Valiant Page 52

Tammy tried not to flinch over how upset Tim seemed to be. She wanted to try to calm him down. ’’Great. I was on the news and missed it? Did you happen to tape it for me? How cool.’’

’’That\s not funny.’’

’’Did my hair at least look good?’’ She winced, remembering how dirt and leaves had been stuck in it.

’’Damn it, Tam. I\m not kidding. I drove by your place this morning to feed that feral cat you toss scraps to since the sheriff said you were hurt and had been taken out to Reservation to be seen by their doctor. He said you would be out there for a day or so while you recovered. There were protestors picketing in your yard and you should have read the signs they carried, Tam. That bitchy old woman next door is threatening to put a petition together to force you to sell your grandma\s house. She came outside to scream at me that she wanted you gone because she wasn\ going to live next door to that kind of crap.’’

’’What did the signs say?’’ Tammy could feel a headache coming on. She remembered her pain pills but couldn\ reach the bathroom with the corded phone.

’’Nothing you\d want to read, let me assure you. It was reported that you were dating the guy and that he was your lover. You can guess. It was brutal.’’

’’So Mrs. Haller is pissed, huh?’’

’’She yelled that she was putting a petition together to try to force you to sell. Did you hear that part?’’

’’Well, she is a bitch and I\m sure she\ll give it her best shot.’’ Tammy suddenly chuckled. ’’Are there a lot of protestors? Are they really loud? Do you think they\ll stay out there all night and drive her insane? She complains at me constantly if my TV is even at a normal level. There\s a bright side, right? Maybe she\ll get so upset she keels over. That woman has hated me since I was a kid and moved in with Grandma.’’

’’Tam, damn it, that\s not funny. I\m going to come out there and get you. You can hole up inside our guestroom to hide out from everyone. My parents are worried sick about you too. They don\ think you are safe out there and neither do I. You don\ know much about those people.’’

’’Don\ be an ass, Tim. I know more about them than you do. I\m extremely safe.’’

’’Since when?’’

’’Since I\ve gotten to know them.’’

’’That old bitch is really going to get a petition going, Tam. She\s really going to try to make you sell your house. What will you do if she succeeds?’’

’’Well, remember a few years ago when I went through my heavy-metal stage? She put a petition together then too and asked all the neighbors to sign it by saying I worshipped the devil by trying to call demons into the backyard every time I lit the fire pit. They just laughed at her.’’

’’This isn\ her hating your taste in music. This is super serious. There are at least twenty protestors on your yard carrying signs that are accusing you of liking to screw anything on a leash with four legs.’’

’’That bad, huh?’’ Tammy winced again. ’’Well, even if I came to your house it wouldn\ make them go away, would it? They would only start picketing at your place if they learned I\d gone there. I\m staying here.’’

’’You need to come back to town and tell everyone the news had it wrong. You need to denounce that guy until it stops.’’

’’What do they have wrong? I am seeing one of them.’’

Tim remained silent for a long minute. ’’Why?’’

’’Why do you think? He\s wonderful, sweet, and I just want to stay with him.’’

’’You could have told me if you were that lonely. You don\ need to date one of them. Let me take you out.’’

’’Oh, stop it. Don\ even go there, Tim. I swear, just don\ . You and I are best friends. I get asked out often, if you must know. I\m not desperate for any guy. I really, really am attracted to him.’’

’’But he\s―’’

’’Don\ say anything bad,’’ Tammy warned, cutting him off.

’’Fine. I hope you realize it\s going to ruin your life. When you stop seeing this...him...no guy in town is going to want to touch you. I have to go. You obviously have your mind made up and I just can\ even talk to you right now.’’ Tim hung up.

Tammy held the receiver in her hand for long seconds before returning it to the cradle. She wiped at tears that momentarily blinded her. Tim had never hung up on her before. She scooted off the bed, walked into the bathroom and filled a glass with water. On her way back to the bed she stopped in her tracks when her gaze met Valiant\s. He leaned against the wall inside the bedroom right next to the door, his expression grim.

’’You\ e back.’’

His golden eyes regarded her and a frown marred his full lips. His arms were crossed over his chest and he took a deep breath.

’’You are going to lose your house?’’

’’You were listening.’’

He shrugged. ’’I have good hearing. I took a walk downstairs to get some fresh air and came back when you were talking on the phone. I stood outside the door so you could talk to your friend without interruption. You said he was your best friend.’’ He shifted his weight, pushing away from the wall. ’’He made you cry. Answer me. Are you going to lose your house?’’

She shrugged. ’’It was a shitty one with a leaking roof anyway, but I doubt it. Most of the neighbors have been there forever and have known me for most of my life. My next-door neighbor is the Antichrist. She\s making waves but she always does that kind of bullshit. I have protestors picketing at my house.’’


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