cover

Someone Like Him

 

By Ann Herrick

 

 

Digital ISBNs

EPUB 978-1-77362-505-8

Kindle 9781772990614

WEB 978-1-77362-506-5

 

Amazon Print 978-1-77362-507-2

 

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Copyright 2015 by Ann Herrick

Cover art by Michelle Lee

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book

 

* * *

 

Dedication

 

For everyone who loves the great outdoors

Chapter One

 

 

“Why do I have to go to Oregon?”

“What can I say, Emily?” Mom shrugged. “Your Aunt Jessica eloped. I couldn’t very well tell my sister to postpone her first honeymoon so Dad and I could go on our second one.”

“This is just great!” I put on my longest pout. “First I’m robbed of a trip to Europe. Now I’m being shipped off to Oregon for a month. At least in Los Angeles I could’ve gone shopping with Aunt Jessica. I might’ve even gotten the autographs of the cast of Central Hospital! What can I do in Oregon? What’s there?”

“Trees.” Dad poured cream into his coffee. “A lot of trees, I think.”

“Big deal! There are trees in New York. Central Park is full of them. We even have one in our courtyard.”

Mom leaned across the table and patted my hand. “Emily, I’m sorry about Los Angeles. I know you’re disappointed. As for being ‘robbed’ of a trip to Europe ... well, how many kids do you know who go on a honeymoon with their parents? Besides, we’ll take you the next time.”

“When?” I yanked my hand away from Mom’s. “In five years when I’ll be too old to enjoy it?”

Dad sighed. “You’re only fifteen. I hardly think you’ll be too old at the tender age of—”

My turn to sigh. “Dad. You just don’t understand.”

“We try to understand,” Mom said in a tight voice. “I wish you’d do the same.”

Guilt pricked at me. I knew Mom and Dad going to Paris for their twentieth anniversary was not a crime. But I felt left out.

Besides, how would I face everyone at school in the fall? A vacation in a dull place like Oregon would be bad for my image, lowly as it already was.

And then there were other things to worry about. I tried another approach. “What about all those bears out in Oregon?”

“I’m sure we’d hear if there were wild animals roaming the streets,” Mom said. She brushed my bangs to the side, which I couldn’t stand. It was such a patronizing gesture. Besides that, they were my bangs. “You probably won’t see anything more terrifying than a few deer.”

“Humph,” I snorted. The horses in Central Park were enough to make me nervous.

Mom brought out her reassuring smile. I knew she’d try her everything-will-be-okay routine. “You’ll have a good time in Oregon. You’ve always had fun with your cousin Janelle.”

“But that was at Gramma’s house in Indiana,” I protested. “There was a great park and swimming pool in West Lafayette. Besides, I haven’t seen Janelle since Gramma died. It’s been three years! Maybe Janelle’s changed.”

“Well,” said Dad, “I’m sure you’ll still like—”

“And Aunt Carolee is such a bore!” I raised my voice. I didn’t really like doing this. But I was desperate. “All she does is knit. And Uncle Ned ....” I rolled my eyes. “He’s such a know-it-all. He spouts off constantly.”

There was a silence. I figured there would be. They couldn’t deny what was true.

“Your Uncle Ned is a great guy in a lot of ways,” Dad finally said. Then he grinned. “If I could put up with his ‘spouting off’ when we were growing up, you can put up with it for ten days.”

“Your Aunt Carolee is nice, too,” said Mom. Her right eyebrow rose and she did what all parents do when they know their arguments are weak. They turn into dictators. “There’s really no other choice but for you to go to Oregon. Our plans are set. We can’t change them, even if we wanted to.”

“Humph.” I curled my lower lip and stared down at my fingernails, trying to exude misery from every pore.

“Now don’t whine and pout and make your aunt’s and uncle’s lives miserable either,” Mom said.

“I wouldn’t do that,” I said indignantly. “I’m not a baby!”

Mom and Dad just looked at each other.

“Remember, it’s only for ten days,” Mom said. “After all, we wouldn’t want to impose on your aunt and uncle any longer than that.”

