Thursday, October 30, 2014


"Oh, Kat would be with Marco for the rest of her life if it was up to her," Bekka said. "It's Marco. I think he's getting cold feet or the usual guy immaturity panic, and he's been pulling back lately. Missing lunches, forgetting to call when he said he would, things like that."
"Usual panic? Is Shane putting you through that?"
"Shane?" Bekka's smile changed utterly, and Stacy felt a cold, sharp stab of pure jealousy, seeing the security and happiness and the little bit of amazement that always lit Bekka's eyes when she talked about her fiancé. "No. I might expect him to get a little nervous when the date gets closer, but... solid." She sighed and headed for the kitchen. "Very solid."
"Speaking of the date, when are you going to start looking at dresses and menus and all that junk?" She followed her into the little kitchen, where the smells emerging from the oven and the covered pots on the stove were truly amazing, just as Bekka had promised.
"We have the fellowship hall at church and the sanctuary reserved. Late October. Keep your schedule clear, okay? Pastor Dave and Pastor Glenn are sharing the service. We've talked to Mr. Rick at the bakery about the cake. We're just having a punch and cake reception, and Kat's mom said she'd handle the flowers for us. It's January, and we're getting married in October." Bekka shrugged. "Plenty of time."
"But what about the dress? And the invitations. And decorations. And registering for presents and..." Stacy shrugged, lifting her arms wide to encompass all the multitudes of fine details that went into a splendid wedding.
All the things she had planned on helping Dinah with someday, and Dinah helping her with. And all the things Gretchen was taking care of now.
           Suddenly, she wasn't so hungry. The incredible, rich aromas of the dinner waiting to be eaten seemed to choke her and fill her stomach with lead instead of making her feel empty and weak.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


"Did you invite Stacy for dinner?" Mrs. Ashcroft smiled. "I wish I'd thought of that."
"You didn't?" He paused, his hand reaching for the swinging door panel. "Dinah, didn't you say--"
"I think you brought it up, Dad. When we were talking about what time Drake was getting home." Dinah shook her head. "I haven't talked with Stacy since I got home. But I plan on it tonight. Since she's coming to dinner, that sort of solves everything." She smiled and reached for the silverware drawer.
"How do you know she's coming, Dad?" Drake asked. He felt like a slug, just sitting there while his mother and sister worked, but something was off in this whole conversation, something missing, and he had to sit still to focus, or he'd miss it.
"Oh, I mentioned dinner tonight, and her meeting Troy. Where is he, by the way?"
"His plane got delayed again, and he's not arriving until eleven," Dinah said with a sigh. "He called about an hour ago, and we were trying to decide if he should just rent a car and drive the rest of the way. But you invited her for dinner, right?"
"Not exactly, I just assumed..." Mr. Ashcroft's smile faded completely. "I mentioned her coming for dinner, and then Rance Holwood stepped in, and honestly, Stacy never confirmed or denied it."
"Oh, dear," Mrs. Ashcroft said. "That poor girl."
           "What do you mean, poor girl? Stacy's like family. I'm sure she'll understand and laugh. It isn't like we haven't had communications mix-ups before." He stopped halfway through the swinging door and gestured at the telephone. "Call her before she starts making dinner." He winked at his son. "Do I have to think of everything for you people?" With a return of his grin, he headed out the door.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


"So, what did Stacy give you?" Drake asked, when he came downstairs, his head slightly aching from the dregs of his nap and from reading until the light dimmed in his office.
"Stacy?" Dinah paused in chopping celery for the salad.
"Yeah, she dropped off a present this morning. I found it on the back step when I came in." He glanced over at their mother, who had come up from the downstairs pantry with a jar of artichoke hearts and one of olives. "Didn't you tell her?"
"The girls just left, and you can't get in a word edgewise when they're around." Mrs. Ashcroft held out both jars to him.
Drake grinned and stepped over to open the jars.
"Now why would I open a present before the party?" Dinah said. Something in her light tone made him pause in wrestling with the tight lid and really look at her.
"Are you two fighting about something?"
"We'd have to be talking to fight." Dinah lifted the cutting board and scraped the celery off it into the bowl. "She hasn't come by, hasn't called, since I got home."
"Maybe she didn't know when you got home, and she's been waiting for you to call?"
"She has a point, dear," Mrs. Ashcroft said.
"Gretchen left messages for her." Dinah shrugged and reached for the tomato and concentrated on coring it before slicing. Drake knew it didn't take that much effort to take out the area where the stem attached. Something bothered his sister.
         Still, he couldn't help snapping at her. "You left it up to Gretchen to tell Stacy you were home? Mom, what's wrong with this picture?"

