Promises to Keep

Promises to Keep by Rose Marie Ferris

Book: Promises to Keep by Rose Marie Ferris Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rose Marie Ferris
was displayed here as were Jessie's wildlife prints.
    Garth and Dan came in just as she and Jessie were putting the food on the table. When the men entered the dining alcove, Jessie called to Garth, "You're just the person I wanted to see." She held out a jar of olives. "Would you open this for me?"
    "Sure thing," Garth said. After opening the jar easily, he handed it back to her.
    Dan made his slow way to the table, his steps accompanied by the steady thump of his crutches. "I'll give you a little tip, Garth." He laughed and seated himself. "If you want to make your marriage last, there are three things you should never let Julie bring across the threshold of your house. One of them is a hairpin, another is a metal nail file, and the last is one of those little gizmos that clamps onto a jar lid to open it."
    Garth was puzzled. "I'm afraid I miss the point."
    "A good-looking woman can always find a man to warm her bed and father her children," Daniel theorized solemnly, "and she can repair anything that's broken with a nail file and a hairpin. If she figures out some way to open jars too—well, what does she want a husband for? He's obsolete!"
    Jessie laughed with Dan. "You sure walked into that one, Garth."
    "How about it, Julie?" Garth asked. "Do you agree with Dan's philosophy?"
    "I can open jars myself, thank you," she replied absently as she carried the tureen of soup to the table.
    Garth held Julie's chair for her and smiled wryly at Dan above her head. "She can too. Don't be fooled by her fragile appearance. She can practically bend steel bars with her bare hands."
    Dan was suddenly sober. "I'd forgotten about that," he said.
    "Me too," Jessie concurred thoughtfully. She turned to Garth. "You know how she got to be so strong, don't you?"
    "No, I don't," Garth answered shortly. "Did she used to lift weights or something?"
    Jessie sniffed disgustedly. "She used to lift Elizabeth. Heaven knows she was a dead weight on the poor girl."
    "Now, Jessie," Dan murmured soothingly.
    "Okay, okay, I'm sorry," Jessie apologized brusquely. "What I actually had in mind is that Julie was once a fine gymnast. She used to be able to do all sorts of acrobatics on those funny uneven bars and everything."
    Dan nodded. "That's right, Garth. Her coach thought she showed enough potential that he arranged for her to have a scholarship to attend a special school where she'd get concentrated training in gymnastics. He'd coached champions before, so I guess he knew what he was talking about."
    "So what happened?" Garth asked.
    "Her grandmother's stroke," Jessie replied. "Julie was all set to go, but when Elizabeth got sick, she wouldn't think of leaving her."
    Garth looked at Julie as if he were seeing her anew. "I didn't know," he said slowly. "Julie never told me about that."
    "I can't say I'm surprised to hear it." Dan smiled gently at the younger man. "I get the impression that you don't really know Julie very well."
    "No," Garth admitted. "I'm beginning to realize that fact more every day."
    Dan eyed his vegetarian fare with distaste and cast an envious glance at the lamb chops the rest of them were having. Because he was troubled by gout, he was allowed a very limited amount of meat. He sighed resignedly and sampled his spinach soufflé before he set about filling in the gaps in Garth's knowledge. "As I told you last night," he said, "Julie's grandmother wasn't the motherly type. She was too inflexible."
    "That's putting it mildly," Jessie interjected.
    "At the same time," Dan continued as if he hadn't been interrupted, "she was a perfectionist, and the upshot of this was that she overcompensated. Her way of dealing with any failure on Julie's part to live up to her expectations was to clamp down even harder."
    "What Dan's trying to say is she would have made a great drill instructor," Jessie contributed. "But a five-year-old girl who's just lost her parents is not a Marine recruit."
    "Now, Jessie," Dan said, repeating his mild reproach.

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