Learning to Let Go

Annalise is a volleyball all-star. One who will have the ability to go to the Olympics. It's just a natural talent. At 15, two years ago, she got involved with Seth. A sweet guy, really. But she stopped focusing on volleyball. After breaking up, she swore she wouldn't date until making the Olympics. So much for that, now she's got a new crush, one that she's trying to keep hidden. It's bad enough she has one problem, but she's moving down the block to a bigger house. Why? Because three years after her father's death, her mom is ready to marry again, to Ryan Kennedy.The worst part? Annalise has trouble getting along with Dylan, Ryan's 14 year old son.


3. The Kennedy Family

I blushed a deep red at the sight of Derek gazing down at me.
"Uh, hi," I said, backing away. Our lips had been an inch apart, and I could tell he was trying not to kiss me. 
"Hi, you're Annalise, right?" The way he said it didn't make it a question.
"Yeah, and you're Derek," I stated.
Suddenly he seemed to get an idea. "Do you want to go grab a drink or something?"
I was fully prepared to say no, but I found myself saying, "Sure! Meet you at Fauna's?" Fauna's is this cute little local business that sells different kinds of drinks and ice cream. In the winter, it serves coffee, hot chocolate, those kinds of things. In the summer, it also serves coffee, but also lemonade, sodas, and any summer drink you can think of besides the ice cream.
"Sure! Do you have a car, or...?"
"I have a car, see you there in ten," I forced the words out. I shouldn't be doing this. What if I fall for him? What if we start dating? What if-
My trail of thoughts were interrupted by Derek opening my car door for me. I smiled at him and hopped in.
"Wow, you must really like aqua-marine," he said, looking at my car, tote bag, and spandex.
"Yeah, favorite color. See you at Fauna's," I said and drove off. I turned on the radio and started singing along to A Thousand Years by Christina Perry.
Derek's car pulled next to mine on the back road to Fauna's. his window was open, like mine, and he yelled, "Great voice!"
I blushed and yelled back, "Sorry you had to hear that!"
"No it was good!"
I shook my head and was silent the rest of the way to Fauna's.
I pulled into a parking space and got out. Derek and I walked in together and I ordered a Cherry Creme Freezy. Freezys are something Fauna's is famous for. Almost like a slushy, but it doesn't loose flavor. Derek ordered a Orange Strawberry Freezy, and we sat down at a table together.
"So how long have you been playing volleyball?" Derek asked.
"Ever since I can remember. It was one of those things that caught my interest when my mom would channel surf, and it just sort of stuck," I said. "Do you play any sports?"
"Yeah, I play lacrosse."
"Oh cool," I said. "I've never really played or learned how to play, really."
"Maybe I could teach you some time," he said, his eyes brightening.
"Maybe," I said. "Just maybe."
"So would you want to do this again, some time, maybe?" Derek asked.
"As in, a date?"
"I, um, yeah," he blurted.
"Do you know how long it's been since I've dated a boy? Everyone in our school heard about the thing with Seth."
"Yeah, tenth grade right?"
I nodded slowly. "I want to go to the Summer Olympics. I can't afford any... Distractions," I said slowly, unsure of how to explain it.
"One date," Derek prodded. "On a day you have practice. I promise you won't be late. In fact, you'll be early. I promise, please?"
"It's not just that it's a distraction. Seth... Seth warned about any guy who dated me after him. He said... He said they'd better watch out."
"An empty threat," Derek waved it away with his hand. "Please."
I looked at him, and saw he wasn't going to give up. "Fine," I said getting up and throwing my cup away. "Tomorrow, Sunday for lunch. Pick me up at 11:30," I said. Since it was a Sunday, practice was at 3:00 to 5:00.
"Deal," Derek said.
I got into my car and drove home.
Boy, was I in for a surprise.
I arrive home to see half of the stuff in the kitchen in boxes, and my mother putting more things into boxes. 
"What in the name of Sweet Pete is going on here?!" I yelled at her.
She looked up. "Oh, um, we're moving."


