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SPEAK UP!Morgan Love Series Book 2
By Stephanie Perry Moore
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2011 Stephanie Perry Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAll Better
"Where are you going? I just know you don't think you're going with us, Morgan." My new cousin Drake, who was my stepdaddy's nephew, was acting like I had the plague or something.
Placing my hands on my hips, I said back with attitude, "Yes, I'm going. That's why I'm getting my coat. Can you tell Daddy Derek to hold on a second, please?"
Since it was December, I also needed to grab my gloves and hat to keep warm. Just as I was heading quickly to my room, I felt somebody behind me stepping on my heel. I knew it was that rude Drake, and he didn't even say that he was sorry.
"No. I won't tell him that," Drake said, as he continued to follow me.
"Ouch!" I yelled out. I turned to face him after he stepped on my heel a second time. "What's your problem?"
Drake jumped in front of me so I couldn't move. "You need to stay home. Okay? This is a time for me and my uncle to spend together. It's called 'man time.' We're going to the hardware store to get some paint, and that's not a place for girls. Just stay here and wait for my sisters to wake up. Maybe y'all can bake cupcakes, or Christmas cookies, or something."
"He doesn't even know what color I want for my room, Drake. Get out of my way because I'm going," I told him, as I pushed him to the side and went into my room.
"Ugh! You're always ruining stuff," Drake huffed, as he came into my room uninvited.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
I was in shock. I couldn't believe it. Of all people, Drake was the one to talk about me messing up something? This was my first Christmas with my new brother and my new stepdad in our new house. And, because of him and his sisters, we weren't alone. My new cousins were staying with us, and they were crowding my space.
Drake, who was two years older than me, was a pain worse than a loose tooth being pulled out. Samantha, who liked to be called Sam, was ten. She thought she was the next Teen Miss America. At first I used to admire how cute she always looked. But when she started taking up extra time in the bathroom every day, her primping was not cool. Sadie was a year older than me and we got along just fine. The only thing was, she liked playing with dolls all the time. There were more things that I wanted to do, that I wanted to try, and that I wanted to learn.
"Just forget about tagging along, I told you. He knows what color pink to get for your room. Your mom wrote it all down. Now we're ready to go and we figured out everything last night when we talked about our 'man plan' for today. You were nowhere in it, Morgan. Stay home!" Drake headed out of my room and slammed the door.
I backed into my bed and sat on it. My feelings at the time told me to put both of my hands under my chin and pout. I wanted to cry, but because I was a big girl, I decided not to.
I couldn't do anything. I sure was mad at the fact that Drake was going with Daddy Derek and I wasn't. At Thanksgiving dinner, Drake had been feeling insecure about not having his uncle in his life the way he wanted now that Daddy Derek had a new family. So I was the one who went out of my way to make Drake feel special.
And now that I wanted to be included in what they were doing, he didn't want me to be. And that wasn't fair. It wasn't really okay, but I had to tell myself that so the tears wouldn't come. I was holding them back pretty hard.
* * *
The only thing I could do was wait until Daddy Derek came back. Then we could have some special time of our own. Now, three hours had passed and I was becoming impatient. I mean, what did they have to do, mix the paint too? Did they get lost trying to find the paint store?
Fifteen minutes later, I learned that wasn't the case because the two of them walked into the house with smiling faces. They had bags filled with items to do work in the yard and the house, along with tons of paint.
Daddy Derek called me over to see the paint sample for my room. When I saw the pretty shade of pink he bought, my mouth stretched with excitement from ear to ear. But then my smile quickly dropped when I wondered if I were going to be able to help paint it. If not, I wouldn't enjoy my room as much.
I followed Daddy Derek outside. "I can help you guys."
"Thank you, sweetheart, but I don't want you to have to do any heavy lifting. Drake and I can handle it. You go on back inside and help your mom," Daddy Derek said, patting me on the head.
Drake looked over at me and stuck out his tongue. I wanted to yank it, but I just walked back into the house. I thought about my dad, my real dad, who was serving our country in the U.S. Navy off the coast of Africa. I missed him so much, and I knew that if he were here, then he would let me help. Daddy always told me that girls could do anything guys can do. There were women serving in the Navy with him.
What did Daddy Derek think would happen? That I would break a nail or something? I was strong and just needed a way to prove it.
Throughout the day, I was told no every time I wanted to help. I couldn't help put up the fence. I couldn't help spread the pine straw. I couldn't help plant the flowers. I couldn't help organize the shelves in the garage. I couldn't help. I couldn't help. I couldn't help! What was the big deal? I wasn't going to get hurt or anything.
Pretty soon I got tired of trying and just gave up. The minute I walked in the house, Mom sent me right back out to get the mail.
