out and her shoulders slumped, defeated. "But more and more people kept coming in, playing with stuff on the shelves, standing on furniture, spilling food and drinks, throwing food around, going into rooms they shouldn't be in…" She sighed and dropped her gaze one more time. "What got me was when I found my science teacher in the kitchen with a glass of punch, clearly enjoying himself. That's when I tried to put my foot down for the last time. I insisted it wasn't a party. Everyone just started chanting 'Candace Party' and kept doing what they'd been doing all along. Then you called, and Phineas and Ferb led them into the kitchen, and I made them go outside into the backyard…" The girl shook her head mournfully.
"I was just hoping they'd get the hint that they should go home. Not even Jeremy got it; he just told me it had been a great idea to take it outside because it had been getting hot inside. Next thing I know, you and Dad were home, and there was everybody in the backyard, still chanting and dancing." Candace squeezed her eyes tightly shut. "I should have stopped it a long time before then. I should have been able to keep that first group of extra people from just walking in to listen to the band. I… I…" Her head tilted to the side slightly. "I shouldn't have let Jeremy and his band come over."
Linda watched her daughter beat herself up over the supposed failure, trying to find the right thing to say next. When teardrops started to drip from the girl's flushed cheeks and onto the white skirt of her outfit, any and all attempts to plan the next part of the conversation went right out the window. "Oh, Candace," she said as she adjusted her seat and took the teenager into a tight embrace. "You couldn't have known what was going to happen. You said it yourself, you thought it was just going to be Jeremy and Coltrane."
Candace shook her head against Linda's shoulder. "But it wasn't. And I was too afraid of offending Jeremy to say much of anything about it."
"Oh, honey," Linda said, giving Candace a gentle squeeze. "I know how much you like Jeremy and how much his opinion means to you. I really can't blame you for letting the band stay or even letting them test out their new song on you guys." She pulled back slightly and made Candace meet her gaze. "From the way you've described things, it sounds like this spontaneous party was more the result of people being rude than you doing anything really wrong. Maybe you could have done a few things differently and limited the damage a bit more, but I know now that you didn't deliberately disobey me." She pulled the girl close again. "You have no idea how relieved I am about that."
"I wouldn't have disobeyed you, Mom," Candace said softly, finally leaning into the warm hug and returning it. "I would never want to betray your trust like that."
Tears welled up in Linda's eyes. "I'm sorry I doubted you, Candace," she said into the girl's hair. "I should have gotten the story right away last night instead of losing it like I did."
Candace shook her head again. "No, Mom, it's okay. It looked really bad last night. You had every right to be angry, you and Dad both. And anything I would have said would have sounded like an excuse." She sighed and gave Linda one more squeeze before pulling back to arms' length. "But why did you ask me now? I thought you were still pretty angry."
Linda smiled. "I still was when you finished cleaning up downstairs. Thank you for that, by the way." She let her arms drop to her lap, Candace doing the same. "Phineas and Ferb insisted on telling me what they knew about what happened last night after you walked by them at the top of the stairs without even looking at them. They wanted to make sure I was being fair to you."
"Figures," Candace muttered fondly, a little smile twitching at the corners of her lips. Then she sighed once more and let the happy expression fade. "Figures," she repeated, this time much more sadly.
"What's wrong?" Linda asked at the change in mood.
"It's just… Well, you see…" Candace rolled her eyes, obviously at herself. "This is going to sound really weird."
Linda gave her an encouraging look, inwardly totally confused as to what could be making the teenager act like this. "Go ahead and say it anyway, Candace. It's not like you haven't told me anything strange before."
Candace frowned briefly at that, then took a deep breath and began. "Well, it's like this. Jenny's cousin asked me if I was Phineas and Ferb's sister when she got here, which wouldn't be all that bad, but when the first people started coming in off the street they asked if Phineas and Ferb were throwing a party."
Linda blinked at that. People thought Phineas and Ferb were throwing a party? Not Candace? Actually, both Phineas and Candace had mentioned something along that line, hadn't they? She hadn't really thought about it when they said it.
"Of course I told them no, that it wasn't even a party, but it didn't stop there. People kept calling it Phineas and Ferb's party, and after I had the boys go sit on the couch, a bunch of them stood around cheering them - for eating potato chips!"
"Really?" Linda asked. That was weird. But it matched up with what Phineas had told her earlier for the most part - except that he hadn't mentioned the cheering. Of course, that was the kind of thing he wouldn't bring up, being a relatively modest child.
"I know!" Candace said, a note of outrage in her tone. "And then someone said that Phineas and Ferb threw the greatest parties. Well, of course I said that it wasn't a party - again - but if it were a party it would be mine, not theirs. Didn't seem to phase them, though." She rolled her eyes.
Linda held up a hand to pause the narrative. "Didn't seem to phase who?" she asked.
Candace blinked. "All those extra people," she answered, like it should have been obvious. "Well, it didn't phase the boys, either, but not much ever does."
Linda just nodded, still lost but figuring the girl would finish making her point soon and it would all become clear then.
