Leave the Pieces Behind Chapter 3

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Foodie Fact #3: Cocoa is a rich source of antioxidants, which has antiaging properties.

Watering Mom's purple geraniums in front of our house was something I enjoyed, including having the company of Hunter, who gnawed on an old tennis ball while waiting for me to play catch with him.

The sun warmed my back as it set. I loved this time of day, especially during the hazy summer. In a few weeks, my watering chore would end until spring.

Dad appeared with a bag filled with grass and dead leaves. He set the full bag near our driveway, where the garbage would be picked up on Monday, and came to inspect my watering. Hunter stretched then jumped up with the ball in his mouth. He nudged Dad to get him to play with him. He snagged the ball from Hunter and tossed it across the lawn.

"Your mother had a good idea to plant geraniums. They'll survive for another month or two before the first frost sets in," he said with pride.

I stopped watering and inspected the flowers. "We have the best front lawn on the block."

He swung his arm around my shoulder. "I keep telling your mom to submit a picture to Plentiful Homes, but she refuses."

Plentiful Homes, the state's nature magazine, spotlighted beautiful properties and interviewed the owners. Dad had been trying forever to get our house on the front page or as a headline article.

Mom appeared behind the screen door. "Deacon, your brother is on the phone about the football game tomorrow."

Dad loved working outdoors, but his second love was football. He and my uncle had season tickets to the Giants. During the football season, if they weren't at a game, they spent Sundays in front of a TV, watching games or sports review shows.

He took off his gloves and wiped away the sweat from his forehead with his arm. "Bree, put the hose away for me and check the yard for any gardening tools I may have left behind."

"Sure, Pops." I didn't mind the cleanup, not that there was much to put away.

He climbed the front steps. Hunter followed him, whimpering around the ball he kept in his mouth. Dad grabbed the ball from the dog and tossed it on the front lawn before he entered the house. Hunter shot after it and scooped it in his mouth again. He then turned around and cocked his head, confused by Dad's disappearance.

I gave Hunter a pitying look, even though he didn't react other than dropping the ball and staring at me in a way that reminded me of when he was a puppy. At five years old, he still used his puppy dog eyes to his advantage.

"Give me a few minutes to clean up, and I'll play catch with you before dinner." I wrapped the hose around my arm and tugged it toward the garage.

The sound of cars revving down the street increased as they neared Foster's house. Foster parked his car in his usual spot and jumped out, going as far to open the front door for Tori. The rest of his crew left the second car, and they hugged and shook hands. Tori stood behind Foster, her arms around his waist as he waved good-bye. He and Sam shared some intricate hand slaps, while Tori kept her hold on Foster.

I hid next to the bush near the garage, watching the display. I was peeping but didn't care how pathetic I acted. But when Foster turned to Tori and cupped her face, and kissed her, my heartbeat pounded in my ears. I closed my eyes, almost hiding my face in the prickly bush. It's not fair.

Something brushed my leg, and I opened my eyes. Hunter sat at my feet. How he knew I needed comfort was a mystery, but I accepted his affection by petting him. He thanked me, giving me doggy licks on my cheeks.

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