Jennie and threw a change of clothes into a bag and grabbed our coats out of the closet. I noticed Jennie turn and stare at Frank as she put her arms into her sleeves, but I couldn’t even look at him.
“Lucy,” he said in his condescending, authoritative tone. “You know you can’t do this.”
I didn’t even respond. I made sure Jennie’s coat was zipped and we headed to the car.
“Taffy said to tell you “Happy Birthday,” I told Jennie as we were putting on our seatbelts.
“Do you think Uncle Frank really isn’t going to let us back?” she asked.
“I can tell when Frank is serious,” I said. “I’d say he’s pretty serious this time. We won’t be staying in that house.”
“What are we going to do?” she asked. “What about school?”
“There’s no time to worry about any of that. My friend is in trouble, and I need to go help him. If Frank isn’t going to understand….” I swallowed and shook my head. He wasn’t going to make me cry. I’d be damned if I let him get to me.
I took a deep breath and touched Jennie’s cheek. “No more questions, okay, Sweetie? I have to concentrate. I have to drive. We’ll work everything out later. He’ll tell us what happened when we get there. They wouldn’t let him explain much on the phone.”
Jennie nodded and shifted in her seat. “Try to sleep if you can,” I told her. “It’s a long ride.”
It took less than two hours to get to Mankato, but the ride seemed longer. Jennie closed her eyes a bit, but I don’t think she slept. We didn’t talk either. My mind was going everywhere and I wanted desperately to pull an answer out of the sea of questions.
We got to the police station, I paid Denny’s bail, and the officer sent someone else to retrieve him.
“Don’t see why he’d be chasing after some college girl when he’s got you,” he told me. “That’s a pretty little girl you have there. It’s too bad she’s going to have to see her daddy all scraped up.”
I wondered if Denny had said anything to lead the officer to assume Jennie was ours, or that we were together, but I was too worried to correct him. Denny hadn’t mentioned that he was hurt, only that he was in trouble, and I knew more than ever I had done the right thing in coming down.
“Scraped up?” I said. I tried not to sound nervous, but it didn’t work. Jennie hung on me in order to get in on the explanation.
“Mr. Ferguson will be out in a minute, Miss. He can tell you more than I can.”
Denny was scraped up. His jaw and bottom lip was swollen. His left eye was black and blue and there was a cut underneath it. I gave him a hug and found a healthy place on his cheek to kiss.
“A college girl?” I asked him.
Denny kept his arm around me and stroked my hair. “Can we do the lecture somewhere else?” he asked me.
The officer interrupted. “You will be staying with him, I suspect,” he asked me. “We checked him over and he seems to have a minor concussion. He shouldn’t be left alone for 24 hours.”
“Of course,” I said. “Whatever he needs.”
Denny spotted Jennie and let go of me to give her a hug. “Hey, Sweetie,” he said. “I’m surprised to see you. Kind of a late night for you, wouldn’t you say?”
“Uncle Frank said I had to come,” she told him.
Denny gave me a puzzled look and I nodded, “I’ll explain later,” I said. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Frank said Jennie had to come?” Taffy questioned as we were pulling out of the parking lot. “At this time of night?”
“He said if I bailed you out, we couldn’t come back.”
“You didn’t have to come, if it meant risking your marriage. They would have let me out eventually.”
I clenched his hand and looked him in the eye. “I was risking my marriage on Christmas Eve,” I said.
“I’m sorry,” Denny told me.
“I’m not,” I said. “Not about that.”
“He’s going to want you back within two weeks, you know.”
“Maybe,” I told him, “but like I told Jennie, tonight’s not the night to worry about it. What happened to you? Don’t tell me you let a college girl beat you up?”
“No, the girl didn’t beat me up,” he said. “It was her ex-boyfriend- only he didn’t quite agree with the “ex” part. For the record this was not a small boy. He’s a first string left tackle for Mankato State. He made All-Conference in high school, twice.”
“He did this to you, and you were in jail?”
“Well, the girl was a couple months shy of her 21st birthday,” he admitted.
“Oh, Denny….” I said.
“I know, I know,” he told her. “Let’s just get back to the hotel.”
Denny upgraded his room to one with two double beds. He said the least he could do after we had driven all the way down there was to see that we were comfortable. Jennie and I both warned him not to get too comfortable. The officer had said he shouldn’t sleep due to the probable concussion.
“I’m sure I’m fine. You should get some sleep,” Denny told us. “You must be exhausted.”
“Couldn’t sleep if I tried,” I said.
I promised Jennie I would watch Denny carefully if she agreed to let us tuck her into one of the beds. I gave her a kiss on the forehead, but Denny had to make due with a gentle hug because his lip was too swollen. I gave the two of them a moment while I went into the hallway to fill the ice bucket. I grabbed a few washcloths from the bathroom as well, and Denny sat upright on the other bed.
“Go to sleep, Sweetie,” he told Jennie. “Your Aunt Lucy and I have a lot to talk about. We’ll do something fun tomorrow when we’re all feeling better.”
“You’re not going to fight are you?” she asked. I was still in the bathroom, and I froze there by the sink to see how he would answer.
“Oh, Jennie,” he said. “We’ve all been a mess. I’m so sorry. But no one’s mad anymore. Everything’s out. We just have to sort out what it means.
We’re all crazy about you, though, kiddo. You gotta know that.”
I came out with the wash cloths. “He’s right,” I told her. “We love you, Jennie.”
Jennie murmured that she loved us too, and yawned big as she settled into her pillow.
Denny looked at her. “Poor thing,” he said, and I nodded.
“It’ll get better,” I told him. I wrapped a few ice cubes in the washcloth and motioned for him to sit closer.
“Let’s get something on that eye at least. That kid should take up boxing.”
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