"Not long after that I noticed my science teacher in the kitchen, and I just had to know what in the world he was doing in my house in the middle of all that chaos. He told me he never missed one of Phineas and Ferb's parties." Candace's outrage started to falter and she paused to lick her lips. "That's… well, that's when I put my foot down and insisted for the last time that it wasn't a party, but if it were it would be mine. And that's when people started to chant 'Candace Party'. They, uh, they still didn't get that there wasn't supposed to be a party going on, but at least they were finally giving me credit." She gave a weak laugh and an even weaker smile. "Boy, that came back to bite me, didn't it?"
"I guess it did." Linda watched Candace's expression turn into a sad frown as her gaze fell yet again to her lap. "You know, what I don't understand - aside from why people would think it was Phineas and Ferb's party in the first place - is why this is bothering you so much."
Candace looked up at her without raising her head much. "Don't you see, Mom? No one even considered it could possibly be my party. And I was Phineas and Ferb's sister. And it was Phineas and Ferb's house. They got credit for everything. In fact, the only people who thought it was my party all along were Jeremy, Phineas, and Ferb, and probably Stacy and Jenny. I'm the older sister; I didn't think I was supposed to be living in the shadow of my younger brothers." Her gaze dropped again. "And I guess it hurts to think that I'm so much less popular than they are."
Linda looked at her daughter sadly, finally understanding what was bothering her if not a hundred percent how the situation had come about. "Oh, Candace. I doubt it's that bad. But what I guess I don't understand here is how anyone could think Phineas and Ferb were responsible for what went on last night."
Candace sighed and brought her head up. "Without going into lots of details, let's just say that enough of their big ideas have involved entertaining the masses."
"I'm not trying to bust them for anything, I'm just saying! And I know you know about one of them for sure: the Love Handel reunion concert in front of our garage."
Linda frowned, confused. "Wasn't that your father's idea?"
Candace shrugged. "He's the one that brought up how he'd like to get the band back together for you, but it was the boys who actually did it. I did my part by keeping you distracted."
That explained Lawrence saying he'd had a little help. "Well, that still doesn't explain…"
"How about your birthday party? Or the welcome home party for you and Dad? I mean, come on, they made Dad into a popular eighties pop star when he'd never been one! And that's just what I know you've actually seen!" Candace harrumphed and crossed her arms over her chest. "People know they can throw a party."
Linda stopped and considered it for a moment. The girl had a point. Candace may have been blowing things a bit out of proportion, but the core idea was valid. And that left her daughter in quite a quandary.
"Why can't people like me as much as they like Phineas and Ferb?" Candace whined, deflating. "I mean, I'm a nice person, right? A good person? I try to be. But I just can't seem to do what it takes to be truly popular."
"Candace, while I understand the need to be popular…"
"Mom, you were Lindana," Candace interrupted. "You were popular."
Linda frowned at her. "That's not the point here." She paused as a thought hit her. "Actually, maybe it is."
Candace blinked. "Are you saying I should become a mega-super-popular pop star?" she asked, suddenly eager. "Because I would do that. In a heartbeat. Do you know anyone you can call to make that happen?"
"Candace, I need you to focus," Linda said sternly. "I'm trying to make a point. One that does not involve record contracts or world tours or daydreams of stardom."
"Oh, all right," Candace said grumpily. "But think about my last question, okay? It would be so cool if you could hook me up." The girl swallowed nervously when Linda aimed a pointed gaze at her. "Why don't you go ahead and tell me what you wanted to say?" she continued in a cheerful yet shaky voice.
"Thank you." Linda took a deep breath and began. "Like you said before, I was popular. And even though I used a stage name, there were people who knew who I was and treated me accordingly. I thought it was fantastic! I had friends wherever I went, people who liked me just by looking at me, and everyone just thought I was the greatest thing ever."
The woman sighed. "But they didn't really know me. To them I just wanted to have fun all the time. It wasn't possible to be angry or sad, to just have a bad day. After a while I couldn't help but wonder if they liked Linda or just Lindana. And the second my record label dropped me, you'd be surprised at just how fast all those people who thought I was wonderful simply disappeared."
Candace looked confused. "I can see how that would be terrible to go through, but how does that relate to my situation? I just want people in Danville to like me."
Linda smiled. "It doesn't matter what the scale of your popularity is, Candace. Some of the side effects are still the same. You wouldn't believe some of the rumors that went around about me, or the way people talked about every little thing I did. That happens on a more local level, too."
"What do you mean?" Candace asked.
"Let me give you an example from when I was in high school. There was a girl in my class, extremely popular. Almost everyone knew her; she was on the school council, in band, on the softball team… I think you get the picture. She was one of those people that by knowing, by being thought of as in her inner circle, got you more popular by association."
"So what was wrong with that?" Candace asked when Linda paused for a moment.
"Nothing was wrong with it," Linda said. "The problem was that a person like her tends to make other people feel jealous, and that's exactly what happened."
Candace blinked. "Well, was she stuck up about it? Did she rub the fact that she was good at so many things in people's faces?" she asked. "I know way too many people like that at school."
