Sarah headed home from work that evening, the event with Stephen still in her mind. A movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention, and Sarah looked to her right.
A young woman stood on the corner, speaking to an older man. Sarah was almost certain that she had seen that girl's face before, but she could not place where. If it had not been for the heartbroken look on the girl's face, Sarah would never have approached the two. Instead, Sarah drew strength from being disguised as James, and headed towards the corner.
"Rena?" She queried, having gotten a better look at the girl's face up close. "Are you okay?" The sniffling girl glared at Sarah, who looked stiffly at the man in their presence.
"This is the one, daddy." Rena stated unhappily. The word staggered Sarah, just in time for a large hand to grab her by the shoulder and force her to face the man full on.
"My baby girl says that you've been ignoring her." The man grunted. "I can't allow such treatment of such a sweet angel."
"I've been busy! I have school and a job that keeps me occupied all day, and on weekends, my aunt doesn't let me out of her sight!" Sarah exclaimed in defense of her character.
"He spends all of his time with that…Stephen boy from school." Rena sniffled, wiping another crocodile tear from her eye. Sarah was tempted to sneer at her, except that Rena's father would see.
"I see…" The man said, glaring at Sarah out of the bottoms of his eyes. "Listen, I understand your situation, but I think it would be wise of you to spend a little more time with my daughter."
"I'm not sure if I can, sir." Sarah protested, but Rena's father cut her off before she could continue further.
"I'm sure you'll find a way, if you really care about this Stephen fellow." The old man stated calmly, "My associates don't like harming young folk."
Stephen sat alone in the park, staring at couples as they passed and fighting the temptation to make faces at their backs. It was at least fifteen minutes before he felt a presence behind him. Turning in surprise, he frowned at the face that met his eyes.
"Go away, James." He said, turning his back to the former companion.
"Stephen!" James insisted in despair, "Won't you listen?"
"To what? Some half-wit apology that doesn't mean a thing?" Stephen demanded, standing and glaring James in the eye. James's mouth moved, her voice failing her. "That's what I thought." Stephen turned and walked away. James ran up behind him.
"What I wanted to say is that maybe you were right. Maybe I am attracted to Caleb." James confessed. Stephen stopped. Grabbing James's hand, Stephen shook it fiercely.
"Thank you so much. It's so good to have that cleared up." Stephen dropped James's hand and continued walking. Not bothering to look over his shoulder, he called, "Now if you don't mind, I would rather be alone."
"If you don't mind, I'd rather speak to you about something else." James insisted, grabbing Stephen by the shoulder to make him stop. Stephen glared impatiently at James; James needed no further invitation to continue. In a hushed voice, James stated, "I need your help."
"Why should I help you?" Stephen demanded, pushing James away and turning to leave. "It's not like I owe you anything."
"You should help me," James stated as patiently as she could while pulling Stephen back to her, "because it involves you. And if you don't help me, you might end up getting hurt."
"What have you gotten me into?" Stephen nearly screamed. James signaled frantically for him to quiet down.
"There's this girl that I made friends with. She took my attention all wrong, and now her dad with ties to the mafia is threatening to have you 'taken care of' if I don't spend more time with her." James elucidated rapidly.
"Uh-huh. See you later, James. Or rather not, I should hope." Stephen walked away.
Since it was Saturday, there was no school or work to distract Sarah from her torment. She had arranged to 'call on' Rena that night to satisfy the girl's demanding father. He insisted that James visit the girl at least one night every week.
At five that afternoon, James showed up, a bouquet of roses to please Rena and impress her father. He was promptly shown in, and listened to all of Rena's mindless gabbing with only a half-hearted interest.
It was not until Rena asked, "You're not still hanging about with that Stephen boy, are you?" that James became fully alert.
"What do you mean?" James wanted to know, already defensive.
"I've been hearing rumors that there's something between you two." Rena stated meaningfully. James stiffened, looking at her from the corner of his eyes. "Is there?"
"I don't think this is a fitting conversation." James stated coolly, "I'm sure your father would agree." He rose, and started towards the room where her father sat. Rena stood quickly and pulled him back.
"No, please!" She insisted, "Just answer yes or no."