If you missed a part, you should be able to find the link to it in the "Stories in Progress" page. Otherwise, read on and have a laugh! I don't mind. ;)
Dillon found himself more and more impressed with the different abilities of his new friends. After he had figured out that Nicole had a photographic memory, Ray had informed him that Shawn had a different form of her photographic memory since he could remember facts that he read about and could figure at almost lightening speed.
Ray was smart in his own way. First off, he was the only person in their family who knew all the names and facts about the leading sport stars, and secondly he could also hear music and tell you months later who sang/played it and what the album name was if he heard it again. Shawn had been the one who told him that about Ray, and right away Mark and Steven put their abilities to test.
Carefully, Dillon turned his marshmallow around in a circle, browning the outside beautifully while making sure the insides were getting melted properly. While the marshmallow cooked, he marveled at the amazing memories his three new friends had.
“Hey, you cook your marshmallow the same way I do!” Nicole exclaimed, jerking Dillon from his musings. “Both Shawn and I brown our s’mores, Ray burns them, and our parents like them either way.”
“Ray doesn’t have the patience to wait for the insides to melt properly,” Shawn informed him as he knelt on the ground and put his own marshmallow next to the dying fire.
“Not true!” Ray protested past his mouthful of s’more. “I like my marshmallows burnt! It gives them a stronger smoked flavor.”
“Uh huh, sure,” Shawn answered in a he’s-only-saying-that voice.
“Boys,” their dad warned, coming over and raising an eyebrow.
They stopped the budding argument and Shawn instead focused on getting his s’more just right.
“Was your dad unable to come?” Nicole asked after carefully pressing her perfected marshmallow and quarter of a stick of chocolate between two graham cracker halves.
“He had some work left,” Dillon answered, preparing his own s’more. “Today was technically a day off, but we still had to make and deliver a couple pizza’s for posterity.”
“Why was today a day off?” Ray questioned, resisting the urge to lick the leftover marshmallow off his fingertips and instead taking the anti-bacterial wipe his mom handed him.
“It’s called the Fourth of July,” Mark put in suddenly. “It’s a national holiday here in America celebrating the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Also called Independence Day.” He looked up from the glow of his phone’s screen with a lopsided grin. “That’s the dictionary definition people.”
Ray glared at his new friend before rolling his eyes. “Oh, sheesh. I know what the Fourth of July is,” he replied with an accompanying punch towards Mark’s shoulder, which the taller boy easily dodged. “I just forgot that today was it. We’ve been having a busy couple of days traveling and stuff. This whole trip has been a holiday for me, so I forgot that one of the days here was a holiday on top of a holiday.”
He paused and started on a second marshmallow, burying it in flames and watching it practically go up in smoke. Ray ignored the protests from his siblings and continued, “However, that aside, it makes sense that your pizza place would take the day off. But you say they still do deliveries?”
“Just until five,” Dillon added informatively. “After that, if we’re still down here, Dad said he might join us.” He grinned. “Dad’s never one to lose out on free food.”
“We’d love to meet him,” their mom said with a smile, handing out more marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. “He sounds like a really fun guy!”
“He is!” Dillon exclaimed enthusiastically.
Shawn carefully wiped all stickiness from his hands, though there wasn’t much to wipe off since he was a naturally neat eater, and stood up. “I’d like to take a walk along the water. Anybody else want to come?”
Nicole eagerly volunteered. “I’d love to go!”
Ray considered the options, but when Mark said he was planning on surfing a little, he decided to stay and try his hand at a new sport he hadn’t learned.
“I’d better stay and make sure Mark doesn’t kill himself surfing,” Steven said with an air of martyrdom.
The parents both said they wanted to stay by the fire and watch the surfers to make sure no one got hurt.
“I’ll go too then,” Dillon offered. “You know, just so you don’t end up arguing the whole time.”
Nicole grinned. “Well, you’re welcome to come, but I should tell you, Shawn and I hardly ever argue so you’re job as peacemaker is going to be pretty boring.”
“Maybe I can come up with a topic for argument then and one of you can play peacemaker,” he replied with a grin matching hers in width.
“Good luck,” Shawn grunted with a roll of his eyes. “Come on, let’s walk.”
After they had gotten a few yards away from the warmth of the fire, Nicole suddenly let out a giggle.
“What’s so funny?” Shawn queried suspiciously.
“I was just remembering our last attempt to walk along the water and hoping that this walk doesn’t turn out as exciting.”
“I don’t think we’ll ever have a more exciting walk then that one,” Shawn declared emphatically.
Dillon chuckled. “I’m glad I gave you an especially memorable vacation.” He paused before asking, “If you don’t mind, what was it I said that shocked you so much Nicole?”
“You don’t know?” Nicole pulled her own version of the Jesus stunt: asking a question with another question.
Dillon shook his head cluelessly. “I was as shocked by your reaction as you were by whatever I said!” he replied.
Nicole shrugged, feeling herself blush. “You called me accomplished and pretty,” she finally said.
“That was what made you mad?” Dillon had a puzzled frown on his face. “I was only stating facts.”
“Yeah, well,” Nicole sighed and pushed her hair back from her face, “I’m not used to getting offhanded compliments from guys who aren’t related to me.”
“Oh.” Dillon was still puzzled. “Why not?”
“Because,” Nicole began slowly, “I don’t encourage it.”
“That didn’t stop me,” Dillon pointed out.
“Yes it did actually,” Shawn answered. “Remember how you ran for your life after you said it?”
“Well, yes,” Dillon admitted, “but that was after I complimented her. And it was more because of the murdering looks you and your brother were sending my direction then her reaction.”