Translation: They wouldn’t want to stick them with me any longer that that!
But I’d run out of arguments. “I guess going to Oregon will be okay,” I said, even though I was sure it would be horrible. I knew it was what they wanted to hear.

“We want you to have a good time,” Mom said, as if their wanting it would make it so.

“I know,” I said. That seemed to satisfy everyone, so I excused myself and went to my room to pout in privacy.

I’d had my own plans before the second-honeymoon idea was sprung on me. I was tired of being a dreary, dateless Honor-Roll nobody who always sat next to the teacher’s desk. I needed a new image!

I wasn’t what you’d call a Ravishing Beauty. I inherited Dad’s shiny brown hair, which looks nice as long as it’s shampooed daily. Well, and my long bangs emphasized my blue eyes, which unfortunately were all I got from my still-naturally-blonde mother.

I’d gotten my braces off last month and recently my body had almost caught up with my hands and feet. I’d even graduated to a single A-cup bra. So Hannah, my best friend and fellow social zero, and I had hoped to prepare ourselves to look our best for the first day of school.

I needed the confidence great-looking girls seemed to possess. So far, no matter what the social situation, I was always tripping over my own feet or bumping into walls because I was trying so hard to act casual.

So to build up our self-esteem, Hannah and I had planned everything from a new exercise routine to the exact day we’d both have our legs waxed. We’d even decided to get one of those makeovers at the cosmetics counter in Bloomingdale’s. Now with me going off to the Oregon wilderness, Hannah would have to start without me. I’d fall behind schedule.

I decided to call Hannah. Maybe she could help me figure a way out of going to Oregon.

“Hi, it’s me,” I said the second she answered.

“Hi! All set for your trip to L.A.? I just know you’ll be discovered and come back famous. All you have to do is go on that Universal Studios tour and—”

“Hold it, Hannah. I’m not going to Los Angeles.”

“What? That’s great! Then starting tomorrow we can go to the gym and sign up for that advanced aerobics—”

“Hold it again. I’m going to Oregon instead.” I explained about Aunt Jessica eloping.

“But what’s in Oregon?”

“Trees.”

“Trees? I don’t get it.”

“The trees are incidental. I’m going to Oregon to stay at my cousin’s house.”

“Oh.”

I twisted a lock of hair around my little finger. “Unless we can figure out a way for me to stay here.”

“You know I’d smuggle you into my room. But Ashley says sharing a room with me is bad enough. She hates overnights. She says she’s not taking in any strays.”

“Your sister has such a delicate way of putting things.”

“Maybe I could stash you in my closet and sneak food to you.”

“Thanks, but no thanks.” I paused, then said, “I was thinking of a way to talk Dad into letting me stay here and guard our place.”

“Don’t use the word guard. It sounds dangerous.”

“Good point.” I drummed my fingers on the nightstand. “Maybe I could offer to paint the kitchen while they’re away. Mom’s always saying it needs a change. But Dad’s easier to convince. I’ll go to his store this morning, so I can work on him without Mom around.”

“Good idea. Let me know how it turns out. Maybe you can still join the aerobics class in the afternoon.”

“I’ll call you as soon as I know.” I stretched out on my bed and thought about the best way to approach Dad. I couldn’t go to Los Angeles and come back with autographs and Hollywood adventures to impress the Right People and forever change my boring image at school. So I would have to talk him into letting me stay in New York.

“How could a trip to Oregon impress anyone?” I said to the bedpost. “If any Popular Kids ever found out, I’d be more of a social outcast than ever. I mean, who on earth would ever get excited about a bunch of trees?”

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

I thought a walk in the cool morning air would help me think up a convincing reason for me to stay in New York. But when I got to Dad’s store, I still didn’t have a clue about what I would say. I stopped out front and gazed at his latest window display of T-shirts.

Dad started the store as a greeting card and gift shop. But when he added T-shirts, business boomed. Tourists gobble up anything with New York or The Big Apple. Comic strip characters were the local favorites. I don’t mean to brag (well, actually, I do), but when I suggested Dad hang the T-shirts on rods to display each style, sales more than tripled.

