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Authors: Margaret Pearce

Cindy Jones

BOOK: Cindy Jones
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Cindy Jones

by Margaret Pearce

Published by Astraea Press

www.astraeapress.com

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.

 

CINDY JONES

Copyright © 2012 MARGARET PEARCE

ISBN 978-1-62135-044-6

Cover Art Designed by Ginny Glass

Edited by Kim Bowman

 

Chapter One

 

It was Cindy's thirteenth birthday, and after her dad, known to all as Professor Jones, gave her the beautifully illustrated biology book, he dropped his bombshell.

“Mrs. Barry has agreed to marry me, and she and Constance and Prunella are going to shift in with us.”

Cindy was too shocked to speak. Mrs. Barry was chairperson, president, and treasurer of most of the charitable organizations in the district. Her father was often at her place for committee meetings.

Her dad had never said he was looking for a wife before. Especially one as dreadful as Mrs. Barry, who wore furs from real animals and had a nasty tongue as well. She and her father had lived comfortably together since the death of her mother all those years ago.

“It will be nice of you to have a mother again, and a proper family,” her father explained.

Cindy shuddered at the thought of Mrs. Barry's daughters. They disrupted any classes they were in and could talk only about makeup and boys. She flung into attack.

“We haven't any room for them here. Why can't they stay in their own place?”

“We have six bedrooms, two bathrooms, and four living rooms,” her father pointed out. “Be more comfortable than us trying to squash into Mrs. Barry's small flat.”

“There's still no room for them here,” Cindy repeated. “We use two bedrooms each. The ones on the shady side of the house in the summer, and the sunny ones on the other side of the house in the winter.”

“Most people can manage with one bedroom each.”

“You've got all your camping equipment, skin diving gear, and spare fish tanks in one bedroom and your computer stuff in the other.”

“I'll fit the computer stuff in the study. The camping gear and stuff can be stored in the garage when I clean it out.”

“What about the terrapins?” Cindy asked. “You know they weren't happy in the swimming pool?”

“Nevertheless,” the professor said, and the pleasant expression completely faded from his face. “Bathrooms weren't designed for terrapins.”

“And what about poor Horace?” Cindy kept on. “You know he likes to bathe regularly, and he hates anyone using his bathroom.”

“I have indulged that mad Siamese cat long enough,” the professor said. “It's silly for us to have to use the shower in the laundry when we have two perfectly good bathrooms in the house.”

“You mean Mrs. Barry has decided,” Cindy said. “Going to evict your tropical fish from the big lounge room? They will die!”

As it was the warmest room in the house, the lounge room was filled with fish tanks containing her father's prize collection.

“And what about the parlor and your collection of medieval musical instruments? You can't put them in the garage,” Cindy reminded him.

Her father looked thoughtful.

“And what about the other two sitting rooms stacked full with all your reference books?”

"Regardless,” her father said in his most dignified manner. “I am marrying Mrs. Barry, and she and the girls are shifting in to live with us.”

“How could you do such a thing at your age, Daddy?” Cindy stormed.

“I'm only forty-five years old,” her father argued, looking worried.

“How could you?” Cindy burst out again as she flung out of the room, slamming the door hard on her way out.

She ran into the back yard and sat by the swimming pool. The water was a dark carpet of leaves blending with the gloom. Six turtles and a family of frogs lived in the pool.

Hooper, the fat Boxer dog, waddled over to sit beside Cindy. He dropped his head into her lap and snuffled.

“How could he?” Cindy muttered as she stroked his head. “Dreadful Mrs. Barry, of all people, and her stupid daughters! Why does he want to get married?”

Several ripples broke the surface of the water. The turtles were hungry. Cindy stood up and went into the laundry. She opened the spare refrigerator, took out some minced meat and a carton of milk.

She threw the meat into the pool for the turtles and poured milk into saucers for the possums. Hooper moved back as the opossums arrived. They were irritable and unfriendly. Cindy was the only person they accepted.

People didn't take much notice of Cindy, but all the birds, frogs, reptiles, and other animals liked her. She was small for her age and wore faded jeans, and her shirts and jumpers were usually stained with whatever she had been feeding her various animals. Her mirror always reflected a thin brown cheerful face, half hidden by lank, straight, mousey-blonde hair, and blue eyes.

Cindy brooded about her father's news and Mrs. Barry as she fed the rabbits, cleaned the guinea pigs' cages, and measured out pellets for Amanda the goat.