Walking past the guys, I saw they were sweating from head to toe from all the hard work they were doing. Daddy Derek looked at me and said, "Hey, Morgan. I know you're glad you're not out here working this hard." I just stared at him.
"Uncle Derek, I'm thirsty," Drake said.
"Morgan, can you go and grab us a couple bottles of water?" Daddy Derek said to me, as if all I was good for was being the maid.
I ran to the mailbox to get the mail and went back inside. Mom was tending to Jayden so I laid the mail on the table beside her. Then I went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator to grab the two waters. Running back outside, I handed one to Daddy Derek. I really wanted to throw Drake's water at his head because he had a smirk on his face. He was probably thinking that since I was a girl I had to be his servant, but I gave him the water anyway. It just made me so mad. I walked away feeling worse than a kid nobody wants on their team.
Later that night at dinner, I said nothing. My parents and cousins were talking so much they didn't need to hear my voice anyway. As soon as I was done eating, I asked to be excused from the table. Mom had taught me good manners so I asked if I could leave the table instead of just getting up and walking away.
A few minutes went by and Mom came up to my room. She looked at the finished walls and said, "Morgan, the paint smell is too strong. You don't need to sleep in here tonight. Your room looks great, though. Do you like it? I think it's a bold pink, but it's cute."
In an uninterested way, I said, "It's okay, Mom."
"Okay? Morgan you've been wanting this color for weeks. What's wrong? I know it's a lot having three extra kids around your age in the house, but it'll work out."
"I know, Mom. Their mother is a single parent, and she wanted to get away for the holidays. I understand that our present to her is to keep her kids. I'm fine with it and that's not what's bothering me."
"Well, what is bothering you?" she asked, stepping closer to me.
I stepped away from her. She was my mom and parents were supposed to know all about their kids—forward and backward. She must have seen me all day asking to help Daddy Derek and Drake. A part of me thought she'd tell Daddy Derek to let me help. But she didn't. And because I didn't wanna cause any friction between them, I just told her what she wanted to hear.
I said it again. "I'm okay, Mom. Just tired. Everything is cool." I said it, knowing deep in my heart it wasn't true.
* * *
The neighborhood we moved into was new and we were the first family to stay there. When we saw a moving truck parked outside, we got excited at the thought of new neighbors. My mom was thrilled to think she might find a new buddy and I was hoping they had kids my age. She had told me not too long ago that the recession was turning around and more people were starting to buy new homes.
When Mom and Daddy Derek went down the street to greet the family, Sadie turned to me and said, "I guess you're bummed out, huh?"
"Why do you say that?"
"I know you were hoping for them to have daughters but they've got boys." She twisted her face as if boys had diseases.
I really just wanted them to have kids, period. I didn't need any other girlfriends because I had Brooke and Chanté at school and Sadie and Sam at home. I did want to have some adventure and play outside more. Sometimes girls don't want to play rough. I don't mean wrestling or anything like that. Just somebody to play a game of kickball with or go bike riding with. When I saw the two boys running around with a soccer ball, I wanted to go over even more.
"Let's go and meet them," I said.
Sam said, "You guys can go on. I need to curl my hair."
"But Mom said you're not supposed to curl your hair, Sam," Sadie said.
"Well, Mom's not here, is she?" Sam snapped back at her younger sister.
Drake, Sadie, and I walked a couple of houses down to meet the new neighbors.
"Oh, and here comes our crew now," I heard Daddy Derek say. "This is our daughter, Morgan, and our niece and nephew, Drake and Sadie. Where's Sam?"
"Don't ask," Sadie said, rolling her eyes.
Daddy Derek laughed. "We have an older niece too, Samantha. Guys, meet the London family." Pointing at the boys, he said, "These are their sons, Antoine and Alec. You all should stay out here and play for a while."
"Yeah, but not too much longer. I'm sure they need their boys to help them move some things around," Mom added.
"I don't mind helping," I said before Daddy Derek cut in.
"Morgan, I'm sure they've got it. You just play for a while and get to know each other a bit."
I don't think he knew how much that comment hurt my feelings. Why did he think I couldn't do anything?
"Can y'all play dodge ball?" the older boy asked.
"Yeah," Drake, Sadie, and I all answered at once.
"Well, it was nice meeting you folks. We should get together soon," Mom said. Then all the grownups left us alone.
All of a sudden, the two boys, who seemed nice when their parents were around, turned into animals. Antoine picked up the ball and threw it hard at Drake's head.
"Ow! We're not even ready yet," Drake said.
Antoine yelled, "Ah, come on! What are you, a wimp or something? I know that didn't hurt."
"No, it didn't hurt," Drake said, rubbing the side of his head. "I just wasn't ready. That's all."