Well, I had stalled around long enough. I took a deep breath and went inside. The door creaked and the bell above it jingled, alerting Mrs. Green to the fact that someone had entered the store.

“Hello, may I help you?” Mrs. Green scurried toward me in her rubber-soled shoes. “Oh, Emily, how are you? How is your mother? Ready for the big trip? Such a lovely idea, a second honeymoon! Your father knows he leaves the store in good hands when he leaves me in charge. You know, I always say—”

“Excuse me, Mrs. Green, but I’d like to speak to my father. It’s urgent.”

“Urgent?” Mrs. Green’s eyebrows shot up above her glasses. “He’s in back checking on some new merchandise. You know where to find him.”

“Thanks.” I offered Mrs. Green a small smile, so she wouldn’t worry too much. But I knew that already she’d conjured up at least a dozen possible disasters.

I knocked on the door to the storeroom, then let myself in. “Hi, Dad.”

“Well, hi, Emily. Doing some last minute shopping for your trip?”

“Not exactly.” I picked up a box of greeting cards and riffled through it. “I ... um ... I could help out a lot if I stayed home while you’re off in Europe. I could paint the kitchen, I could help Mrs. Green in the store, I could—”

“Emily!” Dad looked shocked. “The kitchen doesn’t need painting and Mrs. Green is quite capable—why am I arguing? You’re not old enough to stay by yourself. Your mother and I would do nothing but worry!”

“It’s not my fault that you’d worry.” I dropped the box of cards back into the carton. “You’re such … such worriers!”

“Look.” Dad put down his clipboard and sighed. “I’m sorry about Aunt Jessica and Los Angeles. But your mother and I have been planning this trip for a long time. We need this vacation. Sometimes a couple just has to get away from their chil—, uh, just get away.”

Guilt was sneaking up on me again, but I tried to give it the slip. “You know, I’ve read about Oregon. All those stories about the pioneers and skeletons strewn along the trails.”

“That was over a hundred years ago.” Dad crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I’m sure things have improved vastly since then.”

“Well ... what about volcanoes? Uncle Ned still talks about one that went off there when he was a kid. Mount ... Mount St. Helen’s!”

“I think we’d have heard if another one was rumbling. Besides, Uncle Ned’s cabin isn’t built anywhere near a volcano.”

“That’s another thing!” I shook my finger at the ceiling. “How can you expect me to leave our more-than-comfortable home for some rustic log cabin?”

Dad drew in his lips thoughtfully. Maybe he was weakening. Our home was a real source of pride to him. He’d bought the brownstone years ago when it was run down and incredibly cheap (for New York). He’d fixed up a lot of it himself. He refinished the oak floors and even re-soldered a couple of the stain-glassed windows. The second and third floors were rented out, but we had the whole ground floor to ourselves.

“I’m sure it’s a fine home,” Dad said finally. “After all, Ned was the one who really took after your grandfather when it came to carpentry.”

“B-but ....” I sputtered. I stomped around in a tight circle, trying to think up one last whopping argument. But my mind didn’t respond.

“You’ll have a great time!” Dad tried to look enthusiastic.

Guilt was breathing down my neck now. “I-I guess so.”

“That’s the spirit.” Dad clapped his hand on my shoulder. He pulled a couple large bills out of his wallet. “Here. In case you need anything for the trip.”

“Thanks, Dad.” I managed a tentative smile before I left.

I considered going to Bloomingdale’s. But I really wasn’t in the mood to shop. Maybe it was my whining and pouting that drove Mom and Dad to Paris. If I didn’t shape up, maybe they’d turn into one of those couples who traveled constantly and stuck their children in some gloomy, far-off boarding school. I knew kids whose parents actually did that.

I wandered around, then briefly considered stopping in at Mom’s office at Fashion Scope. But what was the use? Holding my breath until I turned blue wouldn’t be any improvement over whining and pouting.

So I went home, curled up on my bed, and called Hannah.

“Well? Well?” she asked eagerly.

