Chapter Six

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Julia stood in thedoorway of the now empty bedroom. Her father had repainted the wallsand her mother had hung new curtains on the window. She couldn't waitto see Eric's bed, chest of drawers and desk in the room. It lookedso lonely without furniture.

Marcie stepped upbehind her daughter. "What are you thinking about?"

"Daddy says "apenny for your thoughts."

"Okay, then, apenny for your thoughts."

She looked up at hermother and smiled. "I was just thinking about Eric."

Marcie ran her handdown the back of Julia's head. "He should be here in a few hours.His Nana and Papa will be spending the night with us."

Julia tilted herhead. "Where will they sleep?"

"We are going tomake a big pallet on the floor in the living room for your brothers.You are going to sleep in your room, Daddy and I will sleep in yourbrothers' room and Mr. and Mrs. Kinyard will sleep in our room."

"And Eric?"

"He will sleepwith your brothers or maybe this room." She smiled down at herdaughter. "We will let him decide."

She pouted. "Whycan't I sleep downstairs with them?"

"Because you are agirl."

"Sometimes I don'tlike being a girl."

Marcie laughed.

"What if Eric getsmad again?"

"Honey, we are allgoing to have to pitch in and make Eric feel at home."

She nodded andturned her gaze back to the room. "Mama, I love Eric."

Marcie rubbed hershoulder. "I know you do, sweetie. I think you love him more thanany of us do."

Eric sat in the backseat of his grandparents' old Oldsmobile. He watched out the windowas the world seemed to speed by. He wished he could be like Supermanand fly around the earth real fast and reverse time. He would make itwhere his mama and daddy didn't die. He would make it where he couldlive at home and have his Nana and Papa close by. He liked theBenton's. He liked Daniel and Jacob. A smile came to his face as hethought of Julia. She always could make him smile.

"Eric." Papaglanced in the rear view mirror. "Want to stop up here at Mac's andget some lunch?"

"I have a lunchpacked, Papa," Nana said with complaint in her voice.

"We want a burgerand fries, don't we Eric?"

Eric nodded. "Iguess so." What he really wanted was turn back and go home.

Julia sat in thewindow seat staring down at the drive. She could see all the way tothe end. She wanted to be the first to see Eric's arrival. Her motherhad a chicken cooking in the oven, vegetables on the stove and acobbler ready to bake as soon as the chicken was done. One would havethought it was Thanksgiving or Christmas at the Benton house. Juliafelt like it kind of was and Eric was the guest of honor.

She couldn't wait tohave him there and living with her. Eric was the best friend shethought she had ever had. He knew all her secrets and she felt likeshe knew his. She had always loved it when he came to visit. Therewas always a quiet, sit down and talk time the two of them alwaysshared. He even held her hands sometimes. She loved Eric more thananyone else she knew.

She saw the U-haultruck pulling in the drive, but there wasn't a car. Had Eric arrivedin the truck? As it slowly made its way up the steep drive, she sawan old blue Oldsmobile pulling into the drive. She jumped up and ranthrough the house. "He's here! He's here!" She ran to the frontdoor and opened the door.

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