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|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
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By Karen Kingsbury
ZondervanCopyright © 2007 Karen Kingsbury
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTwo Years Later
Sometimes Cory Briggs took the long way home, pedaling as fast as he could so Megan wouldn't worry about him. Because Megan said eight-year-old boys should come straight home from soccer practice, especially on late afternoons. San Francisco was the sort of city where it was best if you were in by dark.
But that early August day, Cory did it again. He slipped his backpack onto his shoulders, left the soccer field at McKinley Elementary, and rode his bike up the hill and a few blocks out of the way, to Duboce Park. He would make up time on the downhill, so he stopped just outside the fenced-in play area and stared.
Shadows made it hard to see the bench, the one where he and his mom used to sit. But Cory shaded his eyes with his hand and squinted, and suddenly there it was. The same bench, same brown wooden slats, same way it looked back when he was a first grader, back when they came here every afternoon. He didn't blink, didn't break the lock he had on the bench, and after a minute he could hear her again, her happy voice telling him everything would be okay.
"God has good plans for us, Cory." She would kiss his cheek and smile at him. But her eyes weren't always happy, even when she smiled. "We'll find our way out together."
He remembered her still. He blinked now because he didn't want to cry. A bit of wind blew against his back, and Cory squinted against the tears. The day was hot, but already the bay breeze was cooling it off, which meant it was time to go. He climbed back up onto his seat and looked at the bench one more time. His mom was buried in Oakland somewhere. Megan took him once in a while, but Oakland was far away. When he needed to see her one more time, when he wanted to hear her voice, he came here.
"Take good care of her, God," he whispered. Then without another look back, he set off along the sidewalk pedaling hard as he could, turning down Delores to Seventeenth, and the third story apartment where he and Megan lived.
Cory knew the streets between his school and his apartment. He even knew the way to Monster Park, where the 49ers played. But Megan would never let him ride his bike all the way to the stadium. That was okay. It was enough just knowing it was close. Because once a year he and the kids from his neighborhood entered a drawing for tickets to a game, and this year ... this year he was going to win.
He focused on the ride. He knew which alleys to stay away from, and which areas had gang members standing around. He took the streets with the least traffic lights, because that was smarter. He had to stop for only three before he reached their building, jumped off his bike, and walked it through the doorway.
Bikes were allowed in the elevator if they fit, and his did. At the third floor he stepped off and already he could hear it. The sound of happiness. Laughing and loud voices coming from the Florentinos' apartment. He walked past two doors and stopped. The smell of spaghetti and garlic bread slipped beneath the door and filled the hallway. Sometimes, when Megan had to work late, he would knock on the Florentinos' door and they'd invite him in for dinner.
They had seven kids, but Mrs. Florentino said she always had an extra plate.
Cory raised his hand to knock, because Megan might not be home yet. Then he remembered. She'd made a Crock-Pot dinner this morning because she got paid first of the month. He walked his bike to the end of the hall to No. 312. The newspaper was there, opened, and a little scattered. The Florentinos got the paper every day, and after they read it, they set it outside his and Megan's door. Megan might deliver the paper, but that didn't mean she could take a copy free. That's what she said.
So instead, Mrs. Florentino brought over hers, and that way Cory could read about the 49ers. Especially now, in the preseason.
He used his key and walked into their apartment. Then he set down his backpack and the paper, walked across the room, and opened the front window. Nothing but alleys and winos below, but Cory loved having it open. A little bit of summer came in with the breeze.
Oreo, the cat, rubbed against his ankle.
"Hi, boy." Cory bent down and rubbed his fur. He was black and white with a lot of gray around the whiskers. Some days he was Cory's best friend. Cory straightened and looked around. The apartment was small, but it was clean. Megan liked clean. And almost every day she left a snack for him. Cory went to the table, and there on a napkin, were two chocolate chip cookies and an empty glass.
"So you'll remember to drink your milk," Megan always told him.
At the other end of the table was the Scrabble box. Each day was a different game. Sometimes Yahtzee or a deck of cards or Memory. But Scrabble was their favorite. They'd eat dinner first and then they'd play a game before homework. Megan was nice that way. Plus, the TV only got four channels clear. So board games were good.
Cory poured himself a glass of milk and sat at the table. The cookies weren't warm, of course, but they tasted like smooth vanilla and Hershey bars. Because that's how Megan made them. Which was nice because Megan didn't have much time. Early mornings, before he was awake, she delivered the Chronicle, and after that, she worked all day at Bob's Diner downtown. Two jobs because she said that's what it took to keep food on the table.
There was the sound of a key in the door and then it opened.
"Cory!" Megan stepped inside. She had a grocery bag in her hands and her cheeks were red, the way they got when she walked fast. She held up the bag. "Fudge brownie ice cream."
"The best!" Cory stood and ran to her and hugged her tight. When he'd first come to live with Megan, he didn't like to hug her because she wasn't his mom. But she was his mom's friend. And after two years, hugging her was almost as good as it used to feel to hug his mom. Plus, Megan liked the 49ers. So that made her and the apartment feel like home. Especially during football season.
Cory took the grocery bag. "Thanks." He grinned at her. "The Crock-Pot smells good."
"Not as good as Mrs. Florentino's dinner, but ..." She grinned. "It's the best we can do."
He helped put the ice cream in the freezer, and he held the door shut extra long because it didn't stay closed that good.
"Salad?" He opened the fridge and looked at her.
"Of course." She lifted the lid on the Crock-Pot. "Always salad."
He took out the head of lettuce and a worn-out knife from the drawer. If he had money of his own, he'd buy Megan some new knives. Forks too. And maybe a warmer sweater for the days she had to walk fast after dark.