“No pardon from the governor. The trip to Oregon stands.”

“Too bad.”

“You said it.”

“Well, look, call or text me whenever you want, and I’ll work twice as hard in aerobics class to make it up for you.”

“Thanks,” I said. Hannah wasn’t always entirely logical, but I knew she meant well.

“And call as soon as you get back to New York!”

“Don’t worry.”

 

* * *

 

It wasn’t easy trying to fit all my stuff into one small suitcase and an overnight bag. But Dad said that was the limit. I wished I had room to pack my old scout manual. I vaguely remembered there was a section about survival in the wilderness. I figured I might need that.

“Now, Cheryl,” Dad said to Mom. “Don’t start getting teary-eyed.”

“But Richard, we’re sending our only daughter off to Oregon.” Mom sniffled.

A fine time for Mom to have second thoughts—just as I was about to board the plane. I let out a long sigh and tried to look really sad. Maybe she’d give in to her misgivings and let me stay.

“She’ll be in good hands,” Dad said reassuringly.

“We’ll be in Europe, six thousand miles from my baby!”

Ordinarily I would have moaned and declared that I was not a baby. Now, however, I worked at getting my lower lip to tremble.

“Everything will be fine!” Dad’s voice was getting high and squeaky, a sure sign that he’d had it. “Emily will love Oregon. It’ll be an educational trip. It’s time she sees something besides the cities of the world. Now let’s say good-bye before she misses the plane!”

Dad hit just the right combination of panic, annoyance, and determination.

“You’re right, dear.” Mom kissed me goodbye.

Dad gave me a hug and kiss, then stepped back and put his arm around Mom. They both stood there with smiles on their faces.

“Bye,” I said as cheerfully as possible. I could tell there was no point in any last-minute hysterics. I squared my shoulders and headed toward the plane.

I thought there could at least have been some appropriately dreary background music as I marched off to my doom.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

“We’re about to land. Please fasten your seat belts.”

I wasn’t crazy about heights, so I’d been securely strapped in since New York. However, I did take a quick peek out the window for my first glimpse of Oregon and was pleasantly surprised. I mumbled to myself, “This looks like a real city.”

“Portland is a real city,” said the man sitting next to me. “It’s a great place to live.”

“Portland?” I checked my ticket. “Oh. I just change planes in Portland. I’m going to Eugene.”

“Eugene’s nice too. Second largest city in Oregon.”

“I’m just visiting. I live in New York.”

“New York?” The man sounded horrified. “I’ll bet you’re glad to be in Oregon!”

“Well, actually—”

“You may unfasten your seat belts,” the flight attendant announced. “We hope you enjoyed your flight.”

“Have a nice vacation,” said the man next to me. He grabbed a suitcase from the overhead bin and was gone.

I hurried into the airport. It seemed I’d barely settled into place on the next plane when the pilot announced, “We’re flying down the Willamette Valley.”

I peeked out the window for a just a second and saw a lot of green. The pilot said something about valleys and mountains and maybe even the Pacific Ocean. Judging by the oohs and ahhs the scenery must’ve been pretty nice. But since I was too chicken to look out the window again until we landed, I couldn’t say.

I trudged into the terminal. I was sure I’d recognize Uncle Ned and everybody even after three years because of the pictures they sent each Christmas. But none of the faces searching for passengers from my plane looked familiar. Finally, the crowd thinned out and I realized no one was there to meet me. My visit was off to a great start.

Rather than just stand there, I picked up my luggage. Then I wandered around. I grabbed a resort brochure from the counter of a car-rental agency. In a gorgeous mountain setting stood a lodge featuring saunas, hot tubs, pools, and luxurious rooms. Maybe the Oregon wilderness was not as primitive as I’d imagined.

“Emily Davis. Emily Davis,” the loudspeaker announced. “Please come to the information desk.”

I walked around a corner and found the desk. “I’m Emily Davis,” I said to the woman there.

“Ned Davis has a message for you.”

“Yes?” There’d been a mix-up. I was going to Los Angeles after all!

