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The Long Road Home

Chapter One

 

 

The blue letters on a white background signified her worst nightmare come true. Margaret Browning stared at the sign for a full minute. Bedouin Trucking. Higher up, on a huge pole, so it was visible from the freeway, was another sign. Truck Stop, it proclaimed to everyone around.

Margaret closed her eyes and wished it all away. She opened them a second later to find it was all still there. She turned her gaze to the enormous brick and glass structure that had replaced Simm’s old dilapidated garage. The modern truck stop looked out of place in Inchwater, California, where the term new was applied to things ten years old, and the outside of every building had durable, practical, aluminum siding.

“Why here?” She wasn’t aware of saying the words aloud.

“Why not?” her companion in the battered Chevy answered. “Magnum said he needed to expand. Land in Los Angeles costs the earth. Besides, he wanted a place somewhere between L.A. and Las Vegas, on the routes his drivers use most frequently. He picked Inchwater for all the above reasons, plus the fact no one objected to having it here.”

No one except her, and she hadn’t been here to voice a protest. “Wonder what Timmy’s doing here?”

The thought of her brother having anything to do with the truck stop was part of her nightmare.

Margaret turned to Joe Graines, her high school classmate, who had picked her up at Ontario International airport, over seventy miles away from Inchwater. Busy fiddling with the car radio, he didn’t seem to have heard her question.

Impatient to see her brother, Margaret had asked Joe to stop off at Dan’s Donuts first where Timmy had worked since January. To her surprise Dan had told her she would find Timmy at the truck stop.

Well, she was here now, and there was no sign of Timmy. This meant she would have to go in and ask for him.

“Thanks for the ride, Joe.” Margaret smiled.

“Sure you don’t want me to stick around and drive you home?” Joe Graines asked amiably, the same way he had asked if he could copy her math homework their senior year.

“No, I need the walk.” She also needed time alone to sort through the jumble of her thoughts.

“See you later then,” Joe said as Margaret got out of the car. “I’ll drop your luggage off at Janet’s.”

“Later,” Margaret echoed, her mind occupied with her surroundings. “And thanks again for meeting my plane.”

“No problem. Bye Margaret.”

It was her father who had insisted everybody call her Margaret. Not Marge, or Maggie, or even Meg. Simply Margaret. It was the name of a princess, he’d always maintained, and shortening it would ruin it.

As the Chevy roared off, Margaret took a deep breath and turned toward the truck stop. Being here reminded her of Daddy and the work he had done. Trucking had killed both her parents, snatching all that was best away from her and Timmy.

As truck stops went this was one of the best she had ever seen. The hundred feet of dirt that had separated Simm’s garage from the main road was paved now, the asphalt hard under her pink sneakers. There were trucks all around of every shape and size. Neatly parked, being filled, being washed, or simply standing there. Most of them were blue and silver and had a silver unicorn emblazoned on the side, and the words Bedouin Trucking. Diesel pumps lined one side of the yard. Fifty yards from the entrance stood a building marked OFFICE. Glassed in on four sides, it allowed a clear view of all that went on in the truck stop. At the rear, the huge brick building she’d noticed earlier housed more trucks in various stages of repair.

Margaret headed for the office. Maybe someone in it could tell her where Timmy was.

As she looked around, sensations swamped her, bringing her to a dead halt. Margaret took a deep breath. The atmosphere here had a strange effect on her. The shouts of the drivers calling to each other, the throb of the running engines, the smell of diesel and grease, the men and women milling about, were all sparks lighting the dry heap of memories she’d locked away so carefully.

Pictures from the past danced out of the bonfire. Too hot. Too close.

Daddy!

It was the poignant cry of a child whom death had cheated of her parents’ love.

Margaret raised a hand to her mouth to hold the cry back as another image surfaced.

“Look, Daddy, I can drive your truck.”

It was one of her earliest memories, sitting on his lap, being allowed to turn the steering wheel of the parked rig. The texture of the sheepskin cover her mother had made for it tickled her palms, making her giggle. The smell had been the same. Diesel and grease. Then it had been bearable, because the perfume her mother had used had been mixed in with it. Now it simply whipped her memories into a frenzy. Her father had dropped a kiss on top of her head and said, “You make a mighty fine truck driver, sweetheart.”

A big burly man turned and waved to someone in the yard, and another picture jumped out of the blaze. Daddy had always turned to wave, just like that, before he climbed into his truck.

