The Wrong Side of the River
Did my heart love till now?

Mrs. Gunderson reached in the pocket of her pink bathrobe and pulled out a checkbook and a pen. “How much did the old grump give?”
“Well,” Dad said. “It was a sizable amount. You don’t need to… I’m sure you don’t have...”
Mrs. Gunderson rolled her eyes. “Grant Higgins!” She shouted.
Ben’s dad, a short, balding man who worked at Montague First Continental Bank, stepped through the crowd.
“Do I have that much?” she asked, a twinkle in her eye.
“Well, um…” Mr. Higgins stuttered. “I’m not sure I should say. You know privacy laws and all that.”
“Don’t be an idiot. Just tell these people what I’m worth.”
Mr. Higgins cleared his throat. “Somewhere upwards of 500 million.”
I blinked.
The crowd went so silent we could hear the river’s currents.
No one ever dreamed Mrs. Gunderson, with her crumbling old house and assortment of bathrobes, would be worth more than the average Wall Street tycoon.
“So how much did George Goodwin give for your little park?” She asked.
“F-fifteen million.” Dad said, almost in a whisper.
Mrs. Gunderson scribbled something in her checkbook. “Here’s thirty,” she said, ripping out the check and handing it to Dad.
Dad’s hands shook.
“I have to live across from that appalling construction site, so I want it done before summer. I think you have more than enough money to make that happen.”
Dad nodded. “Th..thank you. You don’t know what this means to me. To us.”
She waved him off. “My program comes on in fifteen minutes. I’d like to make it home in time to see if Dame Lillingham kills Charles so she can be with his hunky stepson, Wesley.” She turned toward the Southside crowd and honked her horn. A pathway cleared almost instantly and she pushed her way across the bridge, her orange safety flag waving in the wind.
Romy squeezed my hand and whispered, “Did that really just happen?”
“I’m pretty sure it did.”
Dad had been staring at the check since Mrs. Gunderson handed it to him—too dumbfounded to speak.
“Dad,” I called. “Don’t you think you ought to get that to the bank?”
He blinked.
“Yes!” someone else yelled. “Get it to the bank before she changes her mind!”
Dad nodded slowly. “Alright. Yes, let’s get it to the bank. Who will come with me?”
A half dozen people from both sides of the river crowded around him. Several shook his hand or slapped his back. Everyone grinned.
Then Romy’s mom stepped toward him. “Can I come too?”
Dad smiled and nodded.
The crowd began to disperse after that. The sun was going down just as clouds rolled in. The cold winter air cut through my jeans and made my nose and ears burn. But Romy held my hand and I didn’t want to be the first to let go.
We stood there, together in the center of the bridge talking about the new park and waving to friends. Marshall nodded to Romy. Romy’s friend, Charlotte, gave me a hug and told me she guessed she was wrong about me. But the biggest surprise was Parry.
He walked up to us after most of the crowd had gone. I worried he might want to fight again or something, but instead he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry.”
I’d been prepared to tell him I didn’t want to fight and he needed to back off and leave me and Romy alone, so this took me by surprise.
“I’m sorry about the play and everything else. I shouldn’t have skipped out on you like that.”
“It worked out okay,” I said.
He nodded and smiled. “The dog thing was amazing. Honestly, I don’t think it would have been so good if we’d played those parts.”
He nodded at Romy and then walked over the bridge toward the north leaving Romy and I in the dwindling crowd.
“Can I walk you home?” I asked her.
She smiled. “That’d be nice.”
We talked about the new park and Mrs. Gunderson and the town. We talked about the play and Parry and our friends who we guessed might be a little friendlier now. We talked about Romy’s mom and my dad and our hopes for the future.
When we got to her driveway snow started falling. Romy shut her eyes and held out her arms, and raised her chin so the snow could fall on her face. Then she turned circles in it, like a little kid.
I grinned and followed her lead, both of us turning and turning until we fell over from dizziness.
I scrambled to my feet and helped her up. Her nose was red and pieces of hair were plastered to her cheeks.
I reached out and brushed the wet hair to the side and patted her cold nose.
She laughed. Then she wrapped her arms around my neck and brushed my lips with hers.
Everything felt instantly warm, from my toes to my ears.
“Julian,” she said. “You are different from every other boy I’ve ever met.”
“Weird different or good different?”

Keep Reading

Chapter 34

Come, Montague; for thou art early up, Romy

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