Friday, October 24, 2014


"Hey, what's really bothering you?" Bekka asked, looping her arm through Stacy's.
"Huh? No--" Stacy blinked and realized they had walked three whole blocks while her mind was lost in her painful memories.
"You have been alone way too much. Come on home for dinner with us, okay? Kat's having dinner with her folks, so it's just Rene and me. She made all this incredible food because Hannah and Xander were supposed to come over, but Hannah's new niece decided to make an early entrance so they're all camping at the hospital. Shane has a class, so he's not coming over at all. You gotta come." She tugged harder on Stacy's arm, as if she would pull her across the tree lawn and into the street.
"Bully." Stacy managed a credible laugh.
Bekka was right, she decided a moment later. She was alone too much. She skipped too many Singles group activities at church and took more opportunities to put in extra time at work, so she didn't have to go home to her empty house until she was so tired she ate a bowl of soup and went right to bed.
The cure for loneliness, her grandmother had always said, was to find people who were lonely and be their friend. If she felt sorry for herself, she had to find people with worse troubles, and help them.
        Stacy resolved to find more places to volunteer and get involved, and get out of her silent, too-big house. After she spent a fun evening with friends she didn't know nearly as well as she would like.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Stacy looked down the street, blinking away sudden tears as she pretended to check for traffic that was practically non-existent at this time of the day. It was a one-way street and all traffic turned out of the parking lot headed in the other direction. She remembered clearly those silly summer evenings spent scouring different home goods stores with Dinah, looking for the perfect dehydrator for her to take to Virginia with her when she moved for her nursing job. They had made plans for Stacy to come visit in the summer, when BWU shut down for a few weeks between terms. They had made plans for Dinah to come home in the winter and visit the Metroparks toboggan chutes. They had emailed regularly at least once a week for the first three months. Then it was every ten days, then twice a month. Then Drake introduced Dinah to Troy and Stacy had understood completely when her good friend had practically no time for her.
Then Harmony and Susan had cornered her at Heinke's, by the salad bar, and made sure she knew all the sordid details of Gretchen's new PR job which had resulted in her meeting up with Dinah and renewing their friendship. They had a message from Gretchen specifically for Stacy -- a bit of advice: stop pestering Dinah with her pitiful emails. They didn't even make her laugh anymore, although Gretchen found them rather amusing, especially where Stacy asked if she wanted her to send some of her grandmother's lemon mince bars for Christmas, since Dinah couldn't come home for the holidays that year.
That little detail had told Stacy all she needed to know. Dinah and Gretchen were close enough that Dinah let Gretchen read her emails.

Gretchen finally had what she wanted -- she was Dinah Ashcroft's best friend, and Stacy Belmont had finally been discarded, once and for all. It wasn't like it had been in elementary and middle school, when Dinah would drift away for a week or two and then come running back, apologetic over letting Gretchen and her crowd tempt her away. There was more to life than makeup and gossip magazines and boy bands, after all. This time, the change was permanent.

Monday, October 20, 2014


          "Stace?" Bekka Sanderson's voice came as a welcome relief and distraction when Stacy approached the massive arched sandstone entrance of the administration building at quitting time that evening.
Mr. Ashcroft chatted with several men at the landing midway between the first and second floors. His voice was distinctive, especially that rumbling, infectious laughter that hadn't been heard nearly enough since he fell ill last fall. Despite him being busy, Stacy just knew he would see her as she passed by the base of the stairs on her way to the door. There was no other way out of her part of the administration building. The last thing she wanted was for him to call her name -- she would have to stop and wait for him, and then he would link his arm through hers and make her walk out to the car and get in and come home with him, assuming that she was free and planning on coming to a nice, cozy family dinner.
The sad thing was, she was definitely free, but nothing in the world could be more painful than to walk in the door of the Ashcroft house as if nothing had changed. As if she hadn't been ignored by Dinah for the last two years, since she moved to Virginia and Retchin' Gretchen latched onto her to become best buddies. Finally. As if she hadn't lost sight of Drake. As if she hadn't been forgotten like worn out linens since her grandmother died. It was easy to see she had only been included in the Ashcroft family because of her grandmother, and not because they actually wanted her and loved her as if she were one of their own.
"Hey, you okay?" Bekka said, catching hold of Stacy's arm. She glanced up the stairs, where the four men were still chatting, their voices echoing up the massive vaulted entryway to the fourth floor and back down.
           "Huh? Oh -- sorry. Spaced out." Stacy tried to laugh. "Too much time staring at my monitor, I guess. You spend too long untangling coding, you start thinking and seeing codes. What's up?" She stepped out into the entryway, putting Bekka between her and the stairs.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


