I do not own some of these characters and make no profit from their use. But I also don't make any profit from the characters of my own creation either. But that's life in the world of fan fiction!

Summer Daze

Prologue

As the time drew closer for him to leave for Cal Tech, young Hal Everett became more concerned about leaving his Mom at home. She was now over seven months pregnant. Pasadena was only about an hour northeast of town, but he knew that the program would keep him so busy that he wouldn't even be able to go home for a visit. Mom and Dad promised to try to come up to see him on a weekend or two, but he knew that even that relatively short drive could be tough on her. And these days, Dad never left her side except for a very short time.

Since his biggest worry was Mom taking care of herself before the baby was born, he told them just to stay home. He told them that he wanted to prove that he could be independent and manage on his own. Dad told him that he was proud of him, but Mom knew the truth. When Dad wasn't looking, she gave him one of her grateful smiles. But he was still worried.

Finally, he decided that he would talk to his friend Topher about it. Topher was the best guy that he knew. And Topher really loved Mom's sister Trelawney. He thought that he could count him to watch over them both, kind of like a guardian angel. Last summer, Topher had been in the same advanced summer science program as he was. That was how he had met him. But this summer he had to get a job so that he could earn money for college.

In a year, Topher was going to graduate from high school. His family didn't have a lot of money and that meant that he could only go to the college that he could afford to pay for himself. His twin sisters Rebecca and Rachel were right behind him. His other sister Sarah was going to Our Lady of Mercy, a private school, with Trelawney in the fall. She could only go because she had a full scholarship. Then there were two other little girls in the family. Everyone said that Topher was going to get a full scholarship for college, but he wasn't taking any chances.

Topher was the kind of guy that didn't like to rely on other people to take care of him. He was the kind of guy who took care of other people. He wanted to make sure that he wouldn't have to ask his Dad for any money. But he also knew that even if he didn't ask, his father would make him take it anyway if he thought that he needed it.

He wanted to make sure that his Dad didn't think that. So when a family friend had offered him a job working for his landscaping company, he grabbed it. It was hard work, out in the hot sun all day, but as usual Topher wasn't complaining. He said that there were lots of kids who couldn't find summer jobs like his. He was lucky to have it.

Finally one afternoon, he called up Topher and they agreed to meet at the ice cream stand near the community theatre downtown. Hal tried to pay, but Topher wouldn't let him. But that was Topher. You want to ask the guy for a favor and he wouldn't even let you buy him a milkshake. In fact, he even paid for yours. It was no use protesting. It was just the kind of person that he was.

"So, Everett," he said when they were sitting at a picnic table in the shade. "What can I do you for?"

"Well, Toph," he answered. "It's like this. I have to go away to Cal Tech for eight weeks. I mean, I'm looking forward to it and all, but I'm worried about Mom and Trelawney while I'm away. Aunt Henrietta is still living in town. She hasn't come around since Grammy threatened to sic the dogs on her, but I know that she'll be back. She always comes back."

Topher looked serious.

"It's hard to understand how there could be such a nut job like her in your Mom's family," he said. "She's totally cool, and so are her cousins Emmeline and Sylvia, and her uncle David, and that other guy who was at the science fair."

"Cousin Lewis," filled in Hal. "Yeah, well that's the Figalilly side of the family. Aunt Henrietta is the other side. And the grandfather on that side is almost as crazy as she is. Uncle Charlie is normal, but they wouldn't listen to him when he told them to just leave Trelawney alone. They won't back down until she goes back to the village. But Aunt Henrietta also says all this stuff that sounds like the end of the world is coming. And then she goes and blames it all on Trelawney."

"When I saw her at Trelawney's party, I knew that it was something like that," he said. "When I told Mom about it, she said that she's been ranting and raving like that since she came to town. She told me that it's none of my business, but, well, you know me. I can't see anything like that happen and I don't want to stand up for the person that it's happening to."

"I know that you're talking about Trelawney, but she's gotten pretty good at standing up for herself, at least where Aunt Henrietta is concerned," Hal told him. "It's Mom that I'm worried about. She has always been the strong one, but now she has the baby to worry about. She gets upset whenever Aunt Henrietta brings her a message from her Mum and Papa. And Dad really blew his cork a couple of weeks ago when she brought him a message from my Mom. It's not what she does. It's what she says. She's crazy."

Now Topher looked mad. He looked the way that he had when Aunt Henrietta wrecked Trelawney's party. Topher was one of the most easy going guys that he knew, but not when innocent people were being hurt. Last summer he defended Mom when some of the guys in the summer program were hassling her because she was so pretty. Then he defended Trelawney when a reporter started hassling her. But Aunt Henrietta wasn't just hassling, she was harassing Mom and Trelawney. He knew that Dad, Grammy, and Grampie were worried about the baby too.

"Well, Everett," he finally said. "Don't worry. I'll take good care of them. Francine's kooky mother knows everything that she says. She tells Francine and Francine tells Sarah. I know that Sarah will tell me if she says anything too whacky. You'll see. Everything will be okay."

