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chapter thirteen

     Trevor and Cindy strolled casually back through the mall to the corridor by the northeast entrance. There they stopped at a little carry-out restaurant and ordered two medium sodas: lemon-lime for Cindy, and root beer for Trevor. Cindy insisted on paying for the beverages with some of her baby-sitting money, turning aside Trevor's objections by reminding him that he had paid for everything else so far.
     "It's such a nice day," said Trevor as they left the counter. "Why don't we walk our bikes across the street to the park and relax there for a while before we head home?"
     "Good idea!" Cindy agreed.
     Ten minutes later they had retrieved their bikes and made their way to the park. They set their partially consumed drinks down on a picnic table that was in the shade of a large tree.
     "Ah, it doesn't get much better than this, does it?" Trevor asked rhetorically. "Upper 70's, not too humid, a nice little breeze, a delicious cold soda, and an incredibly great girlfriend. Who could ask for anything more?"
     "Substitute 'boyfriend' for 'girlfriend' and I totally agree," said Cindy.
     "Yeah, yeah," replied Trevor. "So, how much baby-sitting do you do, anyway?"
     "Well, there's several families in our neighborhood that I sit for when they need me - usually on weekends, but sometimes during the week, too. There's a lady my Mom knows from work who also uses me sometimes. Plus, for the summer I have one regular job. A couple in the next block north of my house are both in a summer bowling league on Thursdays. You remember yesterday I told you I have plans for tonight? That was it. They have two boys, eight and six."
     "I hope they're nice boys."
     Cindy's face took on the expression of someone recalling a painful memory.
     "Actually," she said, slowly and deliberately, "I suspect that they are possessed."
     Trevor chuckled. "That bad, huh?"
     "Well, not really," said Cindy. "They're not BAD kids exactly. They're just real hyperactive and impulsive."
     "Is that so?" said Trevor. "I know someone who was just like that at that age."
     "Who?" asked Cindy.
     "Who else?" Trevor replied. "ME! I told you before, I was a wild kid before Cory died."
     "That's right, you did say that," Cindy acknowledged. "Can you give me any advice on how to handle them?"
     "Just make sure they always have good outlets for their energy," answered Trevor. "Have a bunch of ideas ready for activities, and then as soon as you see them start to get bored with something, move right on to something else. It's when a kid like that doesn't have something to occupy him that he gets restless and finds trouble to get into."
     "I kinda try to do that," Cindy replied. "It would probably work better if there were only one of them. Sometimes it's really hard to keep both of them occupied at the same time."
     "I sure hope this couple pays you good."
     "That's one reason I haven't just quit," said Cindy. "The main reason, really."
     "What about Saturday?" wondered Trevor. "Is that a baby-sitting job too?"
     "Is what a baby-sitting job?"
     "You said our families couldn't do a cookout together on Saturday."
     "Oh, yeah, right," said Cindy. "No, Saturday is my team picnic."
     "Aha!" said Trevor. "That's what your manager meant when he said, 'See you all Saturday' at the end of your meeting yesterday!"
     "Right," agreed Cindy. She paused. "Say, why don't you come to it with me?" she continued. "A few of the other girls are bringing their boyfriends, and..."
     "And what?" asked Trevor after several seconds.
     But Cindy was suddenly so absorbed in thought that she wasn't even looking in his direction.
     "Trevor," she said softly.
     "What?" Trevor responded; but Cindy ignored him, and Trevor realized that she hadn't been speaking to him, but to herself.
     Then, abruptly, Cindy snapped her head to look at Trevor. Her face was filled with horror and dismay.
     "You were holding hands with her!" she said accusingly. Then she stomped her foot. "Of course! That's why you were there in the first place!"
     Before Trevor could respond, she turned away from him, tilted her head back and placed both hands on her forehead.
     "I KNEW IT!" she wailed. "I KNEW IT! I JUST KNEW IT!! I KNEW YOU WERE TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!" There was such obviously deep pain in her voice that it stabbed into Trevor's heart like a knife.
     "Cindy, what are you talking about?" Trevor demanded desperately, putting his hands on her shoulders from behind.
     She whirled around, slapped his hands away with both of hers, and glared at him.
     "Don't give me that!" she said angrily, almost spitting out the words. "You know perfectly well what I'm talking about! You're KATIE'S Trevor!"
     "WHAT?" exclaimed Trevor. "NO! I'm Katie's FRIEND Trevor. FRIEND! That's all I've ever been and ever will be! You gotta believe me!"
     But Cindy might not have even heard him. Her jaw suddenly dropped and her eyes widened.