"What's wrong?" his mother said, coming in with the third and last tray, full of coffee and punch cups. She tipped her head at the bowl of stroganoff, still steaming from a visit to the microwave. By this time, Drake had settled down at the counter on a stool with his food. But he wasn't eating. "You didn't catch something on that drive home, did you?" She immediately stepped up to him and pressed her cool, smooth hand against his forehead.
"I'm fine, Mom." Drake caught hold of her hand when she would have withdrawn it. "Just a lot of memories. I keep wishing Mrs. B was here."
"Oh, so do I. She'd be so delighted with Dinah and Troy. I miss not being able to share the whole celebration with her." His mother settled down on the other stool. "But it's more than missing her funeral, isn't it?"
"There was a present on the back step when I came in. From Stacy."
"Stacy? Now why would she leave it by the back door? And why didn't she come in with it? As far as I know, she still has a key to the house." His mother's frown deepened and she sat back, withdrawing her hand.
"How come Stacy wasn't here, in the middle of things with Dinah?"
"I don't -- I don't know." She shook her head. "It's been such a whirlwind since Dinah got home, I guess I didn't even think about it. I guess I just assumed that she had to work today. And your sister didn't say anything."
"What, Mom?" Drake didn't like that deeper wrinkle in between his mother's eyebrows, that frown and flicker of sadness, maybe even hurt in her crystalline gray eyes, which he had inherited.
"She didn't RSVP for Friday. I expected her to stop by and tell us, but she hasn't called or returned the card from the invitation."
Muffled giggles startled Drake, and he looked up to see Gretchen and another girl who was vaguely familiar, standing in the swinging door from the kitchen.
"You know how that Belmont girl always used to be, when we were kids. So disorganized. She probably lost the invitation or she threw away the RSVP. She probably doesn't even know what RSVP means," Gretchen said. She punctuated that with a toss of her platinum curls as she stepped into the kitchen.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


"Should have said something," Stacy muttered as she checked the coding for the new page in the alumni section of the BWU web site. "Why should I suffer just because Dinah finally gave in and let Retchin' Gretchen brainwash her?"
She smiled at her faint reflection in the monitor, remembering how she and Dinah and Drake had laughed at that nickname. They must have been about twelve, which meant Drake was seventeen. Gretchen had decided that summer that boys weren't disgusting, and when she grew up, her destiny was to marry Drake. She had also decided that she was fat, so she had to start losing weight. Somehow, she got hold of syrup of ipecac and took a dose every time she ate something. The ice cream truck had been a twice-daily fixture on the street that summer, and there were always snacks at summer school and Vacation Bible School and the old youth center, so Gretchen seemed to be always eating. And always puking a short time later. At least, those were Stacy's memories of that summer.
She flinched at the sound of that smooth baritone voice. The Ashcrofts, especially Drake, had been on her mind too much lately -- ever since she heard Mr. Ashcroft tell the chancellor that Drake was coming home for Dinah's wedding reception.
"Stacy, what are you doing here?" Devon Ashcroft stepped around to the side of her desk.
"Hi, Mr. A." Stacy hoped her face only felt hot and didn't look neon red.
"Sweetheart, I thought you'd be over at the house, helping with Dinah's mess." He leaned against her desk, giving her that adorable, slightly fuzzy, warm grin she had loved since she first stepped into the Ashcrofts' home with her grandmother.
"Nope. Gotta work. The Dean wants the new alumni offerings functional by the end of the month." She gestured at her monitor.
"You know, I haven't seen you at all since Dinah got home. Used to be, you girls were thicker than thieves. Drake is due home today -- you'll be there for the family dinner, right? Catch up with Drake and Dinah, and finally meet Troy."
           Stacy thought up a silent, desperate prayer for help. There was no way she wanted to admit to dear, slightly befuddled Mr. Ashcroft that she hadn't talked to Dinah, hadn't seen her except from a distance, hadn't even gotten a text message or voicemail, since his daughter returned to town a week ago.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


