The girls walked through security at the airport, and toward their gate. As first-class ticket holders, they would board the aircraft before coach passengers. Neither of them had flown without their parents before, and they were nervous. The boarding call came across the speakers, and they approached the attendant that would check their tickets. Danae took Darcey’s hand as they made their way onto the plane and found their seats.
“Ooh, this is nice!” Danae said as she settled into the extra-wide leather seat. Darcey stashed their backpacks into the overhead compartment and took some cash from her bag to stick in her pocket. Though the flight wasn’t long, there would still be an in-flight movie, and Darcey planned to watch it.
“This will be comfy,” Darcey agreed, sat down, and buckled her seat belt. Almost immediately, a flight attendant took orders for drink service once they were in flight. Danae got a pillow and a blanket, and almost immediately dozed off. Darcey took her music player from her bag and plugged in. She acted more like a seasoned traveler than a relatively new one.
Danae slept through most of the flight, while Darcey kept herself entertained with the movie, and a book she took from the bookshelf at home. The attendant informed the passengers they were on the final approach, and Darcey woke Danae. “We’re almost there, Nae,” she said. “Did you sleep okay?”
“Better than I did last night,” Danae replied. “I am so tired.” Both of them put their bags back in the bins and prepared for landing. The plane landed safely, and as they taxied to their gate, Darcey texted Charlotte, as she promised.
Mama, We just landed. I’ll call when we get to the house. We love you!
The girls found their way to baggage claim and called a cab. As they approached the campus, their apprehension turned to excitement. The taxi brought the twins to the house that Charlotte and Travis had rented for them, and they looked at each other and giggled. The house would be home for the next four years of their lives.
The house was a one-floor ranch house, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a formal dining room, a nicely equipped kitchen, a one-car garage, and a living room. In each bedroom sat a brand new double bed, dresser, and matching nightstands Charlotte had previously ordered. Travis shipped their cars so they would have reliable transportation, especially in the winter. However, the cars were about a week behind. Not far from the house was the Student Union and a small grocery store, the bowling alley, and the all-night burger place. The girls chose their rooms, unpacked their clothing, and a few keepsakes they had stashed into their suitcases and stuffed the empty bags into their closets.
“I’m going to call Mama,” Darcey announced, while Danae finished spot cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms. She was the ultimate clean freak, and the rooms were left in less than desirable states by the previous occupant. Darcey dialed Charlotte’s cell phone.
“Girls?” Charlotte answered. “You made it okay?”
“Yes, Mama,” Darcey replied. “We’ve been here for about an hour, unpacking. Danae is cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen. They were pretty bad.”
“I miss you already!” Charlotte cried. “I’m so happy you made it safely. How was your flight?”
“Uneventful,” Darcey said. “The seats were roomy, and the flight attendant took good care of us. Danae slept most of the trip.”
“That’s great, sweetie! I’ll call you later when I get home from work, honey. I need to catch up on my rounds so I can get out of here. I love you! Tell Danae I love her, too!”
“I will, Mama, we love you!” Darcey answered and hung up the phone. “Mama says she loves you, Nae.”
“Um, Darcey…” Danae called. “Would you come here a sec?” There was anxiety in Danae’s voice, and Darcey sprinted to the bathroom where she was cleaning. When she got to the bathroom, she noticed the reason for Danae’s distress. A dead rat drowned in the toilet, and apparently, it had been there awhile. The stench was unbearable.
“Oh my word,” Darcey gagged. “That is disgusting!” She dialed the number Charlotte had given her to reach the landlord and reported the mess to him.
“Darce, I think I’m gonna be sick,” Danae said and ran for the other bathroom while she gagged on the way.
“The landlord is coming, Nae.” She closed the bathroom door and opened some of the windows in the bedroom, in an attempt to air out the room.
“That is just nasty,” Danae said. “How does that happen?”
“Good question.” Neither of them was happy at their homecoming surprise, and they hoped it was not an indication of how their college career would go. “Here, let’s go over our schedules and plan our day tomorrow,” Darcey suggested. Danae got her paperwork from her backpack, and they both laid their schedules on the table, wrote buildings, room numbers, and times into their planners. “The bookstore is here,” Darcey mentioned and pointed at the map of campus. “I have a list of books I’m going to need, do you?”
“Yes, right here,” Danae answered. “It looks like three texts, plus some sheet music and art supplies.”