     "She put you up to this, didn't she?" Cindy declared. "She told you to be nice to me! And to tell me I'm special, and pretty! Of course she did!"
     "Why in the world would she want me to do that?" demanded Trevor, his head still spinning from this sudden turn of events.
     "To build up my self-esteem!" replied Cindy. She shook her head in anger and frustration. "It can't be more than a month since she told me that maybe when I got a boyfriend I would finally learn to stop getting down on myself. Oh, how could I have been so STUPID?"
     A powerful jumble of emotions had been growing inside Trevor, and for a moment anger popped to the surface.
     "No, you're being stupid NOW!" he said, and was immediately sorry for it. He struggled for control, forced himself to be calmer, or at least less agitated. "Look, if that was true, sooner or later you'd find out that it was really Katie I cared about, and that my relationship with you was a lie. How would THAT help your self-esteem? Heck, that would make you feel WORSE!"
     Cindy stared at him in sudden uncertainty. She was obviously trying to be analytical amidst her own overwhelming emotions.
     "All right," she finally said. "Maybe I'm wrong about that part. But she DOES want to be your girlfriend! She said so! After one of our practices, somebody asked her why she didn't have a boyfriend yet, and she said she was just waiting for the one she wanted. They asked who, and she said 'Trevor.' I didn't know who she meant then, but now I know it was you! She wants you to be her boyfriend!"
     "That doesn't mean I want it!" Trevor responded. "I DON'T! I want to be YOUR boyfriend!"
     "Oh, SURE!" said Cindy sarcastically, rolling her eyes. "Like ANY boy who could be Katie Mason's boyfriend would really rather be with me instead! How can I possibly believe that? Besides, you WERE holding hands with her! I saw you! And she WAS why you were at the game, right?"
     "No, not exactly," Trevor replied. "I mean, I did come to see her play, but mostly I just went with my Dad because HE was coming. Think about it: how many other games have you seen me at? The truth is, I've kinda been avoiding Katie all this summer because of the way she keeps coming on to me."
     "But you were holding hands with her!" Cindy persisted.
     "Yes, I was," Trevor acknowledged. "You want to know why? She ran up to me and tried to hug me. I grabbed her arms to stop her, because I was afraid you'd see it and get the wrong idea. Then I slid down to her hands and held them for a minute and talked to her, because even though I don't want to be her boyfriend, I do like her, and I didn't want to hurt her any more than I had to. She was already heartbroken that I didn't let her hug me."
     Cindy looked at Trevor in extreme uncertainty, apparently not knowing what to think, much less what to say. When she finally did speak, the words came out in an emotion filled burst.
     "Oh, Trevor, I want to believe you!" she said. "I want to so bad! But...but I still...I mean, it's just so hard to believe that you'd rather be with me than Katie! That ANY boy would!"
     "There's something you might not know," replied Trevor, who sensed that the tide of the conversation was turning his way, and wanted to keep the momentum going any way he could. "Katie's parents and mine are like best friend couples. Our fathers have been friends since high school. Our families have lived two houses apart since we were four, and we do things together a lot. So Katie and I have pretty much grown up together.
     "And there's something else," Trevor continued. "Katie wanting to be my girlfriend is nothing new. It's gotten more intense this year, but she's wanted it for a long time. I could have been her boyfriend at least two years ago if I'd wanted it. But I never have. I mean, sure, I THOUGHT about it. What boy in that position wouldn't? But I came to the conclusion that she just wasn't right for me."
     "Why, Trevor?" Cindy asked softly, and Trevor could tell that she was close to believing. Then he thought of a way to answer her question that he was sure would deliver a knockout punch to her remaining doubts, and maybe even induce an 'Ohhhh'.
     "My Dad asked me that same question yesterday at dinner, before we came to the game," he began, speaking deliberately in a warm and gentle tone, with a small apprehensive smile on his face. "I gave him a long answer about our different personality types and senses of humor and things, because that was the only way I could answer the question at that time. I'll be glad to go into all the details for you if you want, but I have a much better answer to that question now, because of all that's happened since my Dad asked it. An answer that sums up all the other things, plus a whole lot more. It's really very simple." He paused long enough to put his hands on her shoulders. "Katie isn't right for me...BECAUSE SHE ISN'T YOU!"
     Cindy looked like a person who has just learned that a loved one who was thought to be dead is alive after all.
     "Really, truly?" she asked, as tears welled up in her eyes. "I mean, all the things you said today...it's all true?"