Linda shook her head. "Not really. That didn't stop some people from talking about her behind her back, though. They criticized her laugh, the way she walked, the way she acted with her boyfriend in public. Whenever she made a mistake, those people jumped all over it. And she knew about it all. The criticism made her hyper aware of everything she did and made her so afraid of making the mistakes that people were making fun of her for that she made more mistakes. All the stress eventually forced her to give up some of her extracurricular activities: she resigned from the student council and quit the debate team. She almost stopped playing softball, but the coach convinced her to stay for the opportunity to get a college scholarship. Her grades suffered for a while. All in all it was pretty bad, and all because there were people who were jealous and petty and talked viciously about her." She shrugged. "Popularity can be a double-edged sword."
"Wait, didn't she have friends who defended her?" Candace asked. "Who was there for her when people said all those mean things? And what about her boyfriend?"
"Her boyfriend stuck around for a while, but she was so self-conscious about how they acted in public that they eventually broke up. As for friends, well, when her behavior started to change and she started quitting all those activities, her popularity began to falter… and so did a lot of her so-called friendships. Turns out people only wanted to hang out with her when it was cool to do it."
Candace looked a little disturbed at Linda's nonchalant tone. "She didn't have any real friends at all?" the girl asked quietly.
Linda's neutral expression softened. "She had a couple, but it didn't seem to be enough. That really bothers you, doesn't it?"
Candace shrugged uncomfortably. "Well, yeah."
"I'm glad." Linda smiled as her daughter started at the blunt response. "I've made my point pretty well then, wouldn't you say? Popularity isn't everything it's cracked up to be, Candace. For every person who claims to love you, there are two or three more who are jealous of what they think you have and hate you for it. It's the real friends in your life that matter, and I happen to know that you're lucky enough to have some pretty special ones in your life. Don't take them for granted. They're too valuable."
Candace's eyes shifted away in thought. "I won't take them for granted, Mom. I promise," she said after a long, silent moment. She looked back at Linda. "It still bugs me a little to be living in the shadow of my little brothers, though," she admitted.
Linda couldn't help but laugh. "Oh, can I relate. I was asked enough times while I was growing up if I was Tiana's sister to understand where you're coming from. It stops getting to you eventually."
"Do you worry about how popular Phineas and Ferb are?" Candace asked after sharing a smile with the older redhead.
"Not really," Linda replied. "They're still pretty young, and they aren't actively seeking out their popularity. I think they'll be okay."
Candace nodded. "I think they'll be more than okay to be honest." Her eyes narrowed and she gave a small smirk. "But don't tell them I said so, okay?"
Linda grinned. "Your secret is safe with me." The mother and daughter laughed. "Now, what do you say the two of us go to the mall for a little shopping spree?"
"What about being grounded?" Candace asked, surprised.
"You weren't trying to throw a party, and you already cleaned everything up. I'd say that was punishment enough." Linda hugged the teenager. "I love you, Candace. I know you'll try harder to keep things from getting out of control if it ever happens again. I trust you."
"Thanks, Mom. That means a lot to me," Candace said as she returned the embrace. "And you're right. I will try harder." The two pulled apart. "So what do you say we get going? I hear there's a new boutique that's having a grand opening sale." The girl grinned.
Linda returned the expression. "That sounds like fun. Why don't you go on ahead, and I'll meet you at the car?" Her smile faded into a fond one as she watched her daughter dash out of the room, pausing only briefly to grab her cell phone and her purse.
"So you decided to share a little story of yours from your high school days to make your point, did you?"
Linda jumped at the sound of her husband's voice as she stepped out of Candace's bedroom. "How long have you been standing there?" she asked, hand on her chest as she turned to the right where the man stood leaning casually against the wall of the hall.
Lawrence shrugged. "Long enough to hear that story about all those jealous people while you were in high school. I'm sorry you had to go through that, darling. It was very brave of you to relive it for Candace's sake, though."
"Oh, no, that story wasn't about me," Linda refuted. "That was a friend of my best friend in high school who went through all that, Mary Kingsley. My mom always tried to remind me about her when I was getting a bit too full of myself during the Lindana years." She gave Lawrence a half-smile. "I hope Candace listens better than I ever did. I had to learn that lesson the hard way."
"It sounded like she was listening," Lawrence reassured, then stepped forward and kissed her. "Now I believe you have a shopping spree to indulge in. You don't want to keep a teenage girl waiting."
The couple shared a fond smile. "No, no, I don't," Linda said. She started down the stairs. "We should be back in time for supper." She gave a wave and continued on her way.
As she slipped into the car and gave her eager daughter in the passenger seat a bright smile, Linda realized she had a lesson of her own to learn here. The next time a situation like this presented itself, she needed to stay calm and find out the whole story before going off half-cocked. She couldn't be sure if she'd be able to do it, but it would be more than worth the effort.
With that thought, and a conspiratorial grin shared with Candace, Linda put the car into drive and the girls were on their way, lessons learned all around.