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I was brushing my hair before breakfast when I first heard the word. It hung in the air, like a dagger waiting to be hurled.
Tossing my brush onto the bed, I crept into the hallway, listening. Mom was in her bedroom, talking on the phone with Uncle Jack. I bristled when I heard the word again.
"I�m not sure how I feel about it," Mom was saying. "Let�s discuss it with the children first."
I gasped and stepped back into my bedroom, closing the door behind me. Moving! How could we leave the only home I�d ever known? Trembling, I pulled my journal out of the bottom drawer of my desk. I began to write: Tuesday, March 22: News flash�Mom said something horrible today�something about moving!
That was all I could write before my curiosity took over. I poked my head out the door and listened again. Mom was still talking. I headed for her open bedroom door and tapped.
"Come in," she called to me.
Quietly, I curled up on the foot of the bed and waited till she got off the phone. Trying not to eavesdrop, I glanced around the room. Things looked about the same as they had before Thanksgiving Day�nearly four months ago�when Mom had remarried and her new husband, my uncle Jack, and my four cousins had moved in. A gray leather case lay on the left side of the antique pine dresser, and a blue terry bathrobe hung on the hook inside their bathroom. Other than that, the bedroom still had Mom�s feminine stamp on it, with rose-colored bed pillows and lace doilies under the dresser lamps.
Finally Mom said good-bye and beeped off the phone. A worried frown creased her forehead.
"Holly," she said, "I want you to listen before you say anything. Please?"
That�s when she told me about Uncle Jack�s consulting business and how well it was doing. So well, in fact, that he was thinking of opening an office in Denver.
"You mean we�re leaving Dressel Hills?" I blurted.
"Well, it�s a strong possibility." She tied the belt on her pink bathrobe. "But we�ll know for sure on Friday."
"What�s Friday?" I asked.
Mom sighed. "I�ll let Jack explain it to you tonight."
"So my life is being put on hold for three days?" I whined.
"I know this must be disappointing for you, honey." She came over and kissed the top of my head. "Moving, especially to a big city, frightens me, too."
"I�m not scared to move, Mom. I just don�t want to move," I said. "Dressel Hills is my life�yours, too!"
"Moving can be very complicated," she said, staring out the window. She had a faraway look in her eyes, as though she was remembering something painful.
I stood up. "Leaving fourteen years of your life behind�now, that�s complicated. No way am I going to miss the junior high musical. Or summer church camp. Oh, Mom, can�t you do something?"
I didn�t mention my friends Andie and Paula. Or Jared. I couldn�t bear to think of saying good-bye to any of them.
"Nothing�s been decided yet," Mom said, turning around. "That was Jack calling from Denver. He�ll be home tonight. We can talk more about it then."
I knew that Uncle Jack�s consulting business had been taking him to Denver more frequently. And I knew that Mom didn�t especially care for him being gone overnight. But those weren�t good enough reasons to move. Were they?
More than anything I wanted Mom to say this whole moving thing was just talk. Something we would toy with and then discard.
"I�m going to be late for school," I said, scooting off her bed. Of course, I wasn�t, but if I sat around arguing the benefits of staying in Dressel Hills, Colorado, I would be.
Hurrying to my room, I silently prayed that Friday�s phone call�whatever it was�would cancel out this hideous moving talk.
* * *
At school I kept the news quiet. Maybe by not saying anything the move wouldn�t happen. But at suppertime, the reality hit me hard.
Still wearing his dress shirt, Uncle Jack sat at the head of the table. His suit coat and tie hung over the chair behind him. With a hesitant smile, he pushed his apple pie aside and leaned over to open his briefcase. Up he came with a flip chart. Homemade. Then he reached into his shirt pocket and took out two packs of gum, distributing a stick to each of us.
I groaned silently. Bribery. He�d gone to great lengths to make points with us kids. The gum thing was clever, and I could see it already starting to work by the smiles coming from Carrie and Stephie across the table.
Uncle Jack flipped to the first card. "Okay, kids, we need to understand each other." He pointed to a cartoon picture of two big hearts and six little ones, complete with eyes and smiling faces. The girl hearts had long hair and the boy hearts had mustaches. There were mountains in the background. Our mountains.
Stephie and Carrie giggled, but Mom shushed them playfully. Mark and Phil wagged their heads, holding their hands around their faces, imitating the heart faces. Stan and I sat quietly, acting mature and civilized.
Actually, the drawings weren�t half bad. Uncle Jack had always made special homemade cards for Mom when they were dating. "As you can see, this family is full of love for one another," he continued, glancing at Mom.
Phil made gagging sounds while Mark said "Yuck" at least five times. Uncle Jack waited, casting a hard eye on his younger sons. They settled down quickly.
Uncle Jack began again. "For the past few days, I�ve been driving to Denver to handle the new business accounts, and it looks as though I might open an office there." He paused. "The problem is, we have no one to run the Denver office except my partner or me."