Hal looked at him. He didn't know how he knew it, but he trusted Topher to take care of everything while he was gone. For about the millionth time since he had met him, Hal wanted to be like him when he grew up.

Brownie Camp

Prudence didn't understand why Mommy was so sad that Hal was going away for his special program. She had been really, really proud of him when he won the science fair. But now she said that she was really, really, really, gonna miss him. She didn't think that it was fair. Hal hardly ever spent any time with Mommy. How could she miss him so much? She still had her and Butch, and Daddy and Trelawney, and Grammy and Grampie. Daddy was even having a "sabba-something" so that he could stay at home with her almost all the time.

On the day that he was leaving, they all had to get in the car and drive him up to school. It was a long, hot drive because there was a lot of traffic on the freeway. Butch complained, but Daddy gave him one of his "one more word out of your mouth and you'll be sorry" looks. Butch shut up and she decided that maybe she didn't want to complain either, not out loud anyway.

She still complained in her head. She looked at Butch and saw that he was complaining in his head too. But the college campus was really nice. And at least they got to walk around. Hal liked his roommate a lot. Prudence knew that he wasn't going to miss them as much as Mommy was going to miss him. But he promised to write lots of letters when she kissed him goodbye.

On the way home, Daddy stopped for ice cream to cheer them up. Butch whispered to her that he didn't need to be cheered up. He was cheered up the minute that they left Hal at the college because now he had their room all to himself for two months. But he would pretend that he did to get free ice cream. She decided to pretend too. Mommy was the one who really needed to be cheered up, but she didn't want any ice cream. She wanted watermelon, but they didn't have any. So she just looked sad.

The next day was her first day of Brownie camp. She was really excited because her friend Amy was going too. Amy's Mommy said that after last summer, she didn't want Amy at home under foot all day long again. She said that Amy drove her crazy.

When Daddy dropped her off at camp, she gave him a kiss goodbye and ran off because she saw Amy. There were little girls running around all over the place, laughing and yelling. Prudence had never seen so many girls all in the same place at the same time before. She knew some of them from Brownies and some of them from school but they were all so mixed up that she felt like she didn't know anyone except Amy.

Then a big girl who she didn't know blew a whistle and told them to quiet down. She told everyone to sit down and listen so that she could divide them up into their groups. That was when Prudence got scared. What would happen if she and Amy were in different groups? Amy was her best friend in the whole, wide world.

But she really didn't have to worry. When the big girl called out the names, she and Amy were in the same group, the Fireflies. They would be together for the whole summer. But then she saw something that made her squeal with joy. Their counselor was another big girl that she did know. Topher's sister Rachel was going to be her counselor. She ran up to Rachel and gave her a big hug.

"I didn't know that you were going to be here!" she cried.

"Well I didn't know that you were going to be here until I got my list this morning!" answered Rachel with a big smile. "I knew that there couldn't be any other little girl in town named Prudence!"

Prudence beamed in pleasure.

"Rachel," she said. "This is Amy. She is my very best friend in the whole, wide world."

"Well, I pleased to meet you Amy," said Rachel. "I am sure that we are all going to be very good friends this summer."

She smiled when Amy and Prudence hugged each other. Then she told them to come with the others so that they could make a friendship circle and get to know each other. They all walked away together to a shady area that had a little shed with no walls and a picnic table. It even had its own campfire place.

Rachel told them to sit on the logs around the campfire. Then she explained that every day when their Mommies and Daddies dropped them off at camp that this is where they should come. It was their unit called "Fireflies' Fancy."

Prudence raised her hand.

"What it is, Prudence?" asked Rachel.

"I know what a fancy is," she said.

"So do I," interrupted another taller girl. "Everybody knows what fancy is."

Prudence knew that it was not right to call out, so she just looked at Rachel. But Rachel just kept smiling.

"I don't think that Prudence said that she knew what fancy meant," she said. "I think that she meant a fancy. What is a fancy, Prudence?"

"A fancy is something that you want," she said. "My Mommy is English. Whenever she wants something that she likes, she says that she has a fancy for it."

"Very good, Prudence," said Rachel. "We call this unit 'Fireflies' Fancy' because it's the place where the Fireflies want and like to be."

Prudence could feel her face smiling even bigger because she knew by the way that Rachel was smiling that she liked her answer. But just like always, she had to keep talking.

"Did you know that my Mommy is going to have a baby?" she asked. "She fancies funny things like fish and chips, but she puts vinegar on them and Butch says that that's gross. Butch hopes that the baby is going to be a boy because he says that one annoying sister is enough. But I want a sister because I think that two annoying brothers are enough and then me and my baby sister will be able to fight with my brothers together. Do you think that if my Mommy has a baby sister that someday she will be a Brownie and come to Brownie camp?"