 Stacy Belmont's feet were damp and cold for the first two hours of work. Part of that could be blamed on the age of the administration building at BWU -- well past a century, and still relying on steam heat. Those marble floors were gloriously cool in the summer and fought the humidity, but in the winter they made for slippery walking and chilly rooms. Part of her discomfort could be blamed on the fact that she cut through the Ashcrofts' backyard after dropping off her present for Dinah.
It was ridiculous, she knew, to have put the present down and fled. Mrs. Ashcroft would have welcomed her, and she missed seeing the woman, who had been like a mother to her. With Mr. Ashcroft ill over the holidays and Dinah living and working in Norfolk, there had been few holiday celebrations, and she hadn't felt like celebrating or seeing much of anyone, this being the first Christmas without her grandmother. Stacy knew Mrs. Ashcroft would have pulled her into the house and insisted on feeding her.
But she would have either apologized for Dinah not including her in the wedding party, or she would have insisted that Stacy take the day off work and join the crew anyway. Stacy couldn't stand that. She had gone to too many parties in her childhood where she learned after arriving that she had either been invited at the last minute, or had been included on the list as a pity invitation -- the token motherless child, or whichever other detail in her life was uppermost in the mind of the high society matron throwing the party. By the time she was ten, she had learned to discern which birthday girl or slumber party hostess really wanted her there, and which one only invited her because her mother made her do it -- or didn't even know Stacy was on the list. By that time, she had come home with enough headaches and upset stomachs that her grandmother let her refuse the invitations and stay home. Dinah's parties had been the only ones Stacy always went to, because she knew without a doubt Dinah wanted her there.
           But Dinah didn't want her there now.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


 Logic said that if Stacy left the box on the back step, then she wasn't in the group laughing and talking and working in the living room. But that didn't make any sense. Stacy and Dinah were like sisters. They had promised each other since childhood they would be each other's maid of honor.
After thinking a few more moments, Drake tucked the box under his arm, gathered up his briefcase and suitcase, and sidled out of the swinging door from the kitchen. His mother stood in the arched doorway between the dining room and living room -- if he knew her, she did it intentionally, to let him escape sight unseen. He walked slowly, quietly, heading for the wide staircase in the center of the house, and crept upstairs. He stopped on the second floor and left the present in his mother's office, which, as he had suspected, overflowed with wrapped wedding presents. Then he continued up to his domain on the fourth floor. He dropped his briefcase in his office, where bookcases were crammed with volumes and mementoes of childhood triumphs and adventures -- pictures, models, trophies. Then he carried his suitcase into the old-fashioned bathroom with the long soaking tub, and peeled out of his clothes before he thought to close the bathroom door. Usually he wouldn't worry about someone coming up into his domain uninvited. After all, Dinah and his mother were busy hosting the festivities downstairs, and Stacy was the only other person who had free access to anywhere in the house. Despite that, she would still knock before entering. She was just that kind of person.
But Stacy wasn't here, and Gretchen was.

            Drake mused over that while he filled the tub with hot water and some of those herbal bath salts that Dinah had given him for Christmas -- which he had accidentally left behind -- guaranteed to ease bruises and stiff muscles and sinus problems. The green, tangy scent couldn't ease the growing sense that something was very wrong.

Friday, October 10, 2014


He let his mother chatter about the girls in the party on the other side of the wall while she filled other serving platters and piled food on his plate. He just grinned and nodded when she scolded him to eat up and get upstairs and take a long, hot shower after his long drive. At least she had learned not to scold him for taking the drive from South Dakota to Ohio in one trip, rather than stopping at a hotel halfway through.
Drake settled down at the kitchen table, where he had seen Dinah and Stacy do their homework under Mrs. Belmont's watchful care, and ate his late breakfast as he let the female chatter wash over him. It was good to be home. When he got his shower, if he wasn't able to fall asleep right away, maybe he would walk over to the campus and check on his father in the administration building. Maybe take him out to lunch. It was a given the girls would be working on wedding things through lunch, if not through the entire afternoon.
He saw the wedding present when he went to the sink to rinse his plate and put it in the dishwasher. His brain seemed to work a little clearer now, with two cups of coffee in him. He tugged off the drycleaner bag and flipped over the tag.
The box was from Stacy Belmont.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