Mrs. Guinevieve Barry was the widow of the bank manager, who had disappeared on one of his fishing trips. She lived with her two daughters in a unit near the university.

She smiled a lot, but her dark eyes, fringed by darkened lashes, were hard and watchful. Her wardrobe included mink stoles, kangaroo-skin coats, and soft fur muffs. This was enough to make Cindy dislike her without her two daughters.

Cindy was on her last chore for the evening, brushing Horace, the Siamese cat. Her brush strokes slowed as the thought hit her that Mrs. Barry had trapped her father into marriage. Her father was so thick he probably hadn't realized the marriage wasn't his idea in the first place

“Yeeah,” Horace growled when Cindy's hand stopped moving.

“Don't snitch,” Cindy said and resumed her brushing.

She suddenly felt more positive. The problem of the threatened takeover of their home and lives by Mrs. Barry and her dreadful daughters had a simple solution. She would stop them from getting married.

“After all,” she told the purring Horace. “It's the right thing to do to protect Dad from himself and his silly ideas.”

 

Chapter Two

 

The next morning, Cindy studied her father over the breakfast table. He was correcting essays, dripping the occasional spot of tomato soup onto them. His dark hair fell over his face. Under his heavy glasses, his eyes were a friendly blue. Perhaps he wasn't too old to get married, but not to anyone like Mrs. Barry.

He shuffled his essays together and put them into his briefcase. “Can I borrow your bike, Cindy? I left my car at the car park last night.”

“Don't forget to chain it up,” Cindy warned. “I'll collect the key off Mrs. Merriweather after school.”

The university was within walking distance, but her father often borrowed Cindy's bike to ride from one side of the campus to the other. He placed his briefcase in the basket on the bike handlebars and rode off down the drive.

Cindy rinsed the tomato soup from the saucepan and bowls, locked up, and left for school. Prunella and Constance cluttered up the school gate with their friends. Both of them had mobile phones against their ears.

Just a big act
, Cindy she thought to herself.
They wouldn't have
too many
friends
to talk to anyway.

The professor had offered to buy a mobile phone for Cindy, but she had decided it was unnecessary. The only person she wanted to keep tags on was her father. He either forgot to take his phone with him or didn't remember to charge it up, so there was no need for her to have one.

The two girls giggled when they saw her and waved to attract her attention.

“We've just heard that we're going to be sisters,” Constance called in her usual high-pitched voice.

Cindy stared at them with her usual loathing and kept on going. Prunella had a round face and bright pink cheeks with pale brown hair curled in a floppy poodle cut. Constance had her mother's dark eyes in a thin face with a discontented expression and dark brown hair frizzed around it. Both of them had red-tipped fingers that made their likeness to harpies even more convincing.

All day Cindy kept worrying about the problem. If she had to choose another wife for her father, whom would she pick?

“Is my lipstick on crooked?” the pretty young English teacher asked.

Cindy smiled an apology. The English teacher was very nice, but perhaps a bit young. The new cooking teacher was unattached. Her father would enjoy beautifully cooked meals every night if he married her. But then again, the cooking teacher had flaming red hair and a temper to match.

Prunella and Constance were hanging around after school.

Constance inspected Cindy's worn shirt and shabby jeans. “Mother's going to have such trouble smartening you up to our standards of dressing, isn't she?”

“Get lost,” Cindy said rudely.

“Bye-bye, sister,” the Barry girls called after her.

Cindy ran down the long tree-lined street. There was a lump in her throat and her eyes prickled. A car horn tooted. Gretta Carson, the veterinary surgeon, slowed down her battered station wagon.

“Want a lift to the campus?”

Cindy tugged hard at the dinted car door. It opened with a protesting creak.

“I want the Science mob to have a look at some of these slides,” she explained by way of greeting. “Did your possum get over his indigestion?”

“You were right, Gretta,” Cindy said cheerfully. “The rose petals were giving him the tummy ache. He's been as good as gold on his diet of dry pellets.”

Their conversation continued about the patients. It was Cindy's ambition to be a veterinary surgeon just like her friend.

“How's Willis?” Gretta asked as she stopped her car to let Cindy out.

Willis was the professor's python, and for a few anxious weeks, they'd thought they were going to lose him. At last he had digested a good meal and settled down behind the fish tanks for the winter.

“Hibernating,” Cindy said, slamming the car door until the catch held.

