Run, Girl (If You Can) - Chapter 531 - The Only Nice Person

[Updated at: 2021-01-11 19:18:04]
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One day Mandy dared to knock on his door. Michael stuck his head out and was about to shut it when he didn\'t see anyone.

"Wait!" she yelled. "I\'m down here."

A vague look of surprise crossed his face. "What do you want?"

Encouraged that he hadn\'t slammed the door on her, she dared to ask what she had been trying to do for days now. Nobody else had been interested or had been \'too busy.\'"Will you play Candy Land with me?"

Michael looked at her like she was crazy. "Isn\'t there anyone else who could play with you? Why me?"

"Everybody else already said no," Mandy said matter-of-factly. "Please?"

He debated internally for about thirty seconds before saying he would. With a big smile on her face at succeeding in her task, she ran downstairs to the closet to get the game. They ended up playing three games because she won the first and he wanted a rematch, which he won. The third was to decide the ultimate victor.

It was obvious that he hadn\'t wanted to do it when she approached him. He was probably every bit as busy as everyone else because she heard the older girls talking and knew they had a lot of homework. But he made time to play a silly little kids\' game with him anyway.

After that, Mandy was convinced. Michael was the only nice person in this house. She tried to stick to him as much as possible to avoid the ire of the younger kids and the neglect of the older ones.

When their foster mother picked them all up from school in her fifteen passenger van, she told him about her day. At the dinner table she always sat by him. When he went up into his room to hide away, sometimes she would knock on his door and ask to hide from the other kids. He would let her as long as she was quiet.

When Michael worked on his homework or fiddled with his computer, Mandy would sit on the floor and draw or read picture books. Being near him was the safest she had felt since her mother died.

Very quickly, she began thinking of him as a friend. Her only friend. The kids at school who only occasionally included her in their games on the playground didn\'t count. In her heart, she began thinking of him as Mikey.

Friends gave nicknames, didn\'t they? Her mother had called her Mandy but everyone else always called her Amanda. She didn\'t think her real name was as cute.

She didn\'t dare call him by his secret nickname until the day he finally snapped when she asked him a ton of questions about his homework as he tried to finish it.

"Honestly, Amanda! It\'s just homework; there\'s nothing interesting about it! Why do you always come to my room, anyway?" Michael demanded.

It happened to slip out because she was startled, thinking the answer was obvious. "Mikey, you\'re the nicest person here."

Of course she would want to be around the nicest person in the house. Away from the busy a.d.u.l.ts and indifferent or mean children. He didn\'t give her a ton of attention but whenever he did it wasn\'t the negative kind and she soaked up the tiny bit of kindness like a sponge.

He blinked at her as if in shock. "Why did you call me that?"

Mandy looked at the ground, suddenly embarrassed. "Because we\'re friends. Friends give nicknames."

Michael laughed at that. She had never once seen him laugh before. It was a pleasant sound and the accompanying smile made his handsome face seem much warmer. She didn\'t think what she had said was funny but couldn\'t be mad because of that laugh.

"Friends give nicknames, huh? Alright then. Mandy," he said casually.

She beamed at him. Nobody had called her that in a very long time.

He ended up explaining his homework to her after all and even gave her a pink Starburst candy. After that, Mandy spent all of her time at home hiding out in Mikey\'s room listening to him talk about anything and everything. He was an interesting person who had a lot to say.

Over the next year or so they came to a mutual understanding. If she didn\'t prevent him from doing his homework or things on his computer, he would play games with her or read her books once in a while. And when she was sad or tired, she would crawl into his lap and fall asleep as he typed away.

She had loved him with all of her little heart and had been devastated when he said he was leaving her behind. All of his kindness couldn\'t be a lie! He cared about her; he had to! She was convinced that if she gave him the cold shoulder for a while that he would realize what he had done wrong, apologize, and take her with him. But he didn\'t.

When months turned into years, she gave up on the thought of her friend returning though she still thought about him from time to time. After so many years of radio silence, Mandy never would have dreamed that she would find him again, let alone be getting married to him. Yet here they were.

"I was six," Mandy told her daughter with a slight laugh. "Can you believe it? We were in the same foster home for about a year. During that time we became very close. He was the only person who had cared about me since my mother\'s death. Everyone else thought I was too much to handle."

Britt raised an eyebrow. "What happened then?"

"He went off to college and left me behind. He and his brother came into my restaurant a while back and he paid the bill so I recognized his name. I ended up leaving my phone number on the back of the receipt and the rest is history."

Her daughter mulled this over for a moment. Getting engaged to someone you were close to before and lost contact with was slightly less crazy that getting engaged to a total stranger out of the blue.

"Does he know about Lucas?" She understood that Britt was asking about both what Lucas did as a terrible husband and how she had ended up in prison.

Mandy nodded. "Yes. And I\'ll have you know, he\'s nothing like him. Mikey gets me because of our similar life experiences and he\'s very kind. He goes along with what I want to do even when it\'s silly. He loves me, Britt. Nobody else has ever treated me this well."

She sighed and threw her hands up in resignation. "Fine! I won\'t protest this. But can you do me one little favor? Please wait at least six months to get married. If he hasn\'t shown anything to be worried about by then I\'ll never complain about him again."

Six months was generous. Considering how incensed her daughter was at the beginning of the conversation, Mandy had been worried she was going to want them to wait years. It wasn\'t like she was getting any younger.

And she had the feeling that Mikey wanted to have a child of their own. He had never said anything…but someone who talked about his brother\'s family with a trace of longing in his voice had to at least be thinking about it.

Mandy wasn\'t too old for in-vitro fertilization treatments. She knew plenty of people who had done it and had children in their forties or even fifties. Medical technology had advanced a lot in the past few decades.

"Deal," she said. "Now, should we go back to the men now? They\'re probably wondering what\'s taking so long."

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