“I have some tools to purchase,” Darcey observed. “This is not going to be a cheap trip tomorrow.” She sighed. Though she knew they could well afford the books and materials they would need, she hated spending money without checking with Charlotte and Travis first. “I’ll check with Daddy when he gets home from work tonight.”
“I’m sure he will be fine with it, Darce. They know what we’re going to need.” Danae got up and went to the refrigerator, which only contained a bottle of water and a half-empty jar of mayonnaise. “Oh yuck,” she gagged, “I’m throwing that stuff out. Who knows how long that’s been there.”
The landlord knocked on the door about ten minutes later, and Darcey answered it. “Oh, thank goodness you’re here. We have a tenant not listed on the lease,” she giggled. “It stinks in that bathroom, though.”
“It’s okay. It happens a lot with this house. The septic system isn’t perfect, but I’m hoping to replace it soon.” He reached his hand to Darcey to shake. “Nice to meet you. You’re Darcey or Danae?”
“Darcey,” she replied. “I’m sorry, I forgot your name.”
“Kevin,” he answered. “I’ll get your problem fixed in a jiffy. I’ll have my wife bring some air fresheners and some cleaning supplies. I’m sorry the house was dirty. We didn’t have much time to clean it properly, but I’ll discount your rent next month for any cleaning you have to do.”
“Thanks, Kevin,” Danae replied. “I’ll be doing the cleaning. I don’t mind.” She held her hand to him to shake, which he did. “I’m Danae.”
“Wow, you girls are identical,” he chuckled. “How do I know who is who?”
“I almost always wear purple,” Darcey laughed. “It’s my favorite color.”
“Alright then, I’ll remember that. It’s my wife’s favorite color, too.” He excused himself and reappeared with the dead rat in a plastic bag a few minutes later. “I took care of cleaning that for you, Danae. Just leave the windows open for a few hours, and it should smell better in no time.” He thanked the girls for calling him and left.
The girls walked to the burger place down the street and got dinner, so they wouldn’t have to shop until after they ate. And when they got home, Darcey called Travis to clear the necessary trip to the bookstore before they spent what was sure to be their inheritance on books and materials.
For the first time in their lives, the girls would have separate bedrooms. They each washed up for bed and spent time in the living room together before going to sleep. “We should have had Mama get us twin beds, Nae,” Darcey said, deep in thought. “I’m not sure how I’m going to sleep alone.”
“We don’t have to tonight,” Danae suggested. “We could sleep in the same bed until we get used to the idea of being apart.”
“I like that idea,” Darcey replied and then laughed. “No snuggling!”
Danae chuckled. “Agreed!”
They went to Danae’s bedroom, got into their matching pajamas, and got into bed. They were comforted by the other’s presence and at ease in their new surroundings. They had put in a long, eventful day, and they were tired. “Good night, Nae,” Darcey finally said and yawned.
“Good night, Darce,” Danae answered. “Sweet dreams.”
Danae was up first and made breakfast, French toast. Darcey stumbled out of bed, having not slept well. As much as she wasn’t ready to separate from Danae at night, she also found she couldn’t sleep with her, either.
“Nae, I think I’ll be in my bed tonight,” Darcey grumbled. “I couldn’t sleep. I’m not used to sharing my bed.”
“I didn’t sleep well, either. That coffee better hurry,” Danae snorted and willed the coffee maker to speed up. “I guess we can assume we’ll do okay in separate bedrooms.”
“Probably,” Darcey agreed. “I don’t think I could do that on a school night. We have to be up too early to lose that much sleep.”
The girls stayed home and finished cleaning the rest of the house and went to the campus bookstore later that afternoon. They were astonished at the prices of their books, and the equipment that Darcey needed for her pre-med classes was expensive. But, she had warned her father what was coming, and he approved anything they needed. The girls walked from the bookstore, laden with heavy bags and their backpacks full of supplies. And they felt as prepared as they would ever be.
Darcey cooked dinner, and the girls cleaned up afterward. Together, they sat in the living room and chatted excitedly about their upcoming week. “Morning will come early,” Darcey finally said at nine o’clock that night. “I’m going to bed, Nae.”
“Me too,” Danae agreed with a yawn. “Good night, Darce. I’ll miss you.”
“This is going to be weird,” Darcey lamented. “Good night, Nae.”