~ ~ ~ ~

"What do you mean, we're moving?" I said, placing a pan into a box. "And where's the, 'Oh, hey, um, in a few weeks, we're moving' part?!"
"Well, I suppose I'd better start from the beginning," my mom said, sitting down at the school. 
Just then, Frolic came to me and begged to be let outside. I let her out in the back yard and sat down again, waiting to hear my mom's story.
"Well, you know Ryan and I have been getting closer now," she began.
I nodded.
"It's been a year since we started dating and well, he asked me to marry him!" She exclaimed, showing me an engagement ring on her finger. 
I nearly choked. "He WHAT?"
"Isn't it great? So we're moving to that new house down the block that's bigger. You know Ryan has three kids right?"
I nodded. Delaney, 4 years old with blonde curly hair and blue eyes. Riley, 12 years old with curly brown hair and blue eyes. And Dylan, 14 years old with wavy brown hair and blue eyes, a younger version of Ryan.
"Well, Delaney and Riley will have to share, but you and Dylan can have your own rooms. They're really big too."
"But why are we packing right now? Why not wait for me to get home, asked me if it's ok with me to have a step-dad, which it is, then start packing?"
"Because I want to get this house on the market as soon as possible and besides, I know you like Ryan."
I admit, he is pretty cool. So I'm cool with her not asking, but I still don't understand why we're packing right now.
"Annalise, I need you to go to your room and start packing. There's a ton of boxes in the hallway that I found or bought."
I groaned. I had a party to go to tonight! Well, the sooner I start the sooner I end. I hopped in the shower to rinse off all the sweat that dried on my body, put my hair up in a towel and began to pack. I started with clothes, since I figured that'd be easiest. Right as I was taping the last box of clothes shut, the doorbell rang.
"Annalise, will you get that? I have my hands full!" My mom yelled from the kitchen.
I sped downstairs and opened the door to see Ryan, Delaney, Riley, and Dylan.
"Hey, duckling!" Ryan said. He calls all his kids by some kind of animal. Delaney is a lamb, Riley's a giraffe, and Dylan's a tiger. It made me feel welcome whenever he called me that, which was every time he saw me, so I always felt welcome. Except for Dylan. "We thought you might need some help packing so we came over!" Ryan finished.
Just then my mom appeared from behind me. "Oh, hi Ryan, hi kids!" My mom said, straightening her hair. Leave it to my mom to make a total fool of herself. Dylan pushed his way through, earbuds in his ears and looked around our house. Delaney and Riley stayed with Ryan, smiling and giggling at me. 
"How nice of you to come over," Mom said.
"Hey, it was Delaney's idea!" Ryan laughed his contagious laugh that made everyone laugh. Except for Dylan, that is.
"Yeah, my idea!" Delaney piped up.
"And I thought, anything to see Elizabeth," Ryan said cheekily. They kissed, and I yelled, "Guyyyysssss no PTA in the foyer! Go get a room!"
Riley tried to stifle laughter while Delaney asked, "What's PTA?"
Ryan told Delaney and Riley to come help me with my room, Dylan to organize all the kids toys in the basement from when I was younger than Delaney, while he helped mom in the kitchen.
"What's in all the boxes in the hall?" Riley asked. 
"Well, most of them are empty," I said. "And about two of them contain all the clothes I own, except for the ones in this suitcase I have for until we move and there aren't any in the washing machine because laundry day was yesterday."
Riley's eyes widened. "Only TWO have all the clothes you own?!"
"Hey, now," I said. "There are some in that suitcase!"
Riley laughed and we started working on packing up my books. Delaney would hand them to me and Riley and we would put them in the box. Half way done with the books, we took a break.
Delaney walked over to all of my trophies. "Do you play volleyball?" Delaney asked with her cute, four-year old voice of hers. 
"Yep," I said. "In fact, an hour and a half ago I got back from practice."
"Cool," Riley chimed in. "I wish I could play volleyball! But I'm not very good," she sighed.
"Maybe I could help," I suggested.
Riley's face shot up. "Do you really mean it?!"
"Of course I do," I said. "After all, I am on the Electric Shockers, you know."
"Well yeah! I watch your games on the tv all the time with my friend, Trish, and I always get to say, 'That's my step-sister.' It's so cool watching you serve," she finished dreamily.
I smiled. "Alright, we're done with the books, want to help me with all the crap on my desk?"
Delaney asked, "What's crap mean?"
Oh crap.
"It's a naughty word for poop," Riley told her. "Don't you dare say it. Annalise can say it cause she's older."
"Ok," Delaney said and began dragging more boxes in to help me with my room.
Three hours later, we were taping the last box shut for my room, Mom and Ryan had finished the kitchen and the living room, and Dylan had just sat in the basement listening to his music and playing on his iPod.
"Dylan, I thought I told you to organize the toys in bins in the basement," Ryan said when we came downstairs to tell him we were stopping for now.
"You did," Dylan said.
"Why didn't you do that?"
"Too boring."
"Oh really?" Ryan held up his phone. "On Instagram on your latest post's caption says, 'Bored, nothing to do...'?"
"Yeah, nothing fun to do."
Ryan shook his head, and started to say something but my mom interrupted.
"I think we should all go drive down the the boardwalk, huh? When we live in our new house it'll only be a half minute walk away!"
When the houses along Wild Berry Road end, buildings and fast foods and the boardwalk begins. Our new house will be the last one before the boardwalk.
"Sounds great to me, as long as I can buy funnel cake," I said.
"Can I get cwotton candy?" Delaney asked.
"Mmmm, funnel cake sounds good to me," Riley echoed.
Ryan smiled and handed me some cash.
"You want to take the girls and Dylan, if he wants, and your mother and I go separate?"
"Sure," I smiled. "Let me change first."