The other girls all giggled. Even the one who thought that she knew what a fancy was. Rachel stopped smiling so much. She was getting the look on her face that Mrs. Mack got in school when she explained something. It was her "you're talking too much and getting us off the topic look."

"I'm sorry," said Prudence. "I didn't mean to monopolize the conversation."

Rachel smiled a real smile again and told her to try not to monopolize it in the future. Prudence nodded very hard. One of the other girls asked if monopolize was like Monopoly. Prudence opened her mouth to answer, but Rachel gave her the "you need to let this drop right now" look, so she closed her mouth.

Then Rachel asked the little girl what her name was and to tell them something about herself. The little girl was named Jeannie and didn't care about what monopolize meant anymore. She wanted to talk about herself.

When Daddy had told her that she was going to Brownie camp in the summer, she was upset because she would be away from Mommy all day. She was afraid that she would miss Mommy and Mommy would miss her. But Mommy said that she wanted Prudence to have fun playing with the other girls, swimming, and making arts and crafts. And then she reminded her about last summer when she was bored when she wasn't at Bible School.

Prudence thought about it and decided that Mommy was being very brave. Since Hal was away and Butch and Trelawney were busy with their things all day, she would only have Daddy to keep her company, until the baby came that was. But now she was happy that she was at camp. She liked being with Amy all day. And she liked being a Firefly. And she especially liked having Rachel for her counselor. Rachel let her hold her hand when they went from activity to activity.

Prudence had never had a big girl friend like Rachel before. Trelawney was a big girl too, but she was different. She was sad sometimes and didn't want to play. Rachel was never sad. In fact, Rachel was always smiling, even when they got over-excited and she had to make them sit down on their hands. And she found out that she could tell Rachel anything.

Rachel knew what it was like to have a Mommy who was going to have a baby. She had three little sisters. Prudence was worried that when Mommy had the baby that it was going to hurt. But Rachel told her not to worry. Once the baby was born the pain went away.

She was also worried because when the baby came Mommy might not have any more time for her. But Rachel told her not to worry again. When her Mommy had had her babies she always had time for her and her twin sister Rebecca. That was the thing that Prudence liked the most about Rachel

When she told the grown ups at home about her worries, they just told her not to worry. But Rachel knew about her worries. She could always tell her why she didn't have to worry because she had been there. Prudence decided that someday she was going to be a camp counselor just like Rachel. And then when other little girls told her about their worries, she could tell them not to worry because she had been there.

Everyday when she came home from camp, the first person that she wanted to see was Mommy. She wanted to make sure that she was still okay. Then, after she knew that she was okay, she would make sure that the baby was okay. She would put her hand on Mommy's tummy and the baby would kick. She and Mommy would look at each other and smile.

"Why does she always kick when I put my hand on your tummy, Mommy?" she asked one day.

"That's her way of saying hello," said Mommy. "She knows that you're her big sister.

"Oh," asked Prudence. "Do you think that she will be mad at me if she is a he and I've been calling him her all this time?"

"If she is a he, then I am sure that he will forgive you," answered Mommy with a smile.

"But I think that you think that she is a she," said Prudence.

"Yes, I do," said Mommy. "But we won't know for sure until she is born."

"When is that going to be?" she asked. "It feels like we've been waiting forever."

"Sometimes it feels like that to me too," said Mommy with a sigh. "But the doctor thinks that it will be in about six weeks."

"Is six weeks a long time?" asked Prudence.

"It's a long time if you're waiting for a baby to come," said Daddy as he walked into the room. He walked right over to Mommy and gave her a kiss on her head. Then he put his hand on her tummy just like Prudence had. He and Mommy looked at each other and smiled.

"Did the baby kick, Daddy?" asked Prudence.

"Yes, she did," answered Daddy. "That's because she knows that I'm her Daddy."

"She's a very smart baby," said Prudence. "She already knows me and you, and she's not even born yet."

Mommy gave her one of her soft, happy smiles. Daddy patted her head and told her that she was a very smart girl too. Now that she knew that Mommy and the baby were fine, she wanted to go see her friend Mary Jane Shuster.

"I'm going to see Mary Jane," she said. "I'll leave you three alone."

Mommy and Daddy laughed as if she had just said something very funny. She didn't see what was funny at all.

"Prudence," said Daddy. "Before you leave, do you want to hear the letter that we got from Hal today?"

Prudence was silent for a minute. She knew that Mommy and Daddy wanted her to say yes, but she didn't want to say yes. Two days ago Hal had sent them a letter and it was a very long letter. Daddy had read it to everyone at dinner. It told them lots and lots of stuff about his science program. Prudence would have liked the letter a lot more if it was shorter, but Mommy liked that it was a very long letter. She wanted to know everything that he was doing.

"No thank you," she said. "I can wait until you read the letter later."

"Aren't you interested in what your brother is doing?" asked Mommy.

"No, not really," she said. "Do you think that he is interested in what I'm doing?"

"Well," answered Daddy. "You know that he is very busy in his program. He has a lot of important things to think about."

