Miss Carswell about Donald and his drugs was surprisingly
easy. What was hard was listening to her advice.
"You need to tell your parents, Lisa," she said
firmly. "This is too big for you to handle. And besides,
it's not your responsibility."
"But I'm afraid of how my dad will react," I interrupted.
She didn't let me finish. "I remember how Ralph used
to behave," she completed my objection for me. "But
he has changed. And that's not the point anyway, Lisa. You
are, what? Nineteen years old? Donald has a serious problem
and needs help. He is your parents' responsibility. You can't
fix things for him or for them. And you need to be living
your own life."
I sighed. "But they're my family."
She nodded. "I know. And I know you love them. But I
wonder how long you can go on subordinating your own needs
I shook my head. "You don't know," I began
"Tell me then, Lisa. I am certainly willing to listen."
"I told dad that I want to go to college and that I'm
not going to marry Mike McLaren. He was glad about Mike and
only a little dubious about college, but I think he's coming
around. I believe I can count on him."
Miss Carswell nodded at me with a smile. "Yes, you can.
And I think you can count on him to deal with Donald as well.
If he doesn't know what to do, he'll consult someone who does."
"I'm still worried," I persisted. "I don't
want him to feel like he's failed, and I especially don't
want him to regret, uh, giving up his old way of dealing with
She looked at me through narrowed eyes. "I see what you're
getting at, Lisa. But you can't manage Ralph's feelings for
him. He may well believe that Donald's straying from the straight
and narrow is a result of his choice of a less punitive and
violent approach to child-rearing. If that is so, he'll have
to deal with it." She chuckled. "He can always blame
it on me."
I stared at her, astonished and appalled. "But
not for you, he'd have lost all of us."
She patted my arm. "He knows that, Lisa. Believe me,
he's not as dense or as fragile as you seem to believe."
"I don't want to hurt him," I admitted, realizing
that I was near tears.
She shook her head. "It's easy to deceive oneself about
why one chooses to spare another's feelings. Is it really
for his sake or your own that you've been keeping the truth
from your father?"
I looked at her, uncomprehending.
Her smile was very kind. "It's a human instinct to protect
those we care for, Lisa. But sometimes that's also a way of
protecting ourselves from being the bearer of bad tidings."
I nodded. That was exactly what I thought Amanda had done.
"You're right, I know," I admitted. "It's just
"Yes," she agreed. "Doing the right thing isn't
always easy. But at least it's right."
"Do you think that you could be there when I tell him?"
I asked her, feeling very small and more than a little foolish.
"It's just that if he starts to lose it, well, he'll
listen to you."
She sighed. "If I'm not babysitting Cathy," she
replied, "and you need my presence, Lisa, I will do my
best to be there. But I really think you are underestimating
was not one for small talk, so instead of sitting around in
the cafeteria, we went back to obstetrics to see Cathy. When
we got there, Stew was in her room, pen and paper out, mumbling
to himself while the young woman looked at a back issue of
"Newsweek." She seemed a mere child, and I was shocked
to realize that she was younger than me by several years,
probably no more than Donald's age.
"Cathy, this is Lisa Dunn. Lisa, meet Cathy Weld."
I wished I'd stopped and gotten her some flowers, though I
thought a teddy bear might have been more appropriate.
"Hi, Lisa," she said. Her voice was high pitched
and very soft. "The doctor says I can go back to Mr.
and Mrs. Harmon's house tomorrow morning. I hate being in
I looked over at Stew who was still scribbling. His mumble
had abated though, thank heaven. He must have felt my eyes
because he looked up and smiled. "The nurse said that
since the contractions stopped early this morning, she and
the baby are out of the woods. However, it seems her blood
pressure is elevated. That's why they want to keep her another
I wondered who was paying for Cathy's hospitalization, but
I didn't ask.
"I hope her parents reimburse you for the cost of Cathy's
medical care," Miss Carswell said firmly to Stew.
Cathy's face got red, but Stew just shrugged.
"Not likely," he replied. "They washed their
hands of her." He looked over at Cathy. "Sorry,"
"Don't be," she answered quickly. "You're just
telling the truth. I'll pay you back though, I promise. It
may take a while, but I will. Cross my heart."
She crossed her heart, and Miss Carswell caught my eye, looked
at her watch, and winked. I wasn't sure why at first, then
remembered that I had to get back to work. It was already
five minutes past when I needed to leave if Amanda forgot
or decided not to come get me.
"I need to be on my way," I announced. I looked
over at Miss Carswell. "Thanks for the talk. I'll phone
you as soon as I get my act together."