They worked together, and Cory smiled to himself. It felt nice having Megan there. When they were sitting at the table eating the Crock-Pot dinner, Cory watched her a couple times when she wasn't looking. She was pretty, and she loved him like he was her own. That's what she said. And maybe she could keep him for good if the court hearings went okay. So far Megan said it was nothing but red tape and the runaround.
Whatever that meant.
Megan put her fork down. "I talked to the social worker again." A half smile lifted her lips. "I told her I want to adopt you, Cory."
He finished chewing a bite of potato. "What'd she say?"
"She said"-Megan raised one eyebrow and looked straight at him-"you told her the same thing. About having a dad."
Cory shrugged. "Yeah." He studied the pieces of meat still on his plate. Then he looked into her eyes. "Everyone has a dad."
She gave him a look that said no-funny-business-mister. "You know what I mean." A sad breath came from her. "If you tell her your dad's in the picture, we'll need his signature. I can't adopt you until he says so."
"Right." Cory checked his dinner again. He poked his fork around and pushed the carrots to one side. "If we get his signature ... I can meet him."
Megan waited for a second. Then she breathed long and loud and looked at her plate. "Let's talk about something else."
They talked about soccer practice and the other guys on the team and about her work at the restaurant, because she had a rich guy come in today, a big baldy, who left her a twenty-dollar tip.
"That's why the ice cream!" Cory raised his fork in the air.
After dinner, they played Scrabble, but Cory couldn't think about big words. Some turns he couldn't think about any words at all. He wanted to read the newspaper, the sports section. Because the 49ers were getting ready for the season and he didn't want to miss a single story.
Megan won with the word zebras, and Cory hugged her. "Good job." He took a few steps back. "I'm gonna read the paper."
"How about the dishes first?" Megan had dark hair, and she tossed it over her shoulder when she stood up. It was easy to think of her as older, sort of his mom's age. Maybe twenty-nine or thirty. But she was twenty-five. Megan said that wasn't exactly young and that she had an old soul.
The two of them washed dishes, him scrubbing the plates and Megan rinsing. When they were finally done, he grabbed the paper and ran it to the couch. He was halfway through the sports section when he saw it. The headline read, "Derrick Anderson Hosts Pizza Party at Youth Center."
Cory raced through the short story. It talked about how Derrick Anderson loved foster kids, and that he was having a pizza party on Friday night at the youth center. All foster kids and their parents were invited. "No way!" Cory shouted. "Megan, look at this!"
She was washing off the counter and made a little laugh. "Must be big. Read it to me."
"It is big!" He read her the story, every line, and then he let the paper fall to the floor and he ran to her. "Please, Megan. I could meet Derrick Anderson! He's the backup quarterback for the 49ers, the famous one who used to play for the Bears. Remember him?"
"The whole world knows Derrick Anderson." She did a sad sort of smile. "Well, they used to know him. Back in his prime."
"What?" Cory jumped around. "He's still in his prime, Megan! He's thirty-nine, and he's still one of the best quarterbacks in the league." He jumped some more. "I can't believe we can meet him." He stopped, his eyes wide. "We can, right? Can we? Please, Megan?"
Her eyes twinkled. "Are you kidding?" She messed her fingers through his hair. "That's the best Friday night offer I've had for a year, at least."
"Did you know about this, the pizza night?" Cory blinked at her. Megan volunteered at the youth center three times a week. She should've heard about this long before the newspaper.
Her eyes danced. "I had an idea. But I wanted to be sure before I told you. The 49ers' front office set it up. I guess the team wants to do whatever it can for the city. With all the talk about building a new stadium thirty miles south in Santa Clara."
"Yeah." Cory didn't like thinking about a new stadium. The 49ers had played at the same place since 1971. They were the best pro sports franchise in the state. Anyone knew that. Plus, Megan said if the mayor convinced the 49ers to stay in the city, they were going to build a bunch of new houses and stuff. Cory and Megan would have to move for sure. He blinked and tried to forget about the whole stadium thing. "Besides, Derrick's doing the pizza party for a different reason."
"Oh, really?" Megan gave him a half smile.
"Yeah, because he likes foster kids. And that's all."
Megan tilted her head, and her eyes said she was done teasing. "I think you're right."
"So"-he felt his heart dance around inside him-"We're going?"
A laugh came from Megan. "Definitely."
He grinned and held out his hand, official-like. "Okay, then. It's a date."
"Date." She shook his fingers, and then she laughed and went back to wiping the counter.
Cory picked up the paper again and stacked it on the sofa. Friday was only four days away. Which meant it wasn't too soon to do what he'd done a hundred times before. He ran to his room, pulled a box out from beneath the bunk bed, and grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil. He took out a dictionary to use for his table, and he started to write.
Every other time he'd done this, he never actually gave the letter away. Because when his mom was alive, she told him he couldn't just send it off without knowing where it would go, or if it would even be opened. So usually, he wrote the letter and threw it away. Or tucked it into his box, or his backpack. In case he ever ran into the guy at the park or something.
But this ... this was the most exciting thing to ever happen, because Derrick Anderson could deliver his letter, Cory was sure. And maybe these were the good plans from God his mother had always told him about.
Cory thought for a long time. He would write the best letter yet, stick it in the nicest envelope, and write across the front. So Derrick would know who to give it to. And Derrick would do it, because he loved foster kids. The Chronicle said so. And the letter was for one of Derrick's teammates, one of the most famous football players in the country. A man Cory prayed every night he might someday meet.
The man was quarterback Aaron Hill, but Cory didn't want to meet him because he was the city's favorite football player. He wanted to meet him for a different reason.
Because Aaron Hill was his dad.
Excerpted from Between Sundays by Karen Kingsbury Copyright © 2007 by Karen Kingsbury. Excerpted by permission.
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