"Okay," she said. "I'm very busy in Brownie camp. I have a lot of important things to think about too. But if I had time, I would be interested."

As she left them, she could hear them laughing together. Sometimes she just didn't understand grown ups at all.

Baseball Star

When Dad told him that Grampie would be driving him to all his practices and games so that he could stay home with Mom, he apologized a whole lot. It was hard for Butch to tell him that he liked it better that way. Butch liked it when he had time alone with Grampie. He was a really cool guy and didn't embarrass him.

He liked it better when there weren't a whole bunch of people at his games anyway. It seemed like the whole family had come to all his games this spring. At first it was kind of neat, but then it was a pain. In fact all the guys on the team thought it was a pain.

Once they started to win all their games, everyone's family brought a lot of people to see them play. Since hardly anyone came to see them when they were on a losing streak, it was pretty cool. But then it seemed like everyone had an opinion. And they had lots of advice. And they liked to give it loudly.

Coach told them to ignore it, but it was kind of hard. Sometimes when the guys were running on base they got confused between the Dads' voices and the coaches' voices. So Coach told them to watch the signals. He told the same thing to the pitchers. But it really bugged him when he was trying to get those last few outs. At first it made him nervous that he might do something wrong and they would be mad because he didn't listen to them. Then he figured out that they didn't know what they were talking about so it annoyed him.

Coach tried to tell him that if he were ever a major league player then he would have to hear lots of people yelling lots of things at him. But Butch didn't want to think about being a major league player. Right now he just wanted to survive Little League. So he learned to ignore the people yelling. Coach had told him to "tune them out" and "get in the zone." He didn't know what that meant, so he just ignored them.

One of the great things about having Grampie drive him to his games was that they had lots of time to talk when the games were far away. They talked about lots of stuff. Butch decided that it was easier to talk to Grampie than to talk to Dad. Dad didn't always know what to say to him.

He had lots of things to say to Hal because they both liked science so much. But Butch didn't really like science. In fact he didn't really like school. One day, when they were going to a really far away game, he told Grampie that he was afraid that Dad was going to make him go to college.

"Don't you want to go to college?" asked Grampie in a surprised voice.

"No, not really," he said honestly. "Everybody says that it's harder than elementary school. That's hard enough. Besides, I don't think that I'm smart enough to go to college."

"What makes you think that?" asked Grampie in his curious voice.

"Well," he said. "Whenever I don't understand something that is really easy for Hal then he says I'm a dummy. I figure that he's right."

"Why is that?"

"When he explains things to Trelawney she always understands them," he answered. "She says that Hal is the best math and science teacher that she ever had."

"Well, just because she thinks that he is a great teacher for her doesn't mean that he's a great teacher for you," said Grampie.

"Are you sure about that?" asked Butch.

"As sure as I can be about anything," he answered. "You see, Butch, I think that you're a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for. Kids like Hal and Trelawney like to learn things by reading them and talking about them. But admit it, you really don't like to read, do you?"

"No, sir," admitted Butch, feeling a little ashamed of himself.

"Now don't go feeling bad about that," said Grampie. "What are the things that you do better than Hal? And you know that there are a few."

"Well, I play baseball better than him," he said. "And I build and paint things better. And I play Monopoly better."

"There now, you see," said Grampie.

"See what?" Now Butch was confused.

"Hal likes to learn things in books," said Grampie. "And you like to learn things by doing them. Hal likes to learn about things, but you like to learn by doing things."

"You know, Grampie," answered Butch. "I think that you could be on to something. Does that mean that I don't have to go to college?"

"That means," he said seriously. "That you're too young to make that decision. Kids like Hal know that they want to go to college because they know what they want to learn. But there are a lot of things out there that you've never even heard of. Someday you might want to do something like that. But if you don't go to college then you might never hear about them."

"Oh," said Butch. "When did you know that you wanted to be an engineer?"

"I never thought about it much until I went to college," he said. "You see no one in my family had ever been to college before. In fact my Dad never finished the eighth grade because he had to go out and work so that he could earn money to help support his family. There were a lot of kids in his family and his father was sick all the time. He was the oldest, so he had to be the man of the house. But when my turn came along, he had saved his money so that I could have the education that he couldn't."

"What did he do?" asked Butch.

"He was a ditch digger," explained Grampie. "He dug out the tunnels under the rivers around New York City so that they could make the subways."

"Did he like it?"

"Not really," said Grampie. "It was backbreaking work in those days, but it was the only job that he could get."

"Because he never finished the eighth grade," said Butch.

"Yes," said Grampie. "He made me go to college so that I would have a better life than he did. He was very proud when I got my degree and even prouder when your Dad got his PhD. He never dreamed that a grandson of his could go so far."

"Do you think that he would be mad at me if I didn't go to college?" asked Butch. "I mean since he's in heaven and can see everything down here."

