did you enjoy yourself today?" Randy Lamont asked as he walked down the
path, carrying the picnic basket, Eliza Campbell at his side. "Even in
spite of the heat?"
"Not even 100º temperatures can ruin a
day when it's spent with you," she sighed dreamily. "But, I have
to ask, did you enjoy yourself?" She stopped and turned to
look at him. "You've acted rather pre-occupied all day."
"Pre-occupied?" He looked at
her with apprehension and then let out a weary sigh before falling back against
a tree. "That's probably a good word for it. I'm...sorry.
I didn't mean to put a damper on your day out."
"Randy, you didn't put a damper on
"Yes, I did," he muttered.
"You planned this big picnic out at the lake today and I was nothing more
than a wet blanket."
"So...." She eyed him
nervously as she bit her lip. "What's been on your mind all
day?" Truthfully, she wasn't sure she even wanted to know the answer,
but she felt it was the right thing to ask.
"Burt," he confessed and hung his
head. "Burt and this whole wedding today."
It wasn't the answer Eliza was expecting and
that caused her to heave a sigh of relief. She'd firmly suspected that
Randy's head had been consumed with thoughts of Maggie
course, Eliza was certain that Randy would never have admitted that.
"Randy, why does this wedding have you
so upset? I don't...understand."
"Don't you see? The more Burt gets
drawn into the lives of the Callisons, the more he changes. He doesn't
want to admit it, but I can see it."
"Changes?" She paused as she
tried to understand what he was saying. "I'm not sure I know what you
all my life, my family never had anything," he began to explain as he stood
with his is back to her, almost as if he were embarrassed about the details he
was about to reveal. "Growing up in Kentucky, we lived hand to
mouth. It got even worse when Pa took off. Then Ma got sick
and...well...Burt had to work to support the entire family. I think...he
always resented that."
"I'm sure he didn't! Granted, I
don't know your brother very well, but he's always seemed like a very
responsible man to me. I'm sure he worked to support you, not because he
had to, but because he wanted to. He loves his family."
"Maybe saying that he resented us was a
bad choice of words." He paused as he tried to think of the best way
to vocalize his feelings. "He resented our lot in life -- not just
his own. He resented the fact that, due to a cruel twist of fate, we
weren't one of the privileged."
"Do you...feel that kind of
"I'm not sure," he confessed
honestly. "But Burt worked very hard to keep our heads above
water. I don't care what kind of job it was, Burt did it if it meant that
we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. The way things are,
nowadays, that wasn't always easy. In fact, that's one reason we came here
to Albanyville. He needed work and got a job at the Callison
"And you see how fine everything's
"Fine? You think this is all
fine?" he snapped. "I didn't know it when we moved here, but the
Callisons are the reason our lives were always so difficult. They ran my
mother out of town, years ago, when she was expecting Burt. If it hadn't
been for that, things would have much different for us."
"You're right about that," Eliza
agreed. "If your mother had stayed in Albanyville, she would never
have met your father and you would never have been born."
"Well...that's true, but...."
He sat down on a rock and gazed out across the lake towards the glimmering
lights of the new Callison home in the distance. "Burt getting mixed
up with them is bad news."
"But they're his family!"
"I'm his family!"
Randy's jaw tightened. Why couldn't she understand what he was talking
about. Why couldn't she see?
your feelings about the Callisons change your opinions of Maggie?"
Eliza hated bringing her up, but considering the direction of the conversation,
it was a question on her mind.
"I usually forget that Maggie's a
Callison," he sighed. "She's a really nice girl,
but...well...she can be a bit of a snob when she wants to be. I guess when
you get down to it, they're all the same, but...I try not to think about that
with her. Maybe she's the exception."
"Maybe not," Eliza muttered, more
to herself than to him.
"What did you say?"
"I...um...don't you think you're
overreacting just a bit? Some of your resentment makes sense because of
your mother, but these aren't the same Callisons. Wasn't Mr. Callison only
a boy when all of that happened?"
"Yes, but..." He kept his
eyes focused on the lights of the Callison house across the lake in the
distance. "Eliza, I just can't put my finger on why, but I've got a
bad feeling about all of this."
"A bad feeling?"
"Yes. I can't explain it,
but...well...I'm just afraid that nothing good is gonna come out of this
association with the Callisons and their world. Nothing good at all."