The first week of classes was a massive adjustment for the twins. They had three days of full schedules and two days with a lab or lecture only. But as they settled into a routine, they felt more comfortable in their surroundings enough to venture out during the slower days to meet classmates and local people. During her art class one afternoon, Danae was invited to a casual get together at a classmate’s dorm. It was, fortunately, on a Friday night, so Danae and Darcey ended up going together. And that was when Darcey’s life changed forever.
The party was going okay, certainly not a raging success, but a decent number of people attended. Darcey felt someone staring at her from across the room. Their eyes met, and her heart fluttered. He must have felt the same because, in moments, the young man stood next to her.
“Hi,” he said boldly. “I’m Clint, and you’re drop-dead gorgeous.”
Darcey turned a deeper red than Danae’s sweater. “Hi, Clint,” she spoke softly. “My name is Darcey.”
“A pretty name to match the pretty lady,” he flirted and then apologized. “I’m sorry, I’m not usually this forward.”
She smiled sheepishly. “Are you sure you were looking at me? My twin sister is around here, somewhere. Certainly, it must have been her.”
“No, I’m pretty sure you are the one I saw. Your hair, the lilac sweater, your sparkling eyes, that beautiful, shy smile.” He looked at her and smiled. “No, it was you.”
“Why don’t we go somewhere quieter and talk for a while?” she suggested. She spotted a picnic table outside the dorm, and she stood to follow.
“Ladies first,” he said and allowed her to take the lead. They walked together to the table and sat across from each other. The silence was awkward until Darcey finally spoke.
“Where are you from, Clint?” she asked.
“I’m from Bridgeport, but I’m not going back home. I was working part-time while I was doing my degree and just stayed here after graduation. The constant noise of the city gets tiresome after a while.”
She nodded. “I’m from Starlight Shores, so I get that.”
“The Shores, eh?” He scratched his chin and focused her attention on his five o’clock shadow. It looked perfect on him, too. “You must come from money if you live there.”
“My sister and I, and my little brother, we’ve never wanted for anything, but I wouldn’t say we’re rich, either. I mean, the house we live in, I’m the third generation to grow up in it. It’s old, but my dad keeps it maintained.”
“Oh, so you’re old money,” he remarked. “I can tell you’re from money, Darcey. Rich people carry themselves differently. They don’t know the struggles of poverty and hardship. In my experience, wealthy people are one of two kinds, the first being snooty and elitist. The second is generous and benevolent. I think you’re more the second kind of rich.”
Darcey cocked her head at him. “Why would it matter if I have money?”
“It doesn’t, not to me. I’m just making observations and conversation.”
“Well, I’d rather not talk about my family’s wealth or lack thereof.” She didn’t want to tell him her father was Travis Jones, nor did she want to say her great grandmother was Destiny Hill. The whole topic made her uncomfortable.
“Fair enough,” he agreed amicably. “So, tell me more about Miss Darcey. What do you do for fun? What are your interests?”
“I love to dance. I’m a good cook. My mama taught me everything she knows about cooking. I know my way around a garden, and I can fish with the best of them.” His brown eyes were almost gold, and she was mesmerized by them.
“What else?” He stared into the prettiest blue-violet eyes he’d ever seen. And yet he had the feeling he had seen her before. But where?
“My mama is a doctor, and I’m studying medicine. When I graduate, I’ll be a third-generation doctor.”
“Hmm,” Clint said, smiling. “Your family seems to do things in threes.”
Darcey laughed. “I guess we do.” She was about to reach for his hand when she noticed a gold band on his left one. “It was nice to meet you, Clint. I should find Danae.”
“Wait,” he replied. “Was it something I said?”
“No, I just don’t want to interfere with your wife.” Darcey stood to leave when he stopped her.
“I’m not married. The ring is a symbol of a different promise.” Clint looked a little embarrassed. “I took a purity pledge when I was in high school. I take it seriously.”
Darcey was surprised. She didn’t think guys like Clint existed in the real world. “Really? I have a purity ring, too.” She unfolded her hands, revealing her Aunt Bree’s ring. “Unbelievably, this ring is also a third generation,” she laughed. “Good things come in threes.”
“I see,” Clint said, pleased. “Darcey, I like you, and I’d like to get to know you better. Can I take you dancing tomorrow night?”
She hesitated. She had never been on a date with a guy, only the ones with Travis. “I think I’d like that,” she said, despite herself.
Danae spotted Darcey and Clint talking from inside the dorm and went to meet him. She appeared out of nowhere and interrupted them. “Darcey, are you going to introduce me to your friend?” she sang and stood by her sister.