“Be a good girl for Aunt Janet, Margaret, and we’ll have a surprise for you when we get back.”

That was Mummy’s voice, cheerful and loving.

A couple stepped into the cab of their rig. To Margaret’s tortured imagination, they were her parents getting ready to leave on another trip.

“Mommy, Daddy, don’t go away.”

She had to stop them. This was the last trip; the one both her parents never returned from. Margaret could taste the disaster on her tongue. Bitter, awful, searing.

Matt watched the woman approach through the glass. The auburn hair was striking. Slim, fashionably turned out in high heels and a suit, she stood out like a sore thumb in the yard.

He frowned as he noticed the way she clutched her bag to her chest. His eyes narrowed as she came closer, and he took in the stricken expression on her face, the hand over her mouth. What the hell? Instinct had him heading toward the door, as she stepped off the concrete median.

“Look out!” The shout reached Margaret’s ears at the same time as she felt herself being lifted in the air and put down. The sound of a passing truck jolted her back to the present, leaving her cold and shaky.

“Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

Large hands encircled her waist, as their owner waited for an answer.

“No.” Margaret blinked rapidly, tilting her head back to get a look at the person who held her. The sun in her eyes made it impossible to make out anything, except that he was very big.

The hands at her waist were removed, and Margaret turned around slowly to find her nose half an inch away from a button. A white button on a green-white-and-black-checked shirt. Taking a cautious step back, she raised her gaze to a pair of eyes viewing her with undisguised hostility.

Margaret lifted her chin. Nice eyes, a part of her dazed brain registered. Forest green. Nice smell too. Pine.

Nice stopped there, though. The rest was all angry man.

“What was that all about?” Her tone held one part bravado, two parts ice.

“Suppose you tell me?” His features looked as if they had been carved from rock. Her gaze fixed on the deep cleft in his chin. He sounded like the rain in a temper. Strong, powerful, dangerous. “One minute you’re mincing along the concrete median, and the next you’re stepping off it, directly into the path of a reversing truck.”

“The driver has mirrors powerful enough to see a cockroach in his path,” Margaret retorted, angered by his choice of words.

Mincing brought to mind an airhead in a too tight skirt, with fluff instead of a brain in her cerebral cavity. She resented the implication.

“Only a psychic could know you were going to stop staring at everything like a kid at the circus, and step off the median as if you’re sleep walking. What are you doing here anyway? If you’re collecting for a local charity, do us a favor and just write next time, okay?”

“There’s no need to be rude,” Margaret said stiffly.

“There is, if your jaywalking is going to endanger you and us. Can I help you in any way?”

“Who are you?”

“The name’s Magnum. Matthew Magnum.”

Margaret wet her dry lips. Joe had mentioned the name. She looked at the owner of Bedouin Trucking and tried to appear cool, calm and collected. As he surveyed her from head to toe, cool and calm disintegrated. Collected seemed like a lost cause. Margaret resisted the impulse to button the jacket of the beige suit she wore.

Magnum’s gaze returned to her face, “The mall is in the opposite direction. This is a truck stop.”

“I know where the mall is,” Margaret snapped, “I’m looking for my brother, Timothy Browning. Is he here?”

Matthew Magnum’s eyes narrowed and he looked at her again, as if he were seeing her for the first time. Then he nodded to himself. “Thought that hair and freckles looked familiar. The mouths are different though.”

She had to give him a ten for his powers of observation. Most people said, except for their mouths, Timmy and she might have been twins.

“So you’re the prodigal niece I’ve heard so much about?”

Margaret’s mouth fell open. Prodigal niece? What had Aunt Janet said to give him that impression?

“Home for the summer from D.C. are you?”

She nodded. He didn’t seem to approve of her or her job in Washington. Confused, Margaret wondered what there was about teaching to arouse antagonism.

“It’s about time you came home.”

“Why?” asked Margaret.

His eyes narrowed. “Why? Just pull your head out of your private section of sand, and you’ll see why. Your aunt has too much on her hands with the restaurant and your brother to care for, while you live it up in DC.” Before she could say a word, Matthew Magnum turned away, “Tim!”

The stentorian yell made her jump, and she glared at his broad back for a moment. She could no more live it up on her salary than the dodo could make a comeback. And why had he just implied she was an ostrich with her head in the sand, oblivious to what went on around her? What was the man’s middle name anyway? Groucho? He had to be the most abrasive person she had met in a while.