In the office, Mrs. Merriweather raised her dark head and handed Cindy the key to the bike lock. “Your father is still lecturing. Mrs. Barry is coming past to collect him for their committee meeting.”

“Indeed,” Cindy said grimly.

She studied Mrs. Merriweather. There didn't appear to be a Mr. Merriweather. The receptionist was very pleasant and not too young, but then there was the overflowing ashtray. It would be dreadful to have a smoker in the house.

The lecture theatres and offices emptied. People hurried along the passageway; lecturers, tutors, students and office workers. Some of the students were quite old. A lot of the women had pleasant, kind faces, wore casual normal clothes and flat-heeled shoes. Some of them looked almost suitable.

Cindy's father walked around the corner with a pretty, laughing, blonde girl. He turned into the office, and she waved and kept on going.

“She looks nice,” Cindy said.

“Jennifer Morwell,” her father said. “A clever girl.”

“Morgan,” corrected Mrs. Merriweather.

“Miss or Mrs.?”

“Miss.”

Eureka! Her search was over! Cindy could tell by the lingering smile on her father's face that he liked Jennifer Morgan. All she had to do was to make sure he saw plenty of her until he proposed.

“There you are, Godfrey,” drawled the deep musical voice of the enemy.

Guinevere Barry swung her key ring from fingers, tipped the same shade of red as her daughters'. Even Cindy had to admit that Mrs. Barry looked too dashing to be the mother of Constance and Prunella.

She was tall and graceful, and today wore a vivid red shirt tucked into well-cut jeans. She arched her eyebrows as she inspected Cindy. “And is Jacinda coming with us, too?”

“I just dropped past to collect my bike,” Cindy explained. “I have homework to finish.”

“I won't be late, Cindy,” her father promised as he followed Mrs. Barry out.

Cindy waited a few seconds to make sure they were properly gone before she started questioning Mrs. Merriweather, who quickly became ruffled.

“Really, Cindy! I only work here. I don't run a gossip column!”

However, Cindy managed to find out that Jennifer Morgan boarded just around the corner, kept fish as pets, and belonged to the music society.

Jennifer had the same interests as her father, so their attraction should be mutual. She would start by begging Jennifer's help with one of the Professor's sick tropical fish, and carry on from there.

Cindy rode her bike around to Jennifer's address. To her disappointment, Jennifer was not there. She met the landlady, Mrs. Plumstead, and her son Jim. Jim was a tall, well-built boy with curly black hair and laughing gray eyes.

“You're Cindy Jones.”

“Do I know you?”

“I'm in year twelve, play most sports, and just been picked for the football team. I've seen you around with a very fat Boxer dog.”

“That's Hooper,” Cindy admitted. “I know he doesn't get enough exercise, but I never seem to have enough time.”

“It's nice that you know each other,” Mrs. Plumstead interrupted. “I've got work to do. Don't forget my messages, Jim.”

She went back inside. Jim and Cindy walked along together. He was going to the shopping center past Cindy's place. He was very easy to talk to because he also liked math, biology, science, and dogs, especially Boxers. Cindy told him about her goat, the possums, and the cats.

“You're lucky to have enough yard for pets. I'd love to see them all,” Jim said wistfully.

“Come past my place and meet them,” Cindy suggested.

However, when they reached her place, Cindy came to a shocked stop.

“You've got a lot of ground, haven't you?” Jim said, not noticing the rigid way she was standing.

Cindy opened the front gate with nightmare slowness. The front yard looked as if a tornado had been through it. All the trees had been lopped back. Some had been chopped down. There were piles of sawn logs, branches, and uprooted shrubs everywhere. Scaffolds covered the front of the house and men were pulling the ivy off all the brickwork.

The big rambling two-story house looked naked and shabby without its friendly covering of ivy and large trees. The whine of the chainsaws was deafening. Cindy grabbed a workman, as he busily piled tree branches onto a trailer.

“What's going on?” she yelled.

“Cleaning up, miss.” The man raised his voice over the chainsaws. “Believe the place is going to be painted and renovated.”

“There must be some mistake!”

The man lifted more branches onto the trailer. “Mrs. Barry seems to know what she wants done.”

“Mrs. Barry!”

Cindy tried to shake off the paralyzing horror that she had stepped into a nightmare. She looked around at the mess of sawn-off trees and uprooted shrubs covering the grounds. Their lovely garden was in ruins! Mrs. Barry had made her move with deadly speed.

She burst into tears.

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