CHAPTER XVI. THE LITTLE TALK
Mary was just waking up. Remembering how the freezing water had shocker her whole system and recalling the one second, two seconds before she reached out for help made her head hurt. Mom was siting in a chair by her bed. Mary did not want to talk, but she had had enough sleep and couldn't pretend. "Well, Mom, let's have it. Give it to me."
"Mary," Mom said. "Your color looks good. Are you warming up now?"
"Yes, actually, I'm hot." Mary started throwing the covers back.
"No you don't, young lady. You've had a bad chill. Now here, keep this thin sheet over you." Her mom sat looking at her.
"All right," Mary said, "I'll tell you." She looked down. "I'm sorry for disobeying you. It was wrong. I'm really sorry."
"You said that already." Mom felt her forehead. "If you stay still for the rest of the day, you can get up tomorrow, if you have no fever."
"But Mom, I'm not tired. I want to get up now. I feel better."
Dad came just then and pulled in a chair from down the hall. "Mary, have you told your mother the story?"
"No, she didn't ask. I said I was sorry."
"Mary, I have just one question. Why, when you started turning away from Butch, did you decide to go ahead in stead of back to Jimmy?"
"I don't know. It all happened so fast. I wasn't on the curb exactly, and I wanted to keep up with Butch and the other kids."
"Well, you'll have to think harder next time. I've had a talk with the boys. I wanted to see what they were like. I've also learned that Butch's neighbor, Mrs. Frumpstead, is issuing rumors about your being 'cooped up in there for hours with boys.'"
"Oh, Dad, you didn't say that to them." Mary felt extremely embarrassed. Just to think of her dad thinking something like that. What was he thinking?
"What does Mrs. Frumpstead think we are doing? What do you think? This is awful." Mary pulled the covers over her head.
"Donald, really. Mary is eleven years old. She doesn't even know...anything."
"She may not know, but I'll bet those boys know, most of them."
"Donald Brewster, I'll not have my daughter the object of ridicule by some old busybody. I don't listen to gossip, and neither should you."
Mr. Brewster laughed softly. "Easy Karen, I told the boys the exact same thing. Those boys would do anything for Mary; its easy to see that. Meanwhile, tell Mary those simple facts she needs to know and we'll call it done."
Mary didn't know the facts, but she knew the general landscape of the journey this talk would take. As she thought of Jimmy, Butch, and Terry, and what she knew was coming, she was just mortified. Her parents couldn't have thought of any punishment that would be worse than this.
(Next Friday, more clubhouse news. See you then.)