I thought about Uncle Jack�s business partner, Mr. Miller. He and Mr. Miller had been business partners in Pennsylvania before they moved to Dressel Hills. It was the Millers who�d suggested that Uncle Jack come here in the first place. They thought it would do him good, starting over in a new place after his wife, my dad�s sister, died of cancer last year. So, from my point of view, it made more sense for Mr. Miller to take the Denver office.
I took a deep breath, scrounging up some courage. "Why can�t Mr. Miller go to Denver?" I asked, suddenly realizing what I�d just said. If he moved, so would Paula and Kayla, his twin daughters and my good friends.
"You�re thinking, Holly, but I�m the one who�s established most of the Denver accounts," Uncle Jack explained. "So it seems that I�m the logical choice."
How could he be so unemotional about this? "Well, why can�t you just get someone else?" I shot back.
Uncle Jack glanced at his flip chart. "We�re trying. But there�s only one other man we would entrust with this position. We�ve offered him the job, but we won�t know his answer until Friday."
My uncle had all the answers, it seemed, but they weren�t good enough for me. I argued, "But you just moved here. Doesn�t that matter?"
Uncle Jack nodded. "Good point, but we never expected our Denver accounts to grow so quickly." He leaned back in his chair. "Sometimes that�s very difficult to predict."
I swallowed hard. "Why�d you choose Dressel Hills in the first place?" It was a two-fold question.
"Now, Holly ..." Mom had picked up my sarcasm instantly. She was glaring at me, her eyes squinting tightly.
Uncle Jack put his hand on Mom�s shoulder. "At first it didn�t matter where we based our company, since we set up computer systems all over the world."
I forced the tears back, slouching down in my chair.
Uncle Jack turned to look at Stan. "How do the rest of you feel?" His eyes scanned the table anxiously. All six kids stared at him, silent.
I couldn�t believe it! He sounded like he was ready to pack up and ship out tomorrow. He didn�t really care what we kids wanted. As far as I could tell, Jack Patterson was a much better uncle than he was a stepdad!
Mom glanced at me. A worried smile flitted across her face. I could tell she was concerned about my feelings.
Stan, Phil, and Mark, my brousins�I called them that because they were really cousins-turned-brothers�continued to eat pie as though moving away was no big deal.
Ten-year-old Phil reached for a glass of milk. "I�m barely unpacked from moving here from Pennsylvania, so no problem," he said. "Denver sounds cool." His face lit up. "Hey, maybe Dad�ll take us to watch the Colorado Rockies play!"
Mark stretched his lips wide with his pointer fingers, wiggling his tongue in and out of his mouth like an anteater. "Are dere juicy ants in Denber?" he blubbered.
"Stop it," I muttered, staring at my ridiculous eight-year-old brousin. Why couldn�t he behave like a normal human being, especially at a time like this?
Uncle Jack ran his fingers through his wavy brown hair. The twinkle was gone from his eyes. "This won�t take long, son," he said, giving Mark another serious look. Then he turned to the second card on his flip chart while I took another bite of dessert.
The next cartoon showed the big heart with the mustache waving good-bye to the other big heart with shoulder-length hair. The Denver skyline was in the distance. Little tears dripped off the mother heart�s face. Six little hearts wore sad faces, too. Stephie was the smallest heart, followed by Mark, Carrie, Phil, me, and finally Stan, my sixteen-year-old brousin.
"Reason number one for moving," Uncle Jack began. "Your mother and I want to be together; we don�t like being apart. We�re newlyweds, after all." He squeezed Mom�s hand.
I waited for Phil to gag and Mark to yuck, but they were busy stuffing their mouths with pie. Instead, seven-year-old Stephie spoke up. "I wanna stay here," she said. "We can�t ride the city buses in Denver for free like Carrie and I do here."
Mom nodded, smiling faintly. "Denver�s too big for little girls to do that by themselves, anyway. But that�s a thought."
I could see Mom was trying to be democratic about this. By now, I didn�t care what anyone was saying or how it was being handled. I just wanted to go to my room. Away from this nightmare of a stepfather.
Carrie, my nine-year-old birth sister, sided with Stephie. "I don�t want to leave Dressel Hills, either," she said. "The ski lifts are only five minutes from our house."
Ever since Mom and Uncle Jack got married, Carrie and Stephie had joined rank�usually against me. This time, though, the three of us were in agreement, but not for the same reasons. Not even close.
There was only one reason I couldn�t begin to say good-bye to Dressel Hills. Only one. This ski town was my life�my entire life.
Fighting back the tears, I pushed my chair away from the table. "Excuse me," I stammered.
Without looking back, I ran from the room.
Good-Bye Dressel Hills (HOLLY'S HEART) by Beverly Lewis
Copyright © 2002, Beverly Lewis
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.