"Drake!" Galen Ashcroft stopped short in the kitchen doorway, her long, aristocratic face lighting in delight. She quickly put down the empty, crumb-strewn platter she had evidently come in to refill, and hurried to wrap her arms around him. "How in the world did you sneak in so quietly?" She laughed as she stepped back, keeping a hold on his upper arms and looking him over, as she always did after a long absence, as if she thought he had changed drastically.
"Wasn't hard, Mom." Drake finally put down his coffee cup, though he regretted missing out on the last two mouthfuls. Although now that he had stopped inhaling it, he noticed it was one of those flavored coffees his mother loved and his father endured. Something nutty and spicy. Not too bad, but Drake preferred plain coffee, heavy on the sugar, if anything.
"What do you mean, not too hard?" She brushed a kiss on his cheek and turned to pick up the platter.
"You didn't hear the doorbell ring, through all that chatter in there." He tipped his head in the direction of the living room, where laughter rose up as if in response to his words, almost loud enough to make the kitchen chandelier vibrate.
"Don't tell me you rang the doorbell at your own home?"
"No, but the delivery guy from Macy's did. He left a pile on the front step. Di's making out like a bandit. She and Troy are gonna need to rent a second house on base, with all the junk they're getting."
"You can blame darling Gretchen for that," his mother said as she slid pieces of cheese-and-fruit pastry squares onto the platter. She tipped her head toward the cabinet with the dishes and Drake hurried to get a dinner plate. She slid the last four squares onto the plate for him and he thanked her with a kiss.
"Blame her for what, exactly?"
"She decided Dinah was cheating herself by asking for sensible things and money, so she went out and registered her at all the department stores in town. I know the girl means well, but Dinah is too busy as a Navy nurse, working to become a surgeon, and now a newlywed with a military husband to worry about entertaining. They certainly don't need lead crystal goblets and Lenox china ornaments. Especially when we have enough dishes and silver and linens in this house to outfit you and Dinah and a dozen distant relations without even noticing the lack. The girl's a darling, but sometimes I think she doesn't have a lick of sense."
          Drake bit his tongue against commenting that it wasn't a lack of common sense in Gretchen, but her refusal to let anybody contradict her. If she thought Dinah needed to be outfitted like a princess, then she would make sure of it, no matter what all the Ashcrofts said to the contrary. Drake wondered how she and Stacy were getting along. Gretchen had gone through a number of phases when they were in elementary and middle school, either being best buddies with Stacy or fighting to "put her in her place," as if the old, stuffy social rules meant anything and the housekeeper's granddaughter was supposed to be seen and not heard. In high school, she had been stuck in the "Stacy is social trash" phase, and had spent all her time trying to get Dinah to snub her and run with the "best crowd." Drake had been just as surprised as Dinah when she ran into Gretchen a few years ago and found her so changed -- warm, generous, and with a good sense of humor, according to his sister.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Drake let out a sigh of weariness and satisfaction and stabbed the overhead door operator for the coach house. Even though he had an apartment at seminary, this was still home, and he still had a place that was just his. The fourth door slowly raised and he stepped on the gas to pull into his parking spot -- to slam on the brakes two seconds later. He stared a moment, then laughed. It looked like his mother decided to use his space in the carriage house to store all the overflow of supplies for the reception, if not the presents that had been spilling in since they sent out the party announcements and invitations more than a week ago.
He lowered the door again, put the Jeep into park in front of the door, and finally, gratefully, turned off the ignition. His legs and back actually throbbed a little as he unfolded to get out of the driver's seat, and he considered leaving his luggage in the Jeep until he had gotten inside and had something to eat. Maybe even wait until after his shower.
Habit and deeply ingrained training took over and he snatched up the smaller of his suitcases and his briefcase with all the assignments he wanted to get ahead on while he was home. While his professors were understanding and flexible, they weren't so flexible or understanding that he didn't have to keep up with the start-of-the-term assignments. He would need clean clothes after his shower, at the very least. Drake's mind wandered to all the wedding festivity goodies his mother would have out for the girls and his stomach growled in anticipation as he climbed the steps of the back porch. His right foot hit the box wrapped in silver and white paper, sitting on the top step, before he realized it was there.
What was a wedding present doing on the back porch? For a second, he thought the driver had come back here -- but no, all those boxes had been covered in plain brown paper, protecting the wrapped presents from the elements. Drake bent down, and for a moment his sleepy brain couldn't figure out how to pick up the box while his hands were full. He realized the wedding present was carefully wrapped in a dry cleaning bag, keeping it dry. As if whoever left it there expected it to stay ignored for a while, and prepared against snowfall.
          He put down his suitcase and dug in his pocket for his keys, then pushed the door open, took his suitcase and briefcase inside, then came back out for the present. He put it down on the counter next to the phone in the big gleaming pale green and stainless steel kitchen that Mrs. Belmont had ruled for so long. The scents of sausage rolls and stewed fruit and hot coffee reached out and snagged him with their siren song. He barely remembered to kick the door closed before nearly stumbling across the kitchen to the bowls and platters and the coffeemaker sitting on the counter on the far side of the kitchen, with the pass-through window discretely closed.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