“Clint, this is my identical twin sister Danae, the one I thought you had spotted instead of me. Danae, my new friend, Clint.”
Danae saw Darcey blush, and she smiled. “Pleased to meet you, Clint.” Danae covered her mouth and whispered to him. “You’re a lucky man if you win her heart. She is amazing!” Danae winked at Darcey and bounded off to give them space.
Darcey glared at Danae. “I’m sorry, she is pushy,” she huffed. “She and I have never been apart. This school thing is a whole new experience for us.”
“It’s okay, I get it,” Clint replied. “But I meant for us to be alone tomorrow night. I would like to get to know you. How about this, I will pick you up, and we will go for dinner off-campus and then to the dance club?”
She nodded her head. “It sounds romantic,” she said softly. She gave him her cell number, and he put it right into his phone. “I hate to be a killjoy, but Nae and I have had a long day of classes and tests, and I’m sleepy. Call me tomorrow?”
“I will do that,” he smiled. “May I give you a kiss on the cheek?”
“I’d like that,” she said. When they touched, she nearly melted. Surely Clint felt the chemistry between them, too.
“Good night, Darcey. I look forward to tomorrow.”
“Good night, Clint,” she said. Darcey did not want to leave.
Flustered, Darcey met Danae, and they left the party together. “I saw him kiss you,” Danae said on the walk back to the house. “Is he nice?”
“I hope so,” Darcey answered. “I feel weird when I’m around him. Fluttery and lightheaded.”
“He’s adorable. If you hadn’t seen him first, I wouldn’t have minded dating him myself.” Danae said, maybe a bit jealous.
“Well, if it doesn’t work out, you have my blessing,” Darcey said. “I am not looking for a relationship, but…” she stopped to gather her thoughts, “I won’t say no if he wants to date me.” She wondered how it would feel to kiss him, and she flushed.
“Look at you, Darce. You’re almost in love with him already! I see you blushing.” Danae snickered. “You do make a cute couple. I’m just saying.”
“I don’t think it’s love, Nae. But it could be a crush. Maybe just infatuation. But I want to know more about him.” Darcey smiled. “And this is the best part. He took a purity pledge too.”
“Wow,” she marveled. “I thought guys like him were extinct.” She stopped and looked at Darcey. “I hope this works out for you. I do.”
“Thanks, Nae. I’m going to dinner and dancing with him tomorrow night. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course not! I’m working on a painting for class anyway.” Danae and Darcey started walking again. “I’ll just turn up the stereo and paint.”
The twins talked a little more until they got home. Darcey yawned and said goodnight as she climbed into bed, too excited to sleep.
The next morning was Saturday, and the girls were up early doing chores. Darcey was doing laundry, and Danae was cleaning the house as they did together every Saturday morning. Just as she was putting the second load of clothes into the washer, Darcey’s phone rang.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Clint’s cheerful voice greeted her. “I hope you slept well.”
“I did, thank you. I hope you did, too.” She smiled, went into her bedroom, and closed the door behind her.
“I did.” There was an awkward silence on the phone as Clint tried to think of something smooth to say. “I didn’t call you to find out how you slept, though. Are we still on for tonight?”
“If you still want to go, I would love to,” she said. “I’m surprised you called. I thought maybe I was dreaming last night, that we didn’t meet, and you weren’t interested.”
“Why wouldn’t I be interested? You’re as nice as you are pretty.” His sweet compliments befuddled her. “Give me your address, and I’ll pick you up at four. The restaurant is about five miles off-campus, and the club opens at five-thirty.”
She told Clint the location of their house, and they hung up. Darcey was giddy and giggly and returned to her housework with a renewed energy. “What’s gotten into you?” Danae asked, a sly smile on her face. She had heard the phone ring, and she knew Darcey had talked to Clint. The look on her face gave it away.
“He’s going to pick me up at four. I don’t even know what to wear!”
“This is the fun part!” Danae said excitedly. “Did you bring something to wear to the dance club, or did you leave all your nice dresses home?”
“I think I have one with me.” She walked to her closet with Danae right on her heels. “How about this one?” It was a lilac dress with a halter top and a shorter skirt.
“I think you are gorgeous in that dress, Darcey. He will love it!” Danae grinned at her twin sister. It was one of the few things that Darcey owned that was unique to her. Danae thought the high neck bodice was too constricting, and never bought its match.
“I don’t know about this, Nae,” she said nervously. “What if…”
“What if, what?” Danae asked.
