She went downstairs and prepared breakfast. Although the smell of it made her feel like she had to empty her stomach.
“Alissa, I don’t have time for breakfast this morning. The hospital called, and they need me in surgery for an urgent case. I should still be back in time to take everyone to the beach.”
He studied her face for a few moments. She was a little pale. She wasn’t taking care of herself.
“Sweetheart, you didn’t have to leave last night. That’s your bed too. Are you feeling alright?”
Dale wanted to say more, but he had to get to the hospital. Although he was upset with Alissa for allowing her mother and sister to walk all over her, he was determined not to let them cause a rift between him and Alissa.
“I love you, Baby! Don’t overdo it this morning and try to get some rest. I’ve gotta get to the hospital!” He rushed out the door.
Dale never ceased to amaze Alissa. Despite everything, he was still loving and considerate of her.
“Sharlee, I’m going out with Crystal this morning. Do you want to stay here with the babysitter or would you like to go over to Dana’s? Her mother said that she is taking the day off since Dana is out of school.” Lala owned the local bookstore and coffee shop.
“Okay. I’ll drop you off. Daddy or I will pick you up before we go to the beach!”
She finished dressing. By this time, she hoped Crystal would be up and ready. After the night that Crystal and Devra had, Alissa had let her sleep as late as possible. She knocked at Crystal’s bedroom door.
When Alissa entered the room, she was disappointed to see that Crystal wasn’t dressed. She pulled a chair over to the bed.
“Did you forget about our plans for today?”
“You mean, your plans? I know the real reason why you want to take me shopping. You want me to dress like a mini you!”
“Crystal, I’m our mother’s daughter too! I know that she taught you that everyone is out to get you and that you have to get them first. I hadn’t realized until after I met Dale, how much her beliefs had affected my own.” She paused, debating what to tell her.
Then she continued, “Did you know that Dale is not Sharlee’s natural father?”
“No, I didn’t know that!”
Alissa gave her a brief version of what had happened. “When I was sixteen, I left the foster program and became an emancipated minor. I moved to Bridgeport to live on my own. Sharlee’s father was my boyfriend. After I became pregnant, he didn’t want anything to do with me. Dale was working at the local hospital. He found out that I was seventeen, pregnant and had no one. He started helping me by anonymously putting money into my checking account. He didn’t even know me, Crystal!”
Even thinking about it now, Alissa was amazed at how unselfish and compassionate Dale was with her then and even now!
“He never sought me out. I found him! He would have just continued helping me anonymously. After we became friends, he was there with me throughout my pregnancy. He gave me a place to live and never asked for anything in return. From the moment that Sharlee was born, he has loved her and cared for her. I don’t know any other man who would allow you and Devra to live under his roof with the disrespect you both have shown. Dale has done that because for some reason, he really, really loves me!”
Crystal didn’t say anything.
“Do you understand what I’m saying Crystal? Yes, it’s true that there are people who are always trying to take whatever they can from you, but there are also unselfish, loving people like Dale who want only the best for you. His family is the same way! My father is the same way! I want to be that way too! You can set your own goals for yourself! You can decide for yourself what kind of person you want to be!“
“You know what Alissa, I have decided who I want to be! I like my life! I don’t want to be like you, always trying to conform to the rules. Always trying to fit into society’s mold. I like getting high and partying!”
“No. I haven’t.”
“Well, she intended that when I was older I would go with her on a few and then start going out on my own. You are the same age at which she said that I would begin. Although, I was a bit more mature physically than you are. However, I bet it won’t be much longer for you! Devra is getting older, and I’m sure that she has plans for you too!”
She stretched out on the bed and closed her eyes.
Alissa left the room. She pushed the irritation she had felt at her sister’s response aside. Winning her sister over was proving to be even more difficult than she expected. She called and cancelled the babysitter. She decided to follow Dale’s suggestion and just relax until he came back home.
“Sharlee, I’m not going out after all. Do you still want to go to Dana’s?”
She knew that Dale had had his fill of them. If she were honest with herself, she had also. She didn’t fully understand her own feelings. They were mixed. However, she knew the guilt she would feel if something happened to her sister, and she had not done all she could to help Crystal change her life.
“Don’t say anything, Alissa. There’s no point.”
“Let’s just walk a little bit. We can keep the kids in sight.”
They walked along the beach and then stopped a short distance away. Alissa draped her body around Dale’s and held onto him tightly. They stood quietly for a few minutes enjoying being alone together in the sun with the soothing sounds of the ocean.
“You ruined my sandcastle!”
Crystal looked at her mother for a few moments and then she apologized.
“Who would like to play beach ball with me?”
Alissa was tired and not feeling very well again. She didn’t say anything though because she didn’t want to ruin the rest of the day for everyone else. She knew that Dale would insist that they go home if he knew how she was feeling.
“I’ll play for a while.”
“So will I!” Crystal chimed in.
The argument had awakened the twins, and Dale grabbed their swings from the car. It was a shame that they could not trust their grandmother to watch them! Cara fell asleep again while Shawn giggled. They loved their swings.
“That’s it for me!”
Alissa and Crystal both laughed at him!
“Because, I think that Alissa is nearing her limit! I’m not ready to leave yet. Tomorrow, I’m meeting with those two guys who came to the party. I’ll know what we’re going to do after that! So you behave yourself!”
Afterwards, he returned to the master bedroom and saw that Alissa was still sleeping. He didn’t want to disturb her, and so he quietly changed for bed. Then he laid close to her and held her as she slept.