Margaret’s thoughts shifted, as she saw the figure of her lanky brother emerge from one of the enormous sheds at the rear. Tim had grown a couple of inches and seemed all hands and legs. Margaret smiled.

“Yes, Matt?”

Matthew Magnum jerked a thumb over his shoulder, and Timmy’s eyes grew round when he saw her. A little of Margaret’s pleasure evaporated as she realized Timmy’s reaction to her presence held more shock than surprise.

“Take five.” Matthew Magnum entered the office, shutting the door behind him.

“Hello Timmy.” Margaret’s raised arms fell to her sides as she realized her brother had no intention of being hugged. “How are you?”

“I’m fine, sis.” Timmy rammed his hands into his pockets. “Did you have a good flight?”

Margaret nodded. The red-eye special from Washington had been nothing out of the ordinary.

“What did he mean, take five?”

The smell of diesel didn’t bother her as much as the look on her brother’s face as sullenness descended, shutting her out.

“Just that. I work here.”

The world tilted to a forty-five degree angle and took its time straightening, as the last shreds of hope that Timmy was simply hanging out here were whipped away. “I thought you worked in Dan’s Donuts?”

Her brother looked away. “I did, till I got this job. I like working around trucks better.”

“I see.”

True, their only contact in the last month had been brief telephone conversations, but Timmy could have told her about this new job.

If he’d wanted to.

Somewhere in the psychology classes she had taken in college, Margaret had learned not to make a fuss about things she didn’t like. Angry reactions emphasized negative behavior, fixed it in the mind, put the person on the defensive. She took a deep breath. “I just stopped by Dan’s, and he told me I’d find you here.” It didn’t seem worth it to tell Timmy she’d thought Dan had meant he had the day off and was simply hanging out at the truck stop with a friend.

Instead of replying, Timmy stared at a spot over her head.

“What time do you get through?”

That’s the way, Margaret. Just play it nice and light.

“Five.”

“Shall I pick you up, and we can go to a movie in Garrison?” They shared a passion for movies.

“Maybe another night. I’m going out with TJ after work.” Where the Timmy of yesterday would have smiled over mention of his girlfriend, the young adult of today refused to meet her gaze.

“That’s great,” Margaret said, as the hollow feeling inside increased. Timmy had never been distant with her before.

Everything that had happened in the last half hour seemed to assume gigantic proportions simply because she was tired, Margaret told herself. The man for one, Timmy’s behavior, her own uneasiness, everything would sort itself out.

“I’ll see you later, sis,” Timmy said awkwardly. “My break’s up.”

“Later.”

Margaret left the truck stop, keeping a careful look out for the big rigs and angry men. On the main street, she turned left. Two hundred miles north of Los Angeles, Inchwater was little more than a rest area for travelers. Except for a couple of gas stations, three restaurants, a grocery store, and a motel, the owners of which either lived above or behind their businesses, there was nothing else here. The nearest mall was nine miles away in Garrison. The resident population in Inchwater averaged fifteen because people preferred to live in Garrison and commute to Inchwater. The Inner Man, the restaurant her aunt owned, was only a couple of blocks away.

Margaret lifted her face into the air as she walked, picking up her stride, telling herself exercise was all she needed to blow the mental cobwebs away.

Timmy working around trucks didn’t mean a thing. It was natural for him to prefer working there to frying donuts for Dan. It didn’t indicate he was following in Daddy’s footsteps.

Her pace slowed.

Daddy had been a truck driver for twenty-four years when his truck had been found at the bottom of a small slope with both their parents dead inside.

Blocked arteries, the autopsy revealed the result of a sedentary life, too many beers, and too much fast food eaten at stop ‘n go places because of delivery deadlines. Her father had suffered a heart attack which had caused him to lose control of his rig; the hospital authorities had informed Aunt Jan. It was nobody’s fault.

But Margaret knew different. She knew it was the long hours, the kind of work he did that had caused her father’s death.

It was ironic that Aunt Jan had taken part of the insurance money and decided to open The Inner Man, a restaurant for truckers. But the Inner Man was a fitting shrine to their parents, especially Daddy. Every single item on the menu was carefully selected to be low cholesterol, low fat, and yet satisfying for gourmand appetites. Health awareness made the Inner Man a popular stop these days for truckers and tourists.

Heading for the gate that led into the garden at the rear of the restaurant, Margaret entered the kitchen.