“What if he is only wearing that ring for appearances, and he tries something?”
“Then you get out of the car and call me. I will go get you no matter what time it is or where you are,” Danae answered. She could see Darcey was nervous. “I didn’t get the impression he’s out for sex, Darcey. He seems genuinely interested in you.”
“I think so too. But Daddy has me so worried about guys. He seems to think they’re all after just one thing.”
Danae understood her worries because she had the same thoughts. “Just go with him once, Darce. If you don’t click, then don’t go with him again. Simple as that.”
Darcey did some studying until about two o’clock and then started getting ready. By three o’clock, she was showered with her makeup on, so nervous she nearly got sick. But, she got dressed anyway and was prepared to go well before he was due to pick her up. When she came out of her bedroom, Danae was blown away by how beautiful she looked.
“Darcey!” she exclaimed. “You look just like Mama! If that man doesn’t like you after tonight, there is something wrong with him.”
“Thanks, Nae. I hope my nerves settle soon, or it will be a short night.” Darcey wrung her hands.
“Calm down, Darce. He’s going to see right through that, and he’ll be offended. Just breathe. You’ll be fine.” Danae hugged her.
Darcey paced the floor until the doorbell rang. “It’s him,” she announced and hoped Danae would volunteer to answer it. Slowly, she walked to the door, and Clint stood with a bouquet of pink roses in his hand. He presented it to her as she was about to greet him.
“For you, Miss Darcey,” he said. “They’re not as lovely as you, though. They don’t grow flowers that are perfect in every way.” Danae overheard the sweet exchange in the living room as she painted, and grinned.
“Thank you, Clint. Nae, would you put these in water for me?” she called out to her sister.
Clint offered her his arm, and she took it. “I’ll have her back before midnight,” he said to Danae. “Unless I have your permission to keep her out longer.”
“Have fun, you two,” Danae said. “She’s a big girl. She can stay out as long as she would like.”
“Good night, Danae,” Darcey said, smiling. “Don’t wait up.”
He walked her to his car, helped her in, and closed the door. Clint got into the car and started the engine. “You look beautiful tonight. I am overwhelmed,” he admitted.
“You look good,” she stuttered, and you smell even better, she thought to herself.
“I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t have words today.” He laughed. “Shall we?”
Darcey nodded her head.
“What kind of music do you like?” he asked her.
“Anything with a beat,” she said. “If I can dance to it, I like it.”
“You’re my kind of girl,” he said confidently.
He drove them about 10 minutes away off campus to a cute, casual restaurant frequented mostly by upperclassmen and locals. He requested a table, and they were seated right away. He held the chair for her as she sat, and took the seat next to her, directly to her left.
“Would you like some wine? A beer, maybe?” he asked her.
“Oh, I don’t drink alcohol,” she stated. “But, I’ll have a sweet tea.”
“Two sweet teas,” he told the waiter. “I can’t stop looking at you, Darcey. You’re so stunning.”
She smiled at him and giggled. “So, what is good here?” she asked, ignoring the compliment.
“Well, I’ve had the grilled chicken with steamed fresh veggies, and it’s delicious.” He took her hand and kissed it. “I’m sorry if I seem forward. I’m just so fascinated by you. I want to know everything about you.”
“There isn’t much to know. I live a pretty boring life.” She didn’t want to say anything about her family back in Starlight Shores. If he knew that Travis was her father, she would never know if his feelings were real.
“Oh come on, Darcey. There has to be more to you than that. What makes you afraid or happy? What are your dreams? Your passions? These are the things I need to know.”
“Well, I will admit you are the first man I’ve been on a real date with.” He looked at her and shook his head. He couldn’t believe it. “I never dated in high school. My studies meant more to me. Besides, I had a bad experience not long ago with a guy I liked. We didn’t get along as well as I’d hoped, and he was pretty mean to me. I figured I wouldn’t date college guys after that.”
“I find that hard to believe that you’ve never dated before me.” He gently caressed her fingers between his. “And I really can’t believe someone was mean to you. I don’t think you could hurt a fly! Their loss and my gain.” His charming smile put her at ease.
“Okay, to answer some of your questions. What makes me afraid? That’s a good question. I’m afraid of disappointing my family. My parents. They expect a lot from me.”
“In what ways?” he asked, curious.
“Well, I’ve tested at a genius IQ. My parents knew about it. My mom is a genius, too. But I held back because I wanted to stay in school with my twin. We are very close.”