It was a toss-up between running the obstacle course of Gretchen to see Stacy right away and make arrangements to catch up on old times -- or avoiding Gretchen and risking missing out on seeing Stacy, maybe not catching up with her until the reception. That was on Friday, and he had to head back to South Dakota on Monday.
Drake laughed aloud when the slam-bang of the overhead door of the delivery truck closing interrupted his weary musing. He really had been up too long and his brain moved at half-speed. The delivery was done without him even noticing. He waved to the driver as the man got in the truck, and waited until it pulled away. Then he shifted the Jeep back into gear and pulled into the long driveway that curved around the back of the house. How did all those girls manage to get such expensive, late-model sports cars, such a short time after graduation? Sure, most of their "crowd" when they grew up were the founding families, as close to "old money" as Tabor Heights could get, but didn't anybody have to work for what they had anymore? Or did only his parents believe that things that were earned were more valuable?
Late January, but he noticed the Christmas lights were still wrapped around the topiaries in the formal garden on the right, and the nativity scene still sat on the plywood cover over the goldfish pond. When Mrs. Belmont had been their housekeeper and majordomo of the household, everything would have been put away precisely one week after New Year's Day.
          He missed Mrs. Belmont, who had counseled him over boyhood mishaps and disappointments when he was ashamed to go to his parents. Who helped him with Christmas shopping and cleaned up the worst of his scraped knees and other assorted injuries -- and arranged for the replacement of many broken windows. His parents had never been absent or too busy for him and Dinah, but their lives were so full that Mrs. Belmont was a necessity. The grandmother that neither of their parents had been able to give him and Dinah. Stacy had been like a little sister in many ways. She had arrived with her grandmother the day she was hired, a quiet toddler who preferred books and helping with the baking than playing with dolls or dress up with Dinah. Her imagination had fired many of the adventures the threesome went on, when the girls were in middle school and Drake discovered maybe his younger sister wasn't so icky after all.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


For October, we'll be looking at excerpts from Book 1 of Year 2 of the Tabor Heights series:


"I can hear voices, but nobody answered the doorbell," the delivery man said. "Must be having a good time in there."
"Putting together a wedding reception." Drake stepped back into the Jeep and sighed. The smart move was to stay out here until the truck was gone, then go in through the kitchen door. His mother refused to entertain in the kitchen -- although Drake never considered an assembly party "entertaining." She would have them all in the living room, with a breakfast buffet neatly and artistically arranged on the long dining room table and all the girls settled in their places with those antique apple-shaped glass plates and matching cups. If he was lucky, there would be lots of food in the kitchen, waiting to be put out to replenish what the girls took when they decimated the serving plates. He always found it amazing and amusing, how girls stayed so skinny but managed to eat more than a steelworker when they had a working party. He remembered when he and Dinah and Stacy put together...
Stacy Belmont.
Drake eyeballed that stack of presents in the back of the truck. Only two more. It wouldn't be long now. Maybe he should risk getting caught by the bridesmaids and go in through the front door. It would be worth it to talk to Stacy. He hadn't seen her since last summer, when he took a flying trip home between his summer mission trip to Haiti and the fall term. Even then, it had been during a faculty family get-together for BWU, and they hadn't said much of anything to each other. She had been busy because she worked for the university now. Besides, there was the restraint that wrapped around her like a visible fence, with her grandmother so recently dead. He hadn't been able to adequately express his sorrow for her, let alone talk about ordinary things and catch up.
He suddenly needed to see her. It was worth the risk of Gretchen trying to latch onto him. Besides, what kind of a snit fit could Gretchen throw, if he made it very obvious he was there to see Stacy?