I ran up the stairs to my room, and out of my suitcase I pulled white jean shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt which I tied up with a pony tail exposing some of my stomach. I tied my hair in a messy bun and rolled up the sleeves of the t-shirt. After checking my reflection in the mirror I hopped down the stairs, grabbed my iPhone 4S off the counter, and into the car where Delaney, Riley and Dylan were waiting, the girls bursting with joy and happy smiles, and Dylan with earbuds in his ears, playing on his iPod.
I shook my head and placed my phone next to me on the passenger seat.
"Top down or up?" I asked the kids.
"Down!" Riley shouted.
"Down!" Delaney echoed. I think she has no idea what I'm talking about and is just mimicking Riley.
"I don't care," Dylan said.
"Down it is!" I cranked the top down and off we went to the boardwalk.
Five minutes later I parked the car and we got out. 
"Cwotton candy!" Delaney shouted, pointing to the cotton candy machine.
"I'm guessing you want some?" I asked her.
"YEAH! Cwotton candy!"
I smiled. "Alright, c'mon!"
We walked up to the person behind the machine. It was Derek.
"Hey, what can I..." he trailed off seeing me. "Heyyyy, Annalise! Cotton candy?"
I laughed. "Delaney what kind do you want?"
"Cwotton candy!"
"The blue kind!"
"Oh! Cotton candy!" I smiled. "Blue cotton candy for the little lady," I said to Derek. 
"Blue cotton candy coming up!" He said with a cheeky grin.
Delaney's eyes bulged as he spin it around and around and around until it was as big as her head!
"Thank you!!!" She said as he handed her the cotton candy.
I tried to give Derek the money for the treat, but he shook his head. 
"Such an adorable little girl shouldn't have to pay," he said, gesturing to Delaney. 
"Right," I said. "DELANEY shouldn't have to pay."
He winked.
Riley looked back and forth between me and Derek, making a connection. "Woah, woah, woah, hold up," she pulled me off to the side. "Are you dating?!"
"No, but we're going on a date tomorrow, but I don't think we will again," I said.
"Because I swore I wouldn't date until the Olympics are over. I have to make them. I can't afford any distractions."
"Oh..." She said as we walked back over.
Derek smiled as he leaned down to get a stick for another customer. 
After he gave them their food, I asked, "So you have two jobs now?"
"Nah," he said, spinning the cotton candy. "My older sister works here and I'm filling in for her since she has somewhere to be."
"Oh, for a second I thought you were stalking me," I said.
He laughed. "Nope, she said something about a fundraiser at the other end of the boardwalk."
Just then, another person who worked there who looked to be about 25 told Derek this was the end of Sarah, his older sister's shift.
"Mind if I walk the boardwalk with you?" Derek asked.
Delaney looked up at me, pleading with her great big blue eyes. "Let him!" She said. "He gave me cwotton candy!"
I rolled my eyes. "Fine, now to go get some funnel cake!"
"Yay! I want some funnel cake!"
I turned around to look at Dylan. "What do you want Dylan?"
He mumbled something, and I'm pretty sure he said, "To go back to the way things were..."
Aloud so we could hear him, he said, "I'm in the mood for ice cream."
"Oh, I want some!" Delaney squealed, cotton candy sticking on her face.
As I pulled it off, I said, "Ok, let's go to the Fauna's on the boardwalk and get ice cream for everyone, then we'll go to that place next door and get two funnel cakes."
"Wait, if we're going to Fauna's can I get a freezy instead?" Dylan asked.
I threw my hands up in the air. "Why don't we get a whole boatload of chocolate while we're at it! Let's do this. Everyone gets two things. Delaney, you have cotton candy and ice cream?"
She nodded.
"Riley you wanted ice cream and a funnel cake, right? And Dylan, you want a freezy and ice cream, correct?"
They both nodded.
"Ok, and I'll get a funnel cake and ice cream." I turned to Derek. "Do you want anything?"
"I have my own money, thanks though," he said and gave me a smile to which I smiled back.
"Alright, Fauna's is down this way," Riley said. "Let's go!"
On the way to Fauna's, we saw a fortune telling machine. 
"Can I get one?" Delaney pleaded. "Pretty please?" She asked, batting her eyelashes.
"Alright," I said, pulling out a quarter from my pocket. I handed one to Riley and another to Dylan, who walked over to the machine grudgingly. 
In my other pocket, my phone buzzed.
"Nice case," Derek commented as I pulled it out.
It was aquamarine and said "I AM FEARLESS" on the back in black letters. 
"Thanks," I said, putting my phone to my ear. "Hello?" I spoke into the phone.
"Hi!" My mom's voice said. "Bring the girls and Dylan down to the end of the board walk, they're having a really cool fundraiser!"
"Ok, well, we're going to Fauna's to get freezys and ice creams and funnel cakes so we'll be there soon," I said.
"Wow. The whole bucket load! I thought Fauna's didn't sell funnel cakes?"
"The place next door does. I gotta go, mom, bye."
"Bye," she said as I hung up.
Delaney and Riley bounded over, followed by Dylan.
"What does yours say, Delaney?" I asked.
"Riley, will you read it for me?" Delaney asked.
"Sure. It says 'you are a very joyful person and will experience a very happy change for you,'" Riley read.
Huh, wonder what that 'happy change' could be...
"What about yours, Riley," Derek said.
"Mine says, 'There will be a day when you need comforting and a new person in your life will give it to you.'"
Ok, seriously, did the machine stalk me or something?
"What about yours, Dylan," I said.
"Something stupid, like there will be a great catch in store for you," he said.
Ok, now that's more like a machine-told fortune.
We walked to Fauna's and got all of our treats. We stayed there for a little while so everyone could finish their ice cream, then everything else we could carry. Derek and I held the funnel cakes, Delaney was still eating her cotton candy, and Dylan was slurping his freezy while playing games on his iPod.
We walked up the boardwalk admiring the different attractions and things. 
We walked past a hair salon and Riley remarked dreamily, "I've always wanted to get my hair dip-dyed."
I smiled. "Want me to text my mom and see if we can get it done together?"