"That's hard to say, Butch," answered Grampie. "But if you didn't try your hardest and do your best to succeed in life then he would certainly be disappointed."

"Oh."

Butch felt different now. He had never thought that he could actually be lucky to go to college. But he also never thought that he could get stuck being a ditch digger. Maybe going to college wouldn't be so bad after all. Maybe he would be like Grampie and find something that he really wanted to do for the rest of his life there.

But right now he wanted to think about baseball. It was a little disappointing because after being on an undefeated team all spring, the travel team wasn't so good. Whenever he was called in to save a game, he saved it, but they didn't win every game. Grampie told him not to be discouraged.

"It's really very unusual for a team to have an undefeated season," he explained. "Your travel team isn't a bad team, they just don't win all the time. And they do win more games than they lose. That's the important thing."

"Yeah, I guess," said Butch. "But it's a lot more fun to win than it is to lose."

"Point well taken," said Grampie. "But you appreciate winning more if you lose sometimes. And playing really good teams makes you all better players. You don't have to try as hard to beat the easy teams."

Butch thought about it. Coach had told them the same thing. But it was hard for him to see it. He only went into the game when they were ahead or only down by one run. Coach said that he didn't want to waste him in a game that they were probably going to lose anyway. But that meant that he had to sit on the bench the whole time. That kind of stunk if they had to drive a long way just so that he could sit on the bench.

Butch didn't always like playing in away games. In the town games they played in the spring, everyone pretty much knew everyone on both teams. They only encouraged their own teams. But in the travel league when they went to other towns where they didn't know anybody, sometimes the other team's fans yelled out mean stuff. That made them mad, but there wasn't anything that they could do about it.

When those teams came to their town, Coach made sure that everyone was nice, even the fans. He said that his guys were going to show good sportsmanship even if the other guys weren't. Coach was right. Even Butch knew that two wrongs didn't make a right, but it would have been nice to give one of those teams a taste of their own medicine, just for once.

There was one team that had been really mean to them when they played them out of town. They were mad when they lost. They had been ahead until the ninth inning when Butch's team pulled ahead by one run. Then Butch came in to close it.

"You pitch like a girl!" yelled one kid from the stands.

But Butch just rolled his eyes. If that guy thought that he pitched like a girl, then he had never seen a girl pitch before. Besides, he had learned a long time ago not to listen to anyone in the stands, even if they were his own fans. When he sent the last batter down looking, on strikes, the other fans booed. Some of them said that the ump was blind and that the last pitch had been outside by a mile.

Butch and his friends wanted to teach them a lesson, but Coach told them that the only ones who were going to learn any lessons were they. They were going to learn how to get off the field without starting a fight. Besides, they had already taught the other team a lesson. They had beaten them, fair and square.

Then that team came to their town. Unfortunately, they brought their fans with them. Since it was a big game, Mom told Dad that she wanted to come. So of course that meant that everyone else had to be there: Prudence, Trelawney, Grammy, Grampie, even Nana, and Papa. Nana made sure that she sat next to Mom so that she could keep an eye on her. It was a hot day and she didn't want her to get sick again.

The other team's fans were real obnoxious again. Butch knew that the parents and friends that were there for his team were getting really mad. Since the other team's fans were yelling, Butch's team's fans were yelling too. Things kind of got out of control. Even Coach couldn't keep their fans quiet. There was so much yelling that the umpire had to stop the game twice and tell them not to yell so much.

All that yelling made both teams nervous. They made a lot of errors, and so both teams scored a lot of runs. By the time that they got to the ninth inning, Butch's team was ahead by two runs. Normally closing out a game with a two run lead was no big deal, but then the shouting began again, louder than ever.

Butch struck out the first batter, but then the next batter hit an easy grounder to the shortstop. He booted it and the guy got on base. That was when the yelling got really loud. The people who were making fun of the shortstop were starting to argue with the people trying to defend him.

It didn't bother Butch, but the catcher wasn't paying attention because of all the noise in the stands. The runner at first went to steal second and he threw the ball too high for the shortstop to catch. The ball went into the outfield and the runner scored. All Butch could do was shake his head. He turned to concentrate on the next batter, but he could tell that the guys behind him in the field were getting real nervous. The fans in the stands from both teams were yelling at each other louder than ever, calling each other names and stuff. Then he slipped up.

He threw a fastball over the sweet part of the plate and the batter whaled on it for a homer. The kid circled the bases and Butch circled the mound talking to himself. Coach came out to see him.

"Do you want me to take you out?" he asked.

Butch was surprised. "Don't you think that I can do it?"

Coach smiled. "I know that you can do it. The question is, do you think that you can do it?"

"Heck, yeah," he said.

"What about all the yelling in the stands?" Coach asked.

"What about it?" Butch asked.

Coach patted him on the back and told him to do his best. Butch looked up in the stands and saw Trelawney. She was smiling at him and pointed farther up the stands. He noticed that a couple of the Dads from the other team with the biggest mouths were making a toast with big soda cups. Then he saw them hit the cups too hard against each other so that they were both covered in soda. He laughed and thought, "serves them right."