She nodded. "Do that!"
Stew and Cathy just looked at each other.
"Nice meeting both of you," I said and turned to
"I need to go get more coffee," Stew announced,
"so if you don't mind, I'll walk out with you."
I didn't mind, so we left the room together. We didn't get
very far though before Amanda showed up.
"Hi," she said, looking from me to Stew and back
again. "The car is done, so I'm ready to drive you back
if you're ready to go."
I nodded. "Let me introduce you first though," I
offered, knowing Amanda well enough to recognize intense curiosity
when I encountered it.
"Amanda, this is Stew. He's a friend of Bob Harmon's."
Stew stuck out his hand. "Pleased to meet you Amanda,"
he said. I could see her curiosity turn into interest at the
sound of his voice.
"Let me guess," she said. "You're an operatic
He blushed and shook his head. "No, I'm a math teacher."
She looked deflated. "A math teacher? With a voice like
"Actually he's a math professor at Purdue," I interjected.
"And he collects Parkers."
"He collects what?" Amanda looked confused. Then
she remembered. "Oh right, Parker fountain pens."
"Well, I have to get back to work," I said, feeling
as if something was happening that I wasn't sure I liked.
Amanda shook hands with him again. "How long will you
be in town, Professor?" she asked.
"Call me Stew," he replied. "I'll be here for
"Well, maybe we'll meet again," she said.
He smiled broadly. "I certainly hope so."
Stew seemed to have forgotten his need for coffee. He just
drifted back into Cathy's room looking even more abstracted
than before. Amanda and I headed out together. She seemed
about to burst but said nothing as long as we were in the
No sooner had we gotten into her car though when she started
to laugh. "Okay, Lisa. What's up?" she demanded.
"What were you, that guy, and old Anita Carswell doing
meeting in the obstetrics unit?"
"It's a long story," I replied.
"You talk. I'll drive," Amanda said and pulled out
of the parking lot.
time she dropped me at the bank, Amanda had extracted every
bit of information I had about Stew Klein. It was clear that
she found him interesting. I thought she liked him, but she
denied it and to allay my suspicions, she poked fun at his
looks. Even though I agreed that Stew was not exactly handsome,
her mockery made me uncomfortable. I remembered the line about
the lady protesting too much and thought that was probably
true of Amanda, but she denied it. "He looks like a ventriloquist's
dummy," she said, laughing. "His only real redeeming
feature is his voice. And my, what a voice it is! But a math
teacher?" She shook her head.
"Not just a math teacher," I said. "A professor."
"Makes no difference to me. A nerd is a nerd."
It was true, Stew was nerdy. And Amanda hadn't even seen him
babbling away to himself and falling over the leg of his chair.
But she was wrong: his voice was not his only redeeming feature.
He had a great smile, beautiful eyes, and a firm handshake.
And he was kind, which certainly has to count for something.
How many other guys in his position would have taken Cathy
Amanda was suspicious about his relationship to Cathy.
"Take it from me, Lisa. There's more there than meets
I shook my head. "I think that what you see is what you
She shook hers in turn. "A single guy who takes in a
pregnant young woman has intentions of some kind, and they're
probably not good," she insisted. "Either that or
he's completely unworldly."
I didn't know. It seemed like the label unworldly fit Stew
pretty well, but I didn't argue with her.
"Jason and Diana will be getting in tomorrow," she
said, as she pulled up to the bank. "I know he'll want
to see you."
I shrugged. "He knows my number," I replied, and
after thanking her for the ride, I went back to work.
When my shift at the bank was over, I ran into an classmate
from high school who walked over to Hightower's with me.
"I heard that guy Jason, the track star, is coming back
home soon," she said as soon as we'd finished catching
each other up on our lives. "Someone told me he's bringing
a new girlfriend with him."
"You used to go out with him, didn't you?" she pressed
"I used to," I replied. "But then he went off
She nodded. "Well, I wish the guy I used to date had
gone off somewhere instead of staying here to bug me."
"You used to go out with the football player. What's
his name? Lawrence something or other. Ambler," I announced,
surprised at my ability to pull the name out of my memory.
"Lumbering Larry, the offensive tackle."
She sighed. "Offensive is right. I can't get rid of him."
"He's at State, isn't he?"
She nodded. "And that's too close for comfort. I really
need some space to think about my future, but all he wants
is a commitment from me." She laughed. "Isn't that
funny? It's supposed to be the guys who are shy about commitment,
I shrugged and said good-bye. My shift at the drugstore was
due to begin in three minutes.