Janet Hooper looked up from the whole wheat pie crust she was rolling. A smile split her face as she hurried around the old oak table to greet her niece, “Margaret! Welcome home darling!”

Home was Aunt Jan’s arms around her, the warmth of her presence, and the love in her smile. They held each other close, their gladness at being together transmitting without any words.

This kitchen had been the scene of so many homecomings through the years. The aroma of baking bread clung to the air, mixed with the scent of a roast in the oven. As Aunt Jan hurried to fetch her a cup of coffee, Margaret noticed the kitchen counters had been re-done. Crisp new curtains hung at the window that overlooked the garden, and a row of shiny copper pans gleamed against the wall. From beyond the kitchen came the sound of voices in the restaurant mixed with the clink of dishes being rinsed in the work area beyond the kitchen. She had missed it all.

Margaret looked at Aunt Jan, immediately noticing the new lines that creased her forehead, the tired look in her eyes. Rake thin, immaculately turned out, it was hard for strangers to imagine Janet Hooper’s passion for cooking and work. “How are you Aunt Jan?”

“Never better,” her aunt said briskly. “Sit down, and I’ll pour you a cup of coffee. Did you find Timmy?”

“Yes. He’s got a new job at the truck stop.”

The note in her voice made Aunt Jan pause, coffee pot in hand. “He’s had that a month now.”

“Timmy never mentioned it to me.” The new chasm between herself and Timmy scared Margaret.

“Matt is a good role model for Timmy,” Aunt Jan said.

“How are things in the restaurant?” Margaret asked quickly, in an effort to change the subject. She didn’t want to talk about Matthew Magnum just yet.

“We’re busy, but I wish we had more help. I told you about Gina who works the cash register. Her baby is due in two weeks. I haven’t found anyone to replace her yet, and I have one more vacancy to fill. The employment agency in Garrison has promised to keep a lookout for suitable help, but apparently working in a restaurant in Inchwater isn’t everyone’s ideal job.”

The door from the restaurant into the kitchen opened, and a girl in an advanced state of pregnancy, entered the kitchen. Seeing Margaret, she paused.

“Hi Gina. I’m Margaret.”

Gina looked no more than a kid herself thought Margaret as the girl smiled.

“Hi Margaret. Welcome home.”

“Gina, come in and join us for a cup of coffee,” said Aunt Jan.

“I don’t want to interrupt,” Gina Wade said shyly. “I just wanted to thank you for that Shepherd’s Pie you gave me yesterday, Janet. Jack loved it.”

Some things never changed. Margaret and Timmy had a private theory that Aunt Jan gave away half the food she cooked.

“I’ve made some spaghetti sauce for you to take home tonight,” Janet said. “Freeze it... it’ll come in handy after the baby’s here. Now, sit down before your break is over.”

“Your aunt never stops talking about you,” said Gina, sliding her bulk into a chair. “She’s told me all about the work you do with physically handicapped children in Washington.”

Margaret nodded. “I love my job. I only wish it was closer to home.”

“The Edward Institute is making a name for itself, slowly but surely,” Aunt Jan said with pride.

“Who runs it?” asked Gina.

“Dr. Aaron Edwards,” said Margaret. “An article he read about children with birth defects who had been abandoned by their parents affected him deeply, and he gave up a successful practice to start the Institute. His aim was to take in as many children as he could and care for them. After a while he discovered some of the children benefitted by being read to, and taught. He hired teachers who would give them individual attention. I was teaching in San Francisco when I heard about his work, and wrote to him. Luckily for me, he hired me.”

“Teaching handicapped children must need a great deal of patience,” Gina said, awe in her gaze, as she looked at Margaret over the rim of her coffee mug.

“I love my work,” said Margaret.

“The secret of happiness is enjoying the work you do,” Aunt Jan added. “It’s a shame people pick careers for the money they’ll make at it, instead of doing what they really want to.”

“Are you feeling all right?” Margaret asked, noticing the sudden grimace on Gina’s face.

“I’m fine. My back is just kind of sore.” Gina finished her coffee and stood up, rubbing her back as she carried her mug to the sink. “Got to get back to work. It was nice meeting you Margaret.”

As Gina left, Margaret looked at her aunt. “She’s very young, isn’t she?”

Aunt Jan nodded. “Dropped out of school to get married when she found she was pregnant. Turned eighteen a month ago. She’s very reliable though and her husband is one of Matt’s drivers.”