“He had a flat tire. But he’ll be here soon.”

“Oh. Thank you.” I sank into a chair near the desk. I turned my phone on, figuring Uncle Ned had tried to call me first, but my phone had been off, so he called the airport.

“Are you returning to Oregon or visiting?” the woman asked.

“Visiting. From New York.”

“New York?” The woman’s eyes widened. “I’ll bet you’re glad to be in Oregon!”
“Well, actually—”

“Excuse me! The phone.”

It sounded as if it was going to be a long conversation. My mouth was getting dry, so I found the restaurant. I plopped down at a corner table and ordered a soda.

“Here’s your pop,” said the waitress a few minutes later. With a friendly smile she asked, “You coming or going?”

“I arrived here a little while ago,” I said, glad to have someone to pass the time with. “I’m visiting from New York.”

“New York?” The waitress gasped. “Honey, I’ll bet you’re glad to be in Oregon!”

“Well, actually—”

“Hey, Myrtle!” A large man on a stool at the counter summoned the waitress with a wide smile. “How ‘bout some more coffee?”

“Coming right up,” said Myrtle. She patted my shoulder before she left. “Have a nice visit!”

“Thanks.” As I sipped my soda I wondered why the mention of New York caused such a peculiar reaction. When I finished, I decided to wander around the terminal again.

“There you are!”

I recognized Uncle Ned, a taller, heavier, older version of Dad, hurrying toward me.

“Sorry we’re late.” Aunt Carolee stuffed her knitting in a canvas bag and gave me a quick hug. Wisps of her red hair brushed my cheek.

“Hi, Emily.” It was Janelle as I remembered her, only older, with her rosy cheeks and reddish brown hair. “How was the trip?”

“The trip was okay. How are—”

“Welcome to Oregon.” Uncle Ned grabbed my bags, and then we all piled into their van.

“Oregon is a big, beautiful state!” said Uncle Ned in a voice as loud as a subway train. “Over ninety-two thousand square miles of mountains, beaches, deserts ....”

We weren’t even out of the parking lot and already he was lecturing like the high school teacher that he was. I looked at Janelle. She just rolled her eyes. Maybe we could talk when Uncle Ned finished his geography lesson.

We rode by green pastures dotted with fluffy sheep. This was Oregon’s second largest city? When Uncle Ned paused to take a breath, I asked, “Is this Eugene?”

“Just the outskirts,” said Aunt Carolee.

“Hey, Janelle, do you have any boy—” I started to ask. But then Uncle Ned resumed his spiel about Oregon. It was impossible to try to have a conversation with Janelle over Uncle Ned’s booming voice. So I just looked out the window.

I dredged up a speck of optimism when we turned onto a wider road and I saw a few billboards. At last, signs of civilization. As more and more buildings lined the streets it became obvious that Eugene was more than just a picturesque rural village populated by sheep.

I could see it wasn’t exactly a burgeoning metropolis. But there were enough stores to pique my interest. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to shop ‘til I dropped, but I could probably browse until I had to catch my breath. I’d just have to find a way to spend most of my time in Eugene if I were to salvage anything out of my trip to Oregon.

Much too soon we were on the outskirts of the other side of town. Instead of pastures and sheep, there were hillsides, horses, and cows. Higher, tree-covered hills formed a background. In fact, there were so many evergreens that I felt I was in the middle of a gigantic Christmas tree lot.

“Are those mountains?” I asked when I saw snow-capped peaks in the distance. The possibility of volcanoes entered my mind.

“Sure are,” said Uncle Ned. “In fact, that’s near the wilderness area where we plan to take you camping.”

“Camping?” I squeaked. Oh, no. At worst I’d expected to be stuck in Alder bored out of my mind. But camping? Outside, where bears could get me? I was about to lodge a strong protest when Uncle Ned interrupted my train of thought.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll ease you into it.”

“Camping is fun,” Aunt Carolee said as she clicked her knitting needles.

“Fun? What’s fun about leaving behind all the technological conveniences of modern life?” I tried to whisper to Janelle.