“I get that. I’ve heard twins, especially identical twins, are pretty inseparable. How else do they expect much from you?”
“Well, they expect me to honor my promise to them.” She blushed. “My purity promise, that is. It’s a big deal for my dad. He had some problems when he was a teenager. Got a girl pregnant at fifteen. He never wanted that for Danae or me.”
“Wow, okay, so you have an older brother or sister?” Clint was genuinely intrigued.
“I don’t. A drunk driver killed his girlfriend before she had the baby.”
“Oh.” Everything she told him seemed familiar, and he knew he had heard it before. Suddenly, it dawned on him. Darcey was a celebrity, the daughter of a sports icon. He knew he had seen her somewhere before. “I know you now,” he said. “I’ve seen you on the news. You’re Travis Jones’ daughter.”
“I am,” she said, her gaze shifted downward as though she was ashamed.
“Why didn’t you tell me? And why do you look so sad?”
She sighed. “My dad is a famous sports star. How would I know if you like me for who I am, or for who he is?”
“Considering I liked you way before I knew about this, I’d say I like you for who you are.” He smiled at her.
The waiter brought their dinner. “So, you know something about me. What about you, Clint?” Darcey asked.
“Well, there isn’t much to tell about me. I graduated last spring with a degree in technology. I’ve been working part-time since then, trying to save enough money to get out of here without needing to go back to Bridgeport. I don’t have any brothers or sisters; I never had a pet. It’s always just been mom and me. My dad died when I was little, killed in the line of duty. He was a soldier.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I couldn’t imagine.”
“We didn’t have much support after he died. I grew up poor, but somehow we always had food on the table. I never really noticed we were poor until I was older. Mom always worked hard. I hated to leave her in Bridgeport, but she has a lot of friends, and she is engaged to her boyfriend. She wants me to live my life wherever it leads me, to find my place in the world.”
“I will probably live with my folks when I graduate until I get on my feet. My mama will probably train me at the hospital during my residency as her daddy trained her.”
Clint laughed. “Get on your feet, eh? Not like you’re flat broke.”
She sighed. “Their money is theirs, not mine, Clint. I have to make my way.”
“That’s respectable. I like that wealth hasn’t spoiled you. You don’t seem like you think the world owes you because you’re a Jones.”
“That’s because no one owes me anything. My daddy made his way with nothing to his name except a dream and a talent for soccer. He came from truly deplorable conditions and circumstances. His mother was a fiend who used to beat him almost to unconsciousness for no good reason, and he lost his fiancée to a drunk, all before he was sixteen years old. He’s the epitome of success. Rags to riches. A role model to millions. Marrying my mama didn’t hurt, either,” she giggled. “I’ve never seen a couple like them. So in love, so romantic.”
“Tell me about them,” Clint asked. “I’ve seen some news stories, some not so complimentary.”
“Well, Mama, she met my daddy up here at Sim State. They fell in love without realizing they were actually in love. She didn’t know it until she graduated and left him here. She says he was incredibly shy when they met, but you’d never know it now, the way the camera loves him. And no, their marriage hasn’t always been perfect. A lot of snags in the fabric, as my Nana would say. But they always loved each other, even in their darkest times. Their love never failed them.”
“What a beautiful story. Travis Jones is probably the most famous alumni this university has. Except maybe for Destiny Hill. Rumor has it she started up here, too, and got her degree in Fine Arts. Come to think of it, she was from Starlight Shores, too!”
Darcey was amused. “She was my great grandmother.”
“No!” Clint exclaimed. “Really? You’re kidding me!”
“Yep. Nana’s SimFest trophies are in our living room. Pictures of her and Papa Arthur are in our photo collage. Everywhere we look, there is evidence of her. I’m here because of her. My uncle’s ex-wife was married in Nana Destiny’s wedding dress, so I hear.”
“You are an amazing woman, Darcey. So much to tell. So much family history.” He smiled and took her hand. “I am truly blessed to know you.”
“Not many people on campus know who my dad is. I’d appreciate it if you’d keep it secret,” she requested. “We already have Paparazzi hanging around us between classes. Just once, I’d like to do something normal.”
“Well, this is normal, isn’t it? Us, together here, learning about each other.”
“It is,” she said, smiling at him. “Thank you for dinner.”
“Oh, we’re not done yet. Remember, we’re going dancing tonight. I want to see you break out your moves!”
Darcey laughed. “I’m not that great at dancing, so be warned.”
“But you said you love to dance,” he countered.