When Sadie saw Alec and Antoine jumping up and down like they couldn't wait to hit us even harder with the ball, she said, "I don't wanna play this game. You guys play too rough."
"Let's play! If you can't stand the heat then you better get out of the game," Antoine called out.
Sadie sat on the curbside and started cheering us on. I was ready to take them on and was dodging all of their balls. It was easy enough because it didn't seem like they were throwing them at me too hard. But they were trying to hurt Drake for real.
Then, Alec threw the ball at Drake's face and hit him in the eye. He yelled, "Touchdown!" as Drake stumbled and fell to the ground.
"Wait a minute. We're not playing football," I said to Alec.
Antoine said, "Y'all are playing whatever we wanna play. I told you if you couldn't stand it, then get out of the game. You decided to stay in, so deal with it."
"I'm not dealing with nothin'," Drake said, as he tried to get up. But Antoine pressed his foot down hard on Drake's chest.
I was really getting mad at my cousin. He was the one who kept saying girls couldn't do this and girls couldn't do that. But now he had his hands full because he had run into some really bad boys. It wasn't fight how rough they were playing. And I knew I should help my cousin out and not let them mess with Drake.
"Get your foot off him!" I yelled.
"Man, you've gotta have that little girl take up for you because you can't take up for yourself. I told you, Alec, before he walked over here, that he was a girl," Antoine teased.
"For your information—" I started to say before Drake grabbed me.
He'd had enough and was pulling me toward the house. "Stop! I'm talking to them. I don't need you to defend me. Okay?" he said.
"I'm trying to help you. I'm going right in there and telling my mom," I said.
"No, you're not," Drake said, as he stood in front of me and looked at me with a very mean face. "Did you hear what those guys just said to me? They called me a girl. Man! I didn't even wanna come here for Christmas anyway."
I watched Drake walk faster. And even after how he treated me, I was sorry he felt so bad. Maybe ! shouldn't have said anything to help him. I really didn't know how to make it all better, but what I tried to do wasn't helping.
* * *
"Morgan, we thought you wouldn't ever want to come back over here. With all those kids and the loads of fun you're having at your house," Papa joked, "I just knew you'd forgotten about your old grandpa."
He didn't know how happy I was to be spending the day with my grandparents on Christmas Eve. I bet it did seem like fun to have three other kids in the house, but that was far from the truth.
Sam didn't wanna play at all. She just primped in front of the mirror all day long like her beauty was going to change any second. Every chance she got she was worrying about her long, black hair and making sure that her lip gloss was shiny enough.
Drake didn't wanna play with me, thinking it would make him look bad. He was still upset about what happened with the new boys down the street, so he just played alone. Sadie and I could talk about a lot of things, but I was tired of making the Barbie dolls talk. I was tired of playing house. Sadie loved helping my mom with baby Jayden, and my mom liked having a helper who was enthusiastic.
Every time Mama and Papa asked if I could come over, my mom would tell them I had company. Finally, after begging her to take me over to see my grandparents, she finally dropped me off. Mom could tell I needed the break, but I couldn't stay overnight. Though my visit was only for the day, it was still fun for me. Mama and Papa were like my best buddies, and I had missed them.
"Your mom will be here to get you soon, young lady."
Papa was pleased that we had done a lot together and asked me, "Did you enjoy going to the movies and shopping at the mall? Did you have fun playing board games?" He really made me feel good, knowing all the things that I liked to do. "Anything for my baby girl," he said.
"Papa, can you call my mom and tell her I don't wanna go home?"
Mama had been listening, but when she heard me say that, she slid over next to me. Putting her arm around my neck, she said, "Okay. You don't wanna go home and this is Christmas Eve. Why? What's going on?"
I didn't say anything. "Is anybody hurting you, Morgan?" Papa said, looking concerned.
I knew I had to speak up then because he was ready to grab his coat and keys to head over there. "No, I'm okay. I'm fine."
"That's not an 'I'm fine' sound," Mama replied. "How about I bake some cookies before your mom comes and we can talk about it?"
"Okay," I said in a sad tone, like I'd lost my favorite toy.
Mama was a really good cook and her desserts were the best. Soon I had some delicious warm cookies set on a plate in front of me. My eyes grew big when I saw the shapes of Christmas trees, reindeer, and crosses, all dazzled with red and green colored sprinkles. Mama knew just how to get me to open up.
"Tell us, Morgan. You know we can talk about anything. It must be rough with all those kids over there. Are they getting in your way? Are they bullying you? What's wrong, baby?"
"Oh," I huffed. "It's just ..."
Excerpted from SPEAK UP! by Stephanie Perry Moore Copyright © 2011 by Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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