***Part Nine***
Word Count: 1,513

"You'll never guess who I ran into today," Brad's father said as he poured himself a drink before sitting in his chair. He'd read the day's paper, watch some news, and probably fall asleep before going to bed for the evening.

"Who?" their mother asked from the kitchen.

Brad didn't care about any of his parents' stuffy friends so he started to tune his parents out and watched Sara draw one of her pictures of Thor. Tuned them out until he heard.

" Parker."

"I haven't seen her since the night she helped us out by babysitting last minute. That was last year, wasn't it?"

Their mom walked into the living room then.

"Yes, Helen, it was," Brad's dad said with a nod.

"Where did you see her?"


Brad was all ears now, barely paying attention to what Sara was drawing anymore. He was pretty sick of Thor anyway. How many pictures of the same guy did she need?

"What was she doing there?" their mom asked. Exactly what Brad would have asked.

"Getting married."

Brad's stomach dropped. Of course it was inevitable she'd get married one day, but he never envisioned having front row seats to hearing the details about her upcoming wedding. It'd be a big one, he was sure. She'd have the most beautiful dress ever.

"She's what? I've seen Audrey many times over the past year and she never mentioned it. I never saw an engagement announcement in the Sun Times or Tribune either. Are you sure you heard right?"

"Helen, I think you misunderstood what I said," their father said, unfolding the paper.

"What could I possibly have misunderstood?" Brad's mother asked.

"I didn't say she was going to get married. I said she was getting married."

"What's the difference?"

"Really, Helen," he said. "There's a great deal of difference. She had just finished getting married when I saw her."

"Chris got married?" Sara asked, seeming to tune into the conversation. "How fun. Was she wearing a pretty dress?"

"It was a nice dress," their dad said, answering Sara's question. Their mother, however, was starting to look a little green.

"And you just ran into them?" Brad asked. Why wasn't their mom asking more questions?

"Yes. I was on my way in to the courthouse, filing some paperwork on the building construction. You know how much red tape I've been encountering. I thought perhaps some personal time with the Court Clerk would give me some headway. They were leaving, quite into themselves. I'm sure they didn't notice me. For that matter, I almost didn't recognize Chris until I heard her laugh. I'd recognize her laugh anywhere."

"The courthouse," their mother exclaimed. Evidently, that wasn't cool. "It can't be. Does her mother know?"

"I imagine she has an idea, Helen. Chris didn't act as if it was a secret."

"Well, why on earth would they need to get married that way then?"

Their dad cleared his throat, taking a sip of his drink. Their dad wasn't one to mince words, but Brad could tell he was struggling with something just then.

"I imagine Richard wouldn't have supported the union."

"Is she pregnant?"

Could this get any worse? He had front row seats to gossip about his crush and wasn't in the position to leave without it being obvious he didn't want to hear the rest.

"No, it didn't appear that way. He's colored, Helen."

"Colored?" Sara asked.

Brad kicked her gently, giving her a face to tell her to shut up. He'd answer her questions later if she still had them.

"Oh my," their mother said. "Chris Parker with a colored man? Wherever did she meet him?"

"I don't know," their father said. "We didn't talk long and it certainly wasn't my place to poke and prod her with questions."

"Is his name Joe?" Brad asked.

"Yes, I believe it is Joe. What was his last name?"

"Gipp?" Sara said.

"Yes, how do you know him?" their father asked.

Brad gave her another kick. She didn't even react to this one.

"She talked about him when she was babysitting that night," Sara said.

"Really?" their mother said.

"Yes. His name was written all over one of her notebooks," she said. Brad thought that was pretty smart thinking on his little sister's part.

"How did you know his name then, Brad?"

"I stayed home that night, remember? Sara hasn't let me forget it either."

"Sara, you really need to stop teasing Brad about Chris, especially now. It's not appropriate."

"I don't do it every day."

"Just when she wants to blackmail me," Brad said under his breath.

"Now that I think about it, I do recall Audrey mentioning Chris' having a boyfriend at one of our luncheons. She didn't say much else on the subject. I know why now."

"Why?" Brad said.

"Never you mind, dear," their mom said.

Brad shook his head, processing everything he'd heard.

Chris was married to Joe Gipp.

Chris Parker married a car thief that she'd met the night she babysat for them and took them into the city to pick her friend Brenda up from the bus station. He thought for sure she'd start dating Dan. Had she? Had she seen both of them and decided on Joe? How exactly did you make that type of decision?

"Do we get to send her a gift?" Sara asked.

"No," their mother said.

"Why not?" Sara asked. Seemed like a logical question to Brad, too. The way their mother said no seemed to him like there was more to it than simply kids someone babysat for didn't give them wedding gifts.

"Well, it's just not proper. She eloped so she loses out on that part of a wedding."

"Well, maybe she just didn't want a wedding," Sara said.

"She would have had a wedding if she could have," Brad said. He didn't know Chris real well, but he knew her parents' well enough to know if Joe had been white and not from the city that she would have had a big wedding.

"It's a shame. She's such a pretty girl. How on earth did she get messed up with someone like that?"

"He's a nice guy," Brad said. He was defending the guy now? Shit, if it wasn't for the guy, his parents' would most likely have no kids left. Brad guessed he owed Joe at least this much.

"How would you know?"

"I saw him a few times picking her up from school and stuff last year," Brad said, hoping that was a good enough answer. "You know, he opened doors for her and stuff. Besides, Chris has a good head on her shoulders, you've always said so. Do you think she'd marry someone who wasn't nice?"

"So, you've seen him then?"

"Yeah," Brad said, another gentle tap to Sara's foot. She couldn't admit to having seen Joe or they'd be totally busted. "I haven't met him or anything, but he just seemed nice from what I saw."

"I still say we should get her a gift. I mean, if I want to I can, right? It's my allowance," Sara said.

"Of course you can, sweetie. We'll figure something out."

"Maybe I could draw them a picture for their house," Sara offered. "If they got married they have to have a house, right?"

"I think so," Brad said. Where would she live? That thought depressed him. He could no longer drive past the Parker's house and know she was inside. Not that he was crazy and drove past her house all of the time or anything. It just gave him peace of mind, knowing she was around because to Brad she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. That night only cemented that image for him.

"I think that's a wonderful idea, Sara, and much better than a present you bought," their mother said.

What was wrong with getting them a present? Brad didn't get it. There was probably some rule or something he knew nothing about and his parents wouldn't tell him about because they considered him to be "still a kid".

"I'm going up to my room," he said, realizing he had to tell Darryl this news. If he didn't and his friend found out that Brad knew and didn't tell him. Well, he'd be pissed.

"He's going to call Darryl," Sara said, returning her attention to her artwork while her mom and dad continued talking about his dad's day. There didn't seem to be much more discussion about Chris anyway, so he doubted he was going to miss much.

"What was she wearing?" he asked, midway up the stairs.

"Just a dress, Brad, I don't know."

"She looked pretty, though?"

"Of course she did. She's a pretty girl," his father said and his mother looked at him sympathetically. Great. She felt sorry for him.

Brad smiled a little at that.

"Thanks, Dad," he said, though his dad hadn't really told him what he wanted to know. He was probably better off not knowing anyway.

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