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"Dad said we could get a car when we got our learners' permits," informed Jenna, not waiting for Charlie to guess. "The only problem is that we're going to have to SHARE the car," complained Jenna.

"Well, if you don't want to use it, it'll just mean more car time for me," triumphed Kendra.

"Oh, stop it you two," sighed Sara, "it's too cold to argue."

The five teenagers walked down the road leading back to Twin Yucca. Sara and the twins walked ahead, chattering about the excitement of the new car, while Scottie lingered behind a little to fall into step with Charlie, who preferred to remain quiet.

"They can talk your ear off, if you're not careful," he smiled, good naturedly.

"I don't mind," replied Charlie, turning up the collar of her coat to warm her neck. "How far is it back to town?" she asked.

"If you keep along this road, it's a few miles, but we're going to take a short-cut," answered Scottie.

"A few miles!" exclaimed Charlie, under her breath.

Up ahead, Sara, Jenna, and Kendra had turned off into a field, disappearing in the darkening evening. When Charlie and Scottie reached the edge of the field where the others had gone, she saw a worn dirt path parting the undergrowth and yellowed grass.

"Twin Yucca is full of these trails," said Scottie.

"Who made them?" asked Charlie, curiously.

"Animals," replied Scottie. "Mostly, wild dogs."

"Wild dogs?" repeated Charlie. "Just how safe is this short-cut?"

"They won't bother us," assured Scottie. "They upset people's trash cans, and carry off small pets who wander too far from home, but if you keep a careful distance, they're pretty harmless."

Charlie was beginning to seriously question the safety of the situation, when the path broke off onto the paved road, once more. She could see Sara and the Hanna twins, further up the road, still talking. They didn't look concerned, so Charlie felt a little easier. After all, Charlie was the new kid, still adapting to her surroundings.

"Do you miss your friends back in Montana?" asked Scottie.

"To be honest, I didn't have that many friends to miss," said Charlie, surprised at her own candidness.

"Why not?" asked Scottie, curiously.

"I don't know," shrugged Charlie, a little self-consciously. "I suppose, that after my best friend died, I didn't feel like making new friends."

"I've never known anyone that died, except my great grandpa, but even then I didn't really know him," said Scottie. "What was your friend like?"

"Donna was a librarian," explained Charlie. "Donna absolutely loved piano, especially one solo pianist-- Wallace Shipley. She introduced me to his music when I was eight years old, when she gave me one of his albums for my birthday. Wallace Shipley has only made four albums, but I've listened to all of them a million times!"

"I've heard of him," commented Scottie. "Mom has one of his albums, a Christmas one, I think."

"Epiphany," replied Charlie.

"What?" asked Scottie.

"Epiphany, that's the name of the Christmas album," informed Charlie.

"Oh," replied Scottie, growing bored with the conversation. He considered Wallace Shipley's solo piano to be dull and monotonous-- something only grown-ups had the ability to enjoy.

The short-cut had worked, for the teenagers arrived in town much sooner than Charlie had anticipated. Instinctively, they gravitated to Dairy Cream, a favorite haunt of the local teens.

"It's too cold to eat outside!" exclaimed Sara, as the group passed the outdoor tables.

"I'm in the mood for a hot chili dog and nachos with melted cheese!" exclaimed Kendra.

The restaurant was relatively quiet, causing Charlie to wonder if everyone had been invited to the Garners' party.
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