Matthew Magnum had woven himself into everyone’s life in Inchwater. Abruptly, Margaret stood up, “Do you need any help here?”

Aunt Jan shook her head. “I most certainly do not. Get some rest after that long flight. You look like death warmed over.”

Margaret nodded, and turned away. The stairs hugged the left exterior wall of the building and led to their living quarters upstairs,four bedrooms, three baths, a living room, a dining room, and a tiny alcove kitchen, rarely used except for fixing hot beverages in the microwave.

Going straight to the bathroom adjoining her room, Margaret examined her reflection. Now she knew what death warmed over looked like. Dark circles ringed her caramel eyes, tension and exhaustion blanched the color from her face making every single freckle on her nose, and across her cheeks, stand out. Her hair looked lank and lifeless. The suit she’d been in since yesterday looked rumpled. Leaving D.C. right after the end-of-term staff meeting to catch her plane hadn’t given Margaret any time to change into a casual traveling outfit.

Margaret slipped out of her clothes and into the shower. Under the soothing hot water, her mind perked up enough to toss the experiences of the last twenty four hours, like a juggler’s colored balls.

The man in the truck stop. So strong. So angry. Timmy looking at her as if he didn’t like her. Aunt Jan’s patient, strained face shining with love.

The pictures stayed with Margaret while she toweled herself dry, slipped into a pair of cotton pajamas, and got into bed. Seeing a truck stop in Inchwater had brought all her fears to the surface. Beneath her fear of Timmy working around trucks was the other one, the one that shadowed her days and haunted her nights...she was afraid Death would snatch Timmy away from her, just as it had robbed her of her parents.

Stop it; you’re too tired to think straight now.

Deliberately Margaret filled her mind with more pleasant pictures. Joe’s smile, Aunt Jan’s love, how nice it was to be back in her old room again. There would be time enough to sort out her thoughts later.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

“How’s it going, Tim?” Matt asked. He had been watching the boy cleaning some tools.

The red head shot up and brown eyes exactly like Margaret Browning’s looked at him. Only the expression in the eyes differed. She hadn’t bothered to hide her hostility and tension yesterday, whereas Timmy looked friendly and happy, “Fine, Mr. Magnum.”

“Is your sister home for the summer?”

He didn’t miss the frown on the boy’s face. “I don’t know yet.”

Matt recalled his remark about their mouths being different. Margaret Browning had a full lower lip and the upper was beautifully arched. Tim’s had a determined tilt to it and none of the fullness.

“Been a while since she came home, hasn’t it?” In the eighteen months he’d been in Inchwater, Matt hadn’t seen hide or hair of the gorgeous redhead. He’d heard her mentioned quite often though.

“She usually comes home at Christmas,” Tim bowed his head, “but last year we all took a cruise together. During the summer Margaret works in Washington, and Aunt Jan and I go there to spend time with her. She’s got a neat apartment.”

Matt’s brows drew together. The sophisticated woman he had just met fitted perfectly into Washington society. Yet the look in her eyes had hinted at soul deep vulnerability.

“Well,” Matt said turning away, “if any of you need a ride into Los Angeles or Vegas for a shopping trip, you know my offer still holds good. Any of the drivers will be happy to take you.”

“Thanks, Mr. Magnum, but Margaret doesn’t like riding in trucks.”

If Margaret Browning did not like riding in trucks, why had she stared at them as if transfixed, Matt wondered. He was quite sure he hadn’t imagined the stunned expression on her face, or the dazed look in her eyes. Her aunt had mentioned once that Timmy’s and Margaret’s parents had been killed when their father had had a heart attack behind the wheel of his truck and the rig had run off the road. Had being here raised the ghost of the past for Margaret Browning?

“Mr. Magnum,” called a voice from the door of his office. “Tom Camden of T.C. Trucking wants to talk to you. He’s holding on line one.”

“Be right there.” Matt shrugged. He had plenty to do other than psychoanalyze Tim Browning’s sister.

“Let me know if you need extra time off while she’s here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Hi, sis! You didn’t have to wait up for me.” Timmy said as he entered the garden and found her sitting on the old swing.

Margaret smiled affectionately. “I thought we might talk.”

“I’ll grab a soda and be right back.”

Waiting for him to come back from a date or a jaunt with his friends was a habit. Yesterday, her first night back, Margaret had fallen asleep early but today she had decided to wait for Timmy.