“I said, I love to. I never said I was good at it.” Darcey laughed as he helped her up and took her arm to escort her from the restaurant.
They talked in the car on their way back to campus, and he parked in the lot just outside the dance club. “They must have fixed this place up when I wasn’t looking,” he remarked. “It used to look like an abandoned warehouse. It’s a classy place now.”
“It’s a lot like the Grind back in the Shores. My Nana bought it years ago. Mama and Dad have made similar improvements.” Darcey got out of the car, and they held hands walking into the club. Inside, the DJ was spinning a solid beat.
“Shall we dance?” he asked her and held his hand to her. “Let’s see what you can do.”
Following his lead, she danced with him. He spun her and dipped her, twirled her around, and she felt like a pro in his arms. They danced for two hours straight before Darcey needed to sit. “You’re a good dancer,” she said as they sat down to rest.
“You’re a better dancer. You let me lead you, and then you follow flawlessly. I’ve never danced with someone as proficient as you.” He held her hand.
“Oh, stop,” she teased. “The lead is always better. I meant it when I said you’re a good dancer, Clint. It comes naturally to you.”
“Well, I was such a geek when I was little. I guess my mom thought I didn’t get beat up enough, so she sent me to dance classes.” He laughed at the memory. “I lost a lot of fights, but I could outdance them all.”
Darcey giggled. “I’m sorry you got beat up a lot. That must have been rough.”
“Oh, it’s okay. I’m stronger today because of it.” He looked into her eyes and touched her cheek. “I want to kiss you so badly,” he said timidly. “But I don’t want to seem like I’m rushing things, either.”
Darcey bit her lip. “I wouldn’t mind if you did.” She thought to herself, I’ve thought of nothing else since last night.
He moved closer to her and put his arm around her. He felt the electricity when they touched, and he couldn’t wait to kiss her. His hands gently caressing her neck, he pressed his lips to hers in a sweet, tender kiss, Darcey’s first. She felt as though her heart would beat out of her chest, and she hugged him close. When they finally pulled away, there was no doubt there were feelings between them.
He gently caressed her cheek. “That was amazing,” he remarked.
“You took my breath away,” Darcey swooned. He smiled at her, staring into her eyes.
“I want to see you again, Darcey.” He took her hand in his and kissed it tenderly. “I like you very much. I wouldn’t even mind if we made it official and went steady together.”
She remembered what Travis told her about giving her heart away too soon, but his advice was out the window. “I like you, too. And I’d love to be your girlfriend.” She smiled at the irony. Danae had come to university to find a man, and Darcey was only interested in her studies. But Nae had spent the evening at home working on a project, and Darcey was on a date.
“I’m so happy, Darcey. I haven’t been this happy in a long time.” He was afraid of pushing himself on her, but he already knew he was falling for her. She just made it so easy. “Let’s dance again before all I want to do is kiss you all night.” He stood and pulled her to him. Taking her hand, he led her to the dance floor.
The night flew past them like nothing, and before long, the club was closing—four o’clock in the morning. “Thank you for tonight, Clint. I had a great time,” Darcey said, holding his hand on the way to his car.
“Would you like to get a burger at the place by your house? I’m kinda hungry.”
“I should get home, but I guess another hour won’t hurt anyone,” said Darcey. “Sure, I’d love to.” She was having the time of her life, and she did not want the night to be over.
He drove to the 24-hour burger place, the same one where Travis and Charlotte had often studied together. They sat outside, laughing and talking until the sun came up, and Darcey realized she wasn’t even tired. Clint, on the other hand, was exhausted, and he had a work shift that started later that morning.
“Darcey, I hate to be a stick in the mud, but I have to catch a nap before my shift. I don’t want this night to end.” He hugged her close and kissed her forehead. “I’ll take you home.”
She sighed. She didn’t want the evening to end, either. “Thank you, Clint. For everything.”
“The pleasure was all mine,” he said, smiling ear to ear.
When they got to the house, the light was on in the kitchen. Danae was up having coffee and breakfast. He walked her to the front door and hugged her. “Thank you for a lovely evening,” he said. “You still look so beautiful.” He pulled her close for a kiss, the way he had at the dance club. When they pulled away, she was breathless.
“Thank you, Clint. For dinner, dancing, and a burger breakfast,” she chuckled. “I hope to see you soon.”
“You can count on it,” he said, sure of himself. “There will be a second date.”
“Call me,” she said, blowing a kiss as she opened the front door.