Seeing those two guys get what they deserved calmed him down and he retired the next two batters on strikes. He didn't trust his own fielders not to screw up. But now he had to trust his teammates to score a run so that they would not have to go into extra innings. It wasn't that he didn't trust them to do it, he was just afraid because they were too nervous. So he told them about the two guys covered with soda in the stands. That made they laugh and loosened them up. Coach patted him on the back again and called him a good man.

The first guy up on Butch's team hit a single. The next guy struck out. After the third guy walked, they had a runner in scoring position. Things were getting intense for Butch. He was due to be on deck. That meant that if the guy ahead of him didn't get the go ahead run home, then he would have to go to the plate. Or coach could send in a pinch hitter and hope that he got the run home. If the score were still tied at the end of the inning, then they would go into extra innings. If Butch didn't bat, then he would be out of the game for good.

Before he went to the on deck circle, he looked over at Coach. He gave him the nod, so he grabbed a bat and started to swing. The kid batting at the plate was definitely not one of the best batters on their team. He had a bad eye and always seemed to swing at "junk." If he wasn't such an amazing center fielder, Butch doubted that he would even be on the team.

Fortunately, the guy didn't have to worry about hitting because he got hit with the first pitch. That was when the trouble started.

"Hey, ump!" yelled one guy in the stands. "Are you blind? That kid wanted to get hit by the ball. He stepped right into it."

"Are you kidding?" yelled another guy. "That pitcher has no control. He's lucky that he hasn't hit half the team already."

"Are you calling my son a lousy pitcher?" yelled another guy.

"What do you think?"

"I think that you'd better shut up or you're gonna get a fat lip," he answered.

"And I don't think that you have the guts to do it," he said.

Butch rolled his eyes. "Great," he thought, "who knows if I'm ever going to bat?" The bases were loaded with one out. He knew that he was either going to be the hero of the game or the goat. Knowing him, he would either score the winning run or hit into a double play. He didn't like having so much time to think about it. The umpire must have been sick and tired of the parents yelling at each other because he ejected all of the yellers.

Right before he went up to the plate, he caught Trelawney's eye. She was sitting next to Mom like she always did when things got tight. She would hold her hand because Dad would stand up to watch and pace up and down in front of the stands. Trelawney gave him a smile and a nod. It was like she knew what was going to happen or something. It was one of those times that he was glad that she was so weird. He had this feeling that her weirdness was about to work in his favor.

As he stood in the batter's box, he felt real calm. It was almost like all of the yelling and shouting and cheering was going on around him, but he couldn't hear it. He saw the ball coming towards him. He took a mighty swing and hit it as hard as he could. It flew into the outfield far and deep. The right fielder went out for it and caught it on the run. He saw the third base runner touch the bag and run home as fast as he could.

But the right fielder barely hit the cutoff man. The throw wasn't even close. Butch had hit a sacrifice fly to win the game. He didn't even know how he did it, because he had never hit a ball so far before. But he did it and his team won the game. He was glad. Now maybe that other team would learn to shut up for once.

When he got back to the family, Trelawney said, "Smashing job, Butch! And I do mean smashing!"

"Aw, it wasn't a big deal," said Butch. "Any of the guys could have done it."

"Well, the important thing," said Papa. "Is that you did it when it needed to be done. You certainly were calm, cool, and collected out there. Pretty good for a ten year old!"

"Yeah," said Butch. "I guess so. But it helps to know that my family is behind me."

"That does always help," said Dad.

"And helps that you guys are quietly behind me, you know, not yelling and stuff," he added.

"Oh," said Grampie. "You don't like it when your fans cheer for you?"

"It's not the cheering," admitted Butch. "That's kind of cool. It's the advice. Especially when people don't know what they're talking about."

"I guess that that could be a little distracting," said Papa.

"And how," nodded Butch. "Coach says that if I ever make the majors then I'll have to deal with it. But I don't care about that now. I just want all those crazy fans to shut up right now."

"But what if you make the majors?" asked Grampie.

"I'll deal with it then," said Butch.

Everyone laughed. But Butch just rolled his eyes. The whole conversation was ridiculous. He wasn't ever going to make the majors.

Weekend Visit

Prudence was very happy because after Brownie camp one Friday, Nana and Papa were going to pick her up and she was going to get to spend the whole weekend with them. She liked spending the weekend with them now, especially since Nana had decided that she didn't just like Mommy, she loved Mommy. But the other reason that she liked to visit them was because she had them all to herself. That never happened at home anymore.

At home, it felt like Mommy and Daddy were always together and when they were together all they ever cared about was the baby. And it seemed like Grammy was always with Trelawney (when Trelawney wasn't with Mommy) and Butch was always with Grampie. But she didn't have any special grown up of her own.