She and Timmy often sat on the swing, talking late into the night. Here they didn’t have to worry about disturbing Aunt Jan, who rose at five every morning. The garden, with its familiar scents and shadows, was a good place for exchanging secrets. The old swing creaked as it moved in the silent night; its familiar rhythm comforting.

Margaret let her thoughts drift. Her goals were still the same as always.

She wanted to see Timmy through college, ensure the Inner Man was at a stage where Aunt Jan had little else to do but supervise, before she could think of herself. Marriage, not that there were a heap of men fighting over her; was last on her list. Why Matt Magnum’s angry face should flash into her mind, made no sense at all.

Timmy came out through the kitchen door, sat down opposite her and took a big gulp from the can in his hand. “So, what did you do today, sis?”

“I slept for most of the day, then unpacked, and generally lazed around.”

The rectangle of yellow light that shone out of the kitchen made it easy to notice Timmy’s expression was carefully noncommittal. He ran his fingers through his hair, and she tensed. He only did that when he felt awkward.

“I thought we’d catch up on all the news,” Margaret said with a smile.

“There isn’t much to talk about.”

Panic clutched at her. When had this close-mouthed stranger taken the place of her talkative brother? Aunt Jan always said she, Margaret, was the introvert in the family, Timmy the extrovert. To listen to him now, no one would suspect it.

“Are you planning to stay all summer?” Was it her imagination, or was there a sudden wariness to Timmy’s tone?

“Yes.”

Margaret had made the decision on the spur of the moment after the last time she had talked to Aunt Jan. Timmy, Aunt Jan had told her, planned to work through the summer. She herself wouldn’t be able to come out to Washington this year because of lack of experienced help at the restaurant. Aunt Jan had sounded unlike herself, tired and dispirited, and Margaret had made up her mind to return to Inchwater and help her.

Aunt Jan had been thrilled by her decision. If Margaret’s decision had the same effect on Timmy, he did an excellent job of not showing it. Keeping the smile on her face with difficulty, Margaret asked, “How do you like your new job?”

Timmy’s face lit up. “Mr. Magnum’s cool. He doesn’t swear like Dan did; plus, he’s giving me a dollar an hour more.”

“That’s great.” Margaret’s voice sounded hollow in her ears.

“How are things in Washington?” Timmy asked.

“Great.” Why had she never realized before what an inane word it was.

“Do you have a part-time job lined up in Garrison for the summer?” Timmy asked.

“No.” The Edward Institute could not afford to pay teachers during the summer, hiring student help instead to devise summer programs for the children. Margaret’s part time summer jobs had helped stretch her tight budget. “I’m going to help Aunt Jan in the restaurant. I just thought we would spend some time as a family this year...maybe take a trip to Yosemite.”

All three of them had enjoyed previous visits to the National Park.

“That’s great,” Timmy said.

That word again. Since when had Timmy and she started using it so often with each other, Margaret wondered.

“I can’t get the time off yet though, but I think Aunt Jan will enjoy a trip to Yosemite. Mr. Magnum says I have the makings of a good mechanic, and if I want to, he’s going to let me start going on short trips with the drivers.”

No! screamed Margaret’s mind, bucking to throw off the dark picture Timmy’s words presented. No.

She didn’t want Timmy involved in the trucking business as Daddy had been. She wanted Timmy to have a nice eight-to-five job and a settled family life.

Sounding calm took real effort. “How did you do on your preliminary SAT test last summer?”

The Scholastic Aptitude Test grades determined the scholarships one could receive, and at Christmas Timmy had mentioned taking the SAT exam as many times as he could this year.

Timmy shrugged, “I got a thousand. The Math is easy, but the English is really tough.”

“I thought we might use part of the summer going over the comprehension part of the SAT manual. You know the higher the score you can get, the better your chances of a scholarship are.”

Timmy wanted to be an engineer, and Margaret wanted him to get into the finest engineering school in the country.

“I may not take the SAT exam, sis.”

“What do you mean?” Lightning, scoring a direct hit, couldn’t have frightened her more.

“I’m not sure if I want to go to college.”

“N...not sure?”

“I think I just want to work full time after I graduate, maybe go to truck driving school.”

Maybe this was a nightmare brought on by too much worrying.

“T...truck driving school.” The fears, she had dismantled as imaginary, had a good solid foundation under them.

“Yes.” Timmy stood up.

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