Shawn and Nicole both grinned as his admission.
“That’s what brothers are there for,” Nicole said, nudging Shawn, “to be the back-up plan if the first one fails.”
The three friends laughed together.
“Well, I’m glad you weren’t too offended,” Dillon said finally. “You guys are so much fun to hang out with, I really would have been missing something if I hadn’t apologized and if you hadn’t forgiven me.”
“We would have been missing out too,” Shawn replied. “Ray is going ballistic with all these new friends. This literally made his vacation. As for Nicole and I, even we are having fun with you guys.”
“Which is saying something,” Nicole added. “I mean, Ray makes friends every day…well, almost every day, and sometimes never sees them again. It doesn’t bother him. But Shawn and I don’t. We’re picky with who we talk and hang out with. And you along with Mark and Steven have made our list. That’s actually quite the accomplishment.”
“I feel super honored,” Dillon said, bowing to an imaginary audience.
Nicole wasn’t finished. “Besides, forgiving people is something everyone ought to do, no matter what they’ve done. For us, it was easy…you just didn’t understand how our family worked. But sometimes forgiving takes a lot of effort. Christians should do it anyways.”
A guarded look passed over Dillon’s face. “You’re Christians?” he asked.
Nicole smiled and looked at her brother with a raised eyebrow. “Yep,” she answered. “And not ashamed of it.”
“Oh.” A small frown settled between Dillon’s eyebrows. “And you say all Christians forget and forgive?” he questioned.
“No,” Shawn replied for Nicole. “She said Christians should forgive even when it’s hard. Sadly, not all of us do.”
“Let’s go back to the fire,” Dillon said suddenly, effectively switching the subject. “I’m getting a little cold. Should have brought my hoodie with me.”
The siblings noted the change, and wisely didn’t press the subject he had turned from. They walked quickly back the way they had come, a little surprised how far they had walked in what seemed a short amount of time. All three parents were standing around the fire while Ray and two of his new friends continued splashing around in the waves.
Dillon waved to his dad, a smiling man who looked like an older version of his only child. Nicole and Shawn, who had missed the first set of introductions, shook his hand and told him their names.
“So, you’re Nicole, huh?” he asked, his eyes twinkling as he regarded the pastor’s daughter. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you and the adventure my son gave you day before yesterday.”
Nicole giggled even as Dillon made protesting noises behind her. “It seems like everybody has,” she said. “My reputation proceeds me rather quickly.”
“Just to those who use it to tease my son,” Dillon’s dad said in a reassuring tone.
“And that they all do quite liberally,” Dillon growled in a half whisper.
“I can imagine,” Shawn whispered back with a wry smile.
Just then Ray, Steven and Mark ran up from the water. After a gasp and a scolding from the pastor’s wife, they wrapped themselves in towels and stood by the fire to dry.
While the teens talked, teased, and laughed together, the adults watched them from a short distance away.
Dillon’s dad looked over at his new friend. “So, I assume you already know I work at Pizza Pizzazz,” he began in an effort to start a conversation. “Where did you say you worked?”
The PK’s dad looked over at the middle-aged man with a smile. “I’m a pastor,” he answered. “I preach up in a small community church in Western Washington, but this week my family and I are on vacation.”
The same guarded look that had come into Dillon’s eyes now entered his father’s. “Oh, I see. So you’re Christians?”
“Yes,” the pastor answered. He noted the change and wisely didn’t push like his children had also done a few minutes earlier. “Are you?” he asked instead.
A moment of hesitation came before he answered, “Yes.”
The pastor glanced sideways at the other dad. “I see. How do you know that?”
“I used to go to church pretty regularly,” he began, “and my parents were Christians.”
“I see,” the pastor repeated, more slowly and thoughtfully this time. “So that’s why you think you’re a Christian?”
“Yes,” the other dad said carefully, beginning to sense that the other man didn’t agree with him. “Aren’t I?”
The pastor sighed, passing a hand through his wind-blown hair. “No. Not if that’s all that you think makes you a Christian.”
Immediately defensive, Dillon’s dad frowned. “Than what does?” he demanded.
“Believing in your heart that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came down to earth as a complete man, while still wholly God, that he died for the world’s sin and then rose from the grave three days later.” The pastor smiled. “I’ve lost count how many times I’ve preached sermons on that.”
The other man folded his arms, a thoughtful and slightly angry look on his face. “You believe that?”
“Yes, I do,” the pastor freely admitted. “Do you?”
“I did once,” Dillon’s dad answered finally. “But that was before…” he trailed off and his frown deepened.
The pastor shot his wife a look and she discretely walked towards the children who had finished drying but had drifted towards the ocean yet again. They were laughing over something Ray had done on Mark’s surfboard. Ray’s dad motioned towards the log. “Perhaps we can sit and talk,” he offered.
Later, when everyone came back to dry off for a second time, the dad’s were laughing together like old friends. Not long after that, the parents unanimously declared it was high time for them to all head back. Before they left, Dillon asked if they could all ride their bikes around the town the next day.
At the hopeful looks from all the teens at this request, the pastor and his wife both promised they would think about it and call Dillon’s dad the next morning if it was a “yes”.
“Aren’t you working tomorrow?” Steven asked Dillon.
“No, I gave him the rest of the week off,” Mr. Blake answered. “He’s too distracted to be much help anyway.”
“Hey!” Dillon protested. “But thanks for the week off,” he added with a grin. “It’s much appreciated.”
“You’ll have to be willing to rent your own bicycles,” the pastor told his three teens.
“I’m sure we’ve got enough money,” Ray assured him.
“More than enough,” Shawn corrected.