"Did you say Firesong?" Kurt sat down on the couch facing Joan.
"They're a band that basically operates out of Tabor Christian," Nikki said, moving over to join him on the couch, with her companion dog, Gray, settling down immediately at her feet.
"I know who they are." Kurt shook his head, grinning, feeling a little blindsided. "My cousin, Katie, is engaged to one of the guys in the band."
"That's right -- Katie Green." Nikki laughed. "We were in school together. So Katie and Andy finally got together. I wonder if Dani arranged it."
"Dani is the drummer?" Joan said.
"Dani is Andy's sister, and the other three guys in the band are their cousins." Nikki scooted off the couch and darted into the next room.
"I take it this is turning into old home week," Joan said.
"Yeah, and nobody warned me when I walked through the door this morning." Kurt chuckled and settled back, stretching out his legs. He flinched when Gray let out a rumbling woof, and shifted his legs a good foot away from the dog.
Joan snickered. "He won't bite you."
"Our dogs are trained not to take food from anyone but their assigned persons."
"Thanks very much." Kurt made a face at her, which just made Joan laugh louder. He decided he was saved when Nikki ran back into the room. She tossed a CD to him before settling down on the couch again. "Firesong, huh? How come Katie hasn't sent me any CDs?"
"Don't ask me, ask her. Just how much contact do you have with people back home?" Nikki said. She nodded, rolling her eyes, when Kurt decided it was wiser not to answer and stayed silent.
The truth was that he got most of his news about his relatives in Tabor through the grapevine, meaning his parents told him what news they picked up in letters and phone calls. Kurt had only made contact via email and phone in the last few weeks when he learned he was being sent to Northeast Ohio as part of the crusade preparation team. Allen Michaels was holding a week-long crusade at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in August.
Kurt turned the CD over and felt a jolt at the image that filled the back. He recognized everybody. Dozens of memories rolled through his mind that hadn't come when he heard the news about Katie being engaged to Andy Paul months ago. He remembered taking an inflatable kayak down the Rocky River with the three Gibson brothers, in the middle of a torrential downpour. He remembered playing basketball in the church parking lot with Andy. He remembered Sunday school picnics and being deathly bored in youth group meetings. Most of all, as he stared at Dani Paul with her big, dark eyes and waist-length waterfall of dark hair, he remembered tormenting her with water balloons and reading her diary out loud -- the diary easily stolen when she had a sleepover with Katie while he was living with his relatives.
If Dani had just ignored him or expressed the usual scorn that Katie and other girls threw his way when he had been an arrogant snot, he would have forgotten about her and left her alone after a few sallies. Dani, however, got his attention and kept it, because she was disgusted with him, personally. She despised him, and it took him until he passed through his rebellious, backsliding phase before he realized why.
She expected better of him. She had decided he was supposed to be a better person, and he owed it to everyone around him to be that better person -- and she wouldn't cut him any slack, even if he was acting like any normal, hormone-rattled, ego-centric teen boy.
Kurt hadn't forgotten Dani Paul, even if he hadn't consciously thought about her in years.
He wondered if she ever thought about him.