     "Absolutely!" declared Trevor. He sensed that there were still traces of doubt left, so he continued to attack them. "Especially the part about being your boyfriend making me the luckiest guy in the whole world! Gosh, if I had a billion dollars, I'd buy billboards and TV commercials all over the world to tell everyone that the most wonderful girl in the whole world is my girlfriend! Heck, I'd hire skywriters! And then I'd spend all the rest of it buying you presents and taking you places!"
     And then there was suddenly no need to continue further: a crying Cindy stepped forward and threw her arms around Trevor's neck.
     "I'm sorry!" she sobbed as she clung to him tightly. "I'm so sorry! I believe you! I do! Please forgive me!"
     Trevor hugged her back, and wanted to tell her that everything was all right, to assure her that he forgave her, even though there was really nothing to forgive.
     But he found he couldn't speak. He felt his arms squeezing Cindy tighter, seemingly independent of his will. He began to breathe rapidly. And then he, too, was crying. Crying and shaking: until that moment, with the crisis at last being over, he hadn't realized just how terrified he had been while it had been going on.
     "Trevor, what's wrong?" Cindy suddenly asked in a concerned tone, easing her grip.
     But Trevor was still unable to respond, unable even to think clearly. He wanted only to keep holding Cindy, so she couldn't leave him.
     "Trevor!" said Cindy, louder than before, and finally Trevor's normal brain function began to be restored.
     "I'm sorry," he said in a trembling voice. He released his embrace and stepped back slightly, placing his hands on her shoulders. "It's just that...well, we're even now."
     "Even?" frowned Cindy.
     "For when I scared you before, remember? When I brought up my faith? You just got me back. Big time."
     "You were scared-"
     "That you were dumping me!" interrupted Trevor, wiping tears from his eyes and face. "I was so scared I was gonna lose you already, when we were still just getting started! I-"
     "It's all right," Cindy interrupted back. She put her arms around his chest and snuggled her head into the front of his shoulder. Trevor wrapped his arms around Cindy, resting his head on hers. "Don't worry," Cindy continued. "I wouldn't dump you for anything. I'm so sorry I scared you like that. I do believe you now, I believe everything."
     As he continued to calm down, Trevor suddenly remembered that at one point while he had been watching Cindy play softball the previous evening, he had imagined holding her tightly in his arms, just as he was doing now. He smiled to himself as he realized how uninspired his imagination had been. The actual experience, now that the intense emotions of the crisis had mostly dissipated and he could fully appreciate it, was almost overwhelming.
     Cindy's strong but soft body felt like it had electricity running through it. Waves of warm tingliness seemed to swirl around him as he held her. He began to feel lightheaded, and he instinctively tightened his grip a bit as he felt a vague sensation of losing his balance.
     Then the feeling passed, and it suddenly came to him that holding Cindy too long could be a mistake, could make her uncomfortable. He forced himself to relax his hold on her. A moment later her embrace also loosened, and she moved back a bit so they could see each other's faces.
     "You OK now?" Cindy asked with a smile.
     "Oh, yeah!" Trevor replied emphatically. "VERY OK! Everything's OK now!"
     As he continued to look into her smiling face, however, he began to recall how that face had so recently been contorted by the anger and pain she had been feeling. He suddenly wanted to do something to decrease as much as possible the chances of anything like that ever happening again, and that would ease the guilt and embarrassment he knew she must now be feeling. Something that would prove to her beyond all doubt just how much he cared about her, and how totally he had forgiven her.
     "No," he said, shaking his head slightly. "I was wrong. Everything's not OK. Take a minute to finish your soda, and then we're going back to the mall." As he spoke he walked the short distance back to the picnic table.
     "What for?" Cindy asked apprehensively. "You're starting to scare ME again."
     "Oh, don't worry!" Trevor replied quickly. "It's something good. Just trust me." He picked up Cindy's drink and handed it to her as she arrived at the table just behind him, then grabbed his root beer and began to inhale it at maximum speed.
     Cindy glanced at her watch as she sipped, then abruptly let the straw fall out of her mouth.
     "Trevor, it's ten after four already!" she exclaimed. "We haven't got time to go back! If I get home late, my mom's going to be really mad! And look!" she added, pointing to the west. "There's some pretty dark clouds coming! It'll probably start raining soon. We'd better just start for home now."
     Trevor drained the last of his soda. "No way!" he asserted. "We won't be over there long, and there's no rain in the forecast. Please, I need to do this. You done yet?"
     "Most of it's gone," she answered. "I'll just toss the rest."
     "I got it!" he said, taking it from her. He ran to the nearest garbage barrel and dropped in both containers, then sprinted back, rejoining Cindy at the bikes.
     "All right, let's go!" said Trevor.

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