Hey, mom, can Riley and I 
get our hair dip-dyed at 
Suzy's Salon?
                                                Sure, Ryan say's it's fine. But
                                                not Delaney, she's too young.


"We can!" I told Riley joyfully. I turned to Derek. "Would you mind taking Dylan and Delaney to that toy store and looking around while I take Riley?"
"No, not at all," he said and swooped Delaney up onto his shoulders while explaining to Dylan what was going on.
Forty-five minutes later, Riley's hair was dyed a deep red and mine aqua-marine. To show the woman the exact color I wanted, I had to scroll through my two thousand and something photos to find a picture of my spandex that I had sent Julianna when they first came in. 
The woman had said to keep my hair down for at least an hour, so now my hair was wild and free as we walked into the toy store.
We quickly found Derek and the kids and began walking to the fundraiser again. Delaney kept admiring my hair as well as Riley's hair and I felt bad she couldn't have gotten it done, but she's too young.
When we finally reached the fundraiser, my first thought was how did Mom and Ryan get here so fast, then I realized they must've started at this end.
There was a big stage where a band named who know's what was up on stage. They were actually pretty good.
"Oh, hey, there's Jason's band," Derek said.
"He a friend of yours?" I asked.
"Yeah. Best friends since 6th grade."
There were face painting stations, food, little toys to buy, there was even a nail painting station! Right away I spotted Ryan, he's so tall. I pointed him out to Derek, who said, "That's going to be your step-dad? He could be your dad! Well, except for the blue eyes."
I laughed. "Yeah, true."
Then I spotted Julianna, Ellie, Vanessa, and Vicky all dressed pretty similar to me except Vicky's top was tied really high. Hey, she's the rebel.
I left the kids with Mom and Ryan as Derek went over to talk to Jason, since they were taking a brake, and went over to talk to my girls.
"Hey, Annalise!" Julianna said, giving me a hug.
"I saw Derek come in with you," Vanessa said, smiling a bit.
I rolled my eyes. "You'll never believe what happened!" I said and told them the whole story from when they left practice to when I arrived here.
"So, are you two dating now?" Vicky asked.
"No, I don't even think it'll last. I can't afford distractions, remember?"
Ellie groaned. "We should change your nickname from Poppy to I-Will-Never-Date-Ever."
"That's not true," I said. "After the Olympics I'll date."
Julianna rolled her eyes. "Please. You don't even have the decency to see your perfect match when it smacks you in the face!"
I blushed. "You really think he's my perfect match?"
Vicky smirked. "I knew you liked him!"
I squinted my eyes at her. "Whatever. So Vanessa, your party's still on at 6 right?"
"Yup. In about...." She looked at her watch. "Three hours."
"Ok, I'll be there," Ellie said. "But right now I have to go, cousins are coming over from Germany. My mom's making a whole big whoop about it."
"Bye, Dreamer!" Vanessa, Julianna, Vicky, and I chorused.
"Bye, guys," she said over her shoulder. 
An hour later, Ryan and his kids and my mom and I arrived back at my house. They stayed for another 45 minutes until leaving. Dylan was quiet the whole time. I wonder if he misses his mom. Probably. I miss my dad. Maybe we can be friends, hopefully.
I sighed as I started to get ready for my party.

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