When she went to Nana and Papa's house, then she had them all to herself, especially Nana. She and Nana did lots of things together, like her and Mommy used to do, until Mommy married Daddy. And sometimes Nana would smooth back her hair and smile at her, just like Grammy did to Trelawney.

Whenever she went to Nana's house she showed her pictures of her angel Mommy when she was a little girl. Prudence really liked the pictures of her angel Mommy as a dancer. Prudence told Nana that she wanted to keep taking dancing lessons so that she could be a dancer like her angel Mommy.

The other nice thing about Nana and Papa was that they let her talk anytime she wanted to and as much as she wanted to. They never told her that she was monopolizing the conversation. And they never laughed at the things that she said (even though sometimes they smiled). One time when she was talking and talking, she asked Nana if she minded. But Nana said that she could never talk to her too much. She loved to hear her talk. It reminded her of her angel Mommy.

"Did my angel Mommy like to talk too?" she asked.

"Yes, she did," said Nana. "We talked every day when she came home from school and she told me all about her day."

"I talk to Mommy too about my day," said Prudence. "But on school days I have to share her with Butch and now I have to share her with Daddy."

"So you don't like sharing her?" asked Nana.

"Sometimes," said Prudence. "But sometimes I wish that I could be like Trelawney and not share her."

"What do you mean?" asked Nana.

"Well," explained Prudence. "Trelawney doesn't have to go to school. So Mommy spends her days with her. They play with Trelawney's dollhouse and Trelawney tells stories."

"Do you ever play with Trelawney's dollhouse?" asked Papa.

"No," said Prudence. "But me and Trelawney play with my dollhouse. But we can only play with my dolls. Trelawney's dolls are just for her dollhouse. Me and Trelawney play with other dolls too. We have tea parties with Tessa and Sally. Tessa is Trelawney's doll. They come to visit sometimes. Trelawney has a tea set like I do. Only it's made of real china, like Mommy's, only smaller. But it's still in the village. Cousin Sylvia promised that someone would bring it for her because they're afraid it will break if they ship it."

"That's all very interesting," said Nana. "But doesn't Trelawney have her theatre program during the day now?"

"Yes," answered Prudence. "But sometimes Mommy and her still play. Hal told me that when the baby comes then Mommy is going to spend lots of time with her when we are in school."

"Well, I'm sure that that's true," said Nana. "Did you ever tell your Mommy that you want to spend some time with her?"

"No," said Prudence. "Hal told me that it was selfish. And Grammy told me that I can't expect to spend extra time with her just because I never had a Mommy before. I mean I never had an earth Mommy before that I can remember that is. I mean I do know that Mommy isn't my first Mommy. My angel Mommy is my first Mommy.

"I can't spend time with an angel Mommy, but Trelawney told me that when I want to see her, then I can look in the mirror and she'll look back at me because I look just like her at her age. She looks like her angel Mommy too and when she wants to see her she looks in the mirror. I tried it, so I know she's right, but it's not the same as spending time with Mommy."

Papa and Nana looked at each other the way that people did when she talked a lot. It was a combination of looking confused and trying not to laugh.

"Does Trelawney think that it's selfish for you to want to spend time alone with your Mommy?" asked Papa.

"No, she said that everyone should be able to spend time alone with their Mommies, just like she spends time alone with her Mama Kate," said Prudence. "She only said that it was selfish that we wanted loot, you know, lots of presents, whenever our relatives came to visit us. You see until Mommy and Daddy got married no one ever hardly came to see us. I told Daddy about the loot on accident. Then Daddy told Hal . . ."

"Prudence, why don't we stick to talking about how you want to spend more time with your Mommy," interrupted Papa.

"Okay," said Prudence. But she was a little surprised because it was the first time that Nana or Papa had ever made her stick to the topic before. And they weren't smiling either. She wondered what was wrong. Maybe she had said the wrong thing. Maybe they were going to tell her that she was being selfish too. But she was wrong.

"I don't think that it's selfish to want to ask your Mommy to spend more time alone with you," said Nana nicely.

"That's what Rachel said," answered Prudence.

"Who is Rachel?" asked Nana.

"She's my counselor at Brownie camp," said Prudence. "I really like her because I can tell her stuff and she can understand because she's been there."

"What do you mean?" asked Nana with a smile.

"Well, Rachel has a twin sister and three little sisters," said Prudence. "So she's always had to share her Mommy. But I never had a sister until Trelawney came and she was like a sister because she was really Mommy's sister. But now I'm going to have a baby sister, I think. Mommy said that we won't know until she's born and then she might be a brother, but I don't think that that would be fair."

"Why is that?" asked Papa. He was smiling again too.

"Because then I would have three brothers and no real sisters," explained Prudence. "Did you know that Mommy wants to have the baby at home instead of a hospital? Butch thinks that's gross, but Trelawney said that in the village all the Mommies have babies at home unless the Mommy or the baby are sick. So I guess it's better if she has the baby at home."

"Why?" Nana asked. She looked confused again.