“Well, well,” Danae teased, “Look what the wind blew in!” And then she saw Darcey’s face. “Oh my! I see that look in Mama’s eyes when she looks at Daddy. You’re in love, Darcey!”
“No, no, I’m not. I just like Clint. A lot,” she giggled. “Nae, he is amazing. Every dance, we were so good together.”
“You mean an actual dance, right?” Danae asked and shot a sly look at her sister. “Are you trying to tell me something, Bug?”.
Darcey glared at Danae. “Of course, I mean an actual dance, silly.” She shook her head. “But I’m so tired, and we have school tomorrow. I’m going to nap for a while. And please, don’t call Mama until I wake up, okay?”
“I’ll wait for you. I finished painting last night. I’ll show you later when you’re not so cross-eyed.” Darcey nudged her. “Good night, Darce. What time do you want to get up?”
“Don’t let me sleep past noon?”
“Sounds good. Love you, silly girl.”
“Love you too, Nae. Good night.”
“Darcey, we didn’t send you to school to go to parties and on fancy dates.” Travis was disappointed in his oldest child. “You’re there to learn.”
“I don’t want to disappoint you, Daddy, but I like this guy. He could be the one for me.”
“You can’t possibly know that after one date, Punkin. Just don’t let your schoolwork suffer. You have a great future ahead of you. Don’t let a man mess that up.” Travis didn’t like the idea of his daughter dating someone when he wasn’t there to approve. He knew the day would come, but he hated it.
“I’m okay, Daddy. I won’t let my school work slide. I promise,” Darcey said. Her feelings were extremely hurt. “Is Mama there?”
“She is, just a minute, sweetie.” She heard him call for Charlotte and the sound of footsteps in the stairwell.
“Darcey bug! How are you doing, sweetie?” Their Sunday phone call home was the highlight of Charlotte’s week, and she looked forward to it every weekend.
“I’m not sure, Mama. I think I might have done something I shouldn’t.”
“Are you pregnant, Darce?” Charlotte felt sick, hoping that wasn’t the answer.
“No, Mama, it’s nothing that serious. But I think I made Daddy mad at me. I have a boyfriend.”
“Wow!” Charlotte exclaimed. “When did this happen?”
“Friday night, Danae and I went to a party after classes. That’s where I met him. He’s cute, charming. He’s already graduated college. We had a lot of fun together last night.”
“Yeah, she didn’t come home until after six this morning!” Danae yelled. Charlotte heard it, too.
“Darcey, is this true?” Charlotte was surprised at her. It was very out of character for Darcey.
“It is, Mama. We were having such a great time. Neither of us wanted it to end.” She remembered the kiss at the door and smiled.
“Just remember, you made a promise to your daddy, Darcey Isabella. No babies until you’re married, or I swear you will explain the baby stuff to your brother on video chat.”
“Don’t worry, Mama. He has a ring, too.” She thought she heard Charlotte breathe a sigh of relief.
“Well, that’s good to know. I’m sorry, sweetie. I just hate that I’m so far away. I want to be there to talk when you need it. I want to meet this young man.” Charlotte felt marginally better about the ring.
“Mama, you and Daddy taught me everything I need to navigate this. You’re going to have to trust me. I’m a little hurt that you don’t.”
“It isn’t that we don’t trust you, Punkin. Just be careful. The Paparazzi are always watching you, waiting for you to mess up. Your daddy doesn’t need any more trouble after the attempted kidnapping. Just please, keep your nose clean.” Life had been good for Charlotte and Travis since then, and she wanted to make sure his life was not made more difficult because of their daughters.
“Don’t worry, Mama. I’m an adult. I can handle this.” Darcey was a little miffed. Here she had great news, and her parents were disappointed in her. She wasn’t happy. “I have to go. I need to get ready for school in the morning. Pack my backpack, check my homework. Do you want to talk to Danae again?”
“No, we can hang up, sweetie. I love you both. Be good!” Charlotte said as they hung up the phone.
“That was discouraging. Thanks for helping, Nae,” Darcey growled. “Mama and Daddy are both mad at me.”
“For what? Dating someone?”
“Yes. I’m not going to stop seeing Clint to please Daddy. I’m just not.” Darcey wiped bitter tears from her eyes. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.”
“Good night, bug,” Danae said. “I love you, sissy.”
“Good night Nae,” Darcey replied. “I love you, too.”
Up Next: Chapter Two, Generation Five