February 18

Dear Diary,
It’s been the hardest two weeks in my life. Not only am I grounded, I have to do all the dishes and vacuuming, no phone calls, and no television. The only things I can do besides schoolwork are the Heart Threads meetings and helping Mama in the cafeteria.

Papa’s never so much as swatted me, but when his truck pulled in front of Mr. Buford’s turn-off, and he clumped up onto the porch, his face was as dark as a storm cloud. Geoff was behind him, looking serious at me. I thought for sure I was going to get a smack. But Mr. Buford pulled open the door and stood there between us, and said, “Sir, your daughter’s told me everything. She’s alright, and we’ve had a long talk. I guess what she did was about as dumb as you’d want, but I understand her reasons.” He scratched his chin and opened the door a little wider. “She’s got a good heart, does Dell. Come on in.”

I couldn’t believe Mr. Buford was sticking up for me!

It must’ve amazed Papa, too, because his face got sad instead of mad. “Dell,” he said quietly, looking in my eyes, “I’m deeply disappointed in you,” he said.

Well, that made me feel low as a snake. Worse than if he’d yelled.

“I’m sorry, Papa.”

“So am I. So is your Mama. We set a lot of store by you being an honest and obedient daughter. Lying to us…”

“But I didn’t lie!” I cried. “I left you a note and told you where I’d gone.”

“Dell, you lied when you left the house and got on that bus. Because you knew I wouldn’t like it and I wouldn’t have let you go.” His voice rumbled down in his throat as he stared at me.


Nobody said anything. Then Papa reached out and gathered me to him, and hugged me close for a long minute. “I’m glad you’re OK. Your mama was worried sick—sicker than she already was.” He pushed me away a little and I wiped off a tear from my nose. “So was I,” he added.

He looked over at Mr. Buford. “We’re in your debt, Mr. Buford,” he said. “Thank you for looking after Dell and for making her call us. We won’t forget it.”

We left just a little after that. In fact, we drove up to the mining cabins, because Papa said we may as well while we were there. But the Benjamins weren’t even there! I made that whole trip for nothing. Papa didn’t have to say a thing. I felt so dumb.

There was a lot of talk about being grounded when I got home, and Mama like to have turned me upside down with crying and scolding at the same time. Diary, I’m never doing anything like this again. It’s not worth it!

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