"Because then it means that Mommy and the baby aren't sick," said Prudence patiently. She didn't understand why grown ups couldn't figure out such an obvious thing. She had a feeling that if Hal were here, he would tell her that she was spending too much time with Trelawney. But Trelawney always understood her explanations.

Nana thought a lot about that. Prudence wondered if she was like Grammy. Grammy didn't want Mommy to have the baby at home. Grammy was afraid that something would go wrong, but Grampie said that it was Mommy's choice. Daddy really didn't want the baby born at home either, but that was because he didn't want to be there and Mommy wanted him to be there. She said that in the village all the husbands were with their wives when the babies were born.

After that, they didn't talk about Mommy and the baby. But Nana and Papa had a special treat for her. There was going to be a ballet at the big theatre in their town called "Swan Lake." It was about a black swan and a white swan. It was a very pretty ballet, especially the costumes. She liked sitting and watching it because Nana put her arm around her the whole time. Then on the way home they took her to a special restaurant.

There were a lot of fancy things on the menu, but all Prudence wanted was a hamburger. The waiter was very nice and said that they had hamburgers on the children's menu. But for dessert, Nana told her that instead of chocolate ice cream, she should try chocolate mousse. She wasn't sure about it, but when she tasted it, it tasted like chocolate full of air. It was very yummy.

Then she told Nana that it was her new favorite dessert. That made Nana smile and get happy tears in her eyes. She said that chocolate mousse had been her angel Mommy's favorite dessert. Knowing that made Prudence feel all warm and happy inside.

She couldn't wait to go to camp on Monday so that she could tell Rachel all about "Swan Lake" and chocolate mousse and her angel Mommy. That was another nice thing about Rachel. She always had time to listen to everything that Prudence wanted to tell her. When they were alone, she always let her monopolize the conversation.

When Nana and Papa dropped her off on Sunday night, they told her to go upstairs and get ready for bed because they wanted to talk to Mommy and Daddy. Prudence gave them big, long hugs and kisses and a really big thank you for the wonderful weekend. It was the most wonderful weekend that she had had since Mommy and Daddy got married and had their blessing. Then Nana patted her head and told her that she was her special girl.

Later, when Mommy and Daddy came to tuck her in, Mommy stayed after Daddy left.

"Prudence," she said. "Why didn't you tell me that you wanted more time alone with me? I thought that you didn't want to spend time with me like that anymore because you were getting to be such a big girl."

Prudence didn't know what to say. But Mommy was waiting so she told her the truth. She knew that she couldn't lie to Mommy anyway. It would make Mommy sad and she already looked a little sad.

"Hal told me that I was selfish because sometimes I didn't want to share you," she explained. "And Grammy told me that I couldn't have extra time with you to make up for the times that I didn't have an earth Mommy. So I didn't want you to get mad at me. But I could never get so big that I didn't want to spend time alone with you."

Now Mommy looked even sadder. She gave Prudence a big hug and smoothed back her hair just like she used to do before the baby was coming.

"I love you very much, Prudence," she said. "You are very special to me and I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings because I wasn't spending much time alone with you. Now that I know how you feel about it, I am going to make sure that we have more time together, just you and me."

"So you're not mad at me?" asked Prudence.

"I could never be mad at you for wanting more time with me," she said. "It means that you love me. I could never get mad at you for loving me."

"I do love you, Mommy," Prudence nodded. "A whole lot. Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course," she said. "You can ask me anything you want."

"Well," she said. "This is something that I've been worrying about. In fact I've been worrying about it so much that I haven't even talked to Rachel about it. And I tell Rachel everything."

"I don't want you to worry about anything," said Mommy. "So you better ask me."

Prudence took a big breath. This was a very scary thing she had to ask. She was really afraid of the answer. But she had a feeling that if she didn't ask it, than it might make Mommy worry anyway. And everybody said that if she worried too much that it wouldn't be good for the baby.

"Mommy," she said. "I know that even though you said that I'm your real little girl now, that I still have an angel Mommy and that I was her little girl first. When you have the new baby, will you love her more than you do me?"

Prudence waited for her answer. She couldn't figure out what Mommy was thinking because she was looking down. Finally she looked up. Prudence knew the answer before she even said a word.

"I will always love you like my real daughter," she said very gently. "I cannot say that I will love any of my children any more than the others. But I will love them differently. I love you differently than I love Butch and Hal because they are my sons, but I love each of the three of you differently because you are all different from each other. Each of my children is a blessing from God. No one of them is a bigger blessing than others."

Then Mommy gave Prudence a big hug. She could feel the baby give her a kick.

"Does that mean that the baby agrees?" asked Prudence.

"That means that the baby agrees."

Mommy held Prudence tight for a very long time. Then she kissed her good night and Prudence snuggled under the covers. Now she had something else to tell Rachel. She could her that her Mommy loved her the same as the baby. But she had a feeling that Rachel would say that she already knew that. After all, she had been there.

To be continued . . .