Discover Love

By: Maryann Jordan

Chapter 1

Nerd. Smarty pants. Teacher’s pet. Brainy.

Twelve-year-old Luke Costas had heard them all before…and worse. And now, for every taunt, he kicked harder. Punched harder. Sweat poured off his lean, but muscular, body as he continued to pound his opponent.

He may be older than me…bigger than me…stronger than me…but I can take him. Just then Luke saw an opening and went for it, taking down Chris, his neighbor.

Chris jumped up, a huge grin on his face. “Way to go, Luke. Way to get in there!”

Feeling Chris clap him on the shoulder, he looked up and grinned. It was the first time the karate move worked on his neighbor…his mentor…his friend. Chris was as unlike his parents as he could be. Muscular. Rode a motorcycle. Owned a custom motorcycle shop. He even had cool tattoos, something Luke knew his dad would never have.

They continued to work out on the mat in Chris’ garage for a while longer before Chris’ wife, Tina, stepped out of the door leading into their kitchen, calling out, “Chris, honey, can you get the grill going?” Her eyes landed on Luke and she smiled, offering to let him stay for supper as well.

Ducking his head at first, he grinned shyly up at her, and said, “Thanks, Miss Tina, but I need to get home.” As she went back into the house, he turned his attention to Chris as the two moved the mats to one side of the garage and stacked them. “I really appreciate your help,” he said, hoping the desperate eagerness did not show in his voice.

Chris grinned as he appraised the boy-man in front of him. When he and his wife first moved into the neighborhood, they quickly became concerned about their neighbors, but eventually realized they were not neglectful parents. Just absentminded. And Luke desperately needed someone to teach him the things he would not learn at school or from his father. Stepping over, he resisted the urge to ruffle his hand through Luke’s hair, knowing the young man was approaching the age where that gesture would not be appreciated. That thought led to the realization that he might be the one to teach Luke about women…how to appreciate them, care for them…love them. With a shake of his head, he just fist-bumped Luke and said, “See you tomorrow.”

As Luke jogged across the yard to his house, passing his parents’ old station wagon, he hoped his mother had been to the grocery store.

The family room sat empty as usual, the television gaining dust unless Luke wiped it off. Moving into the eat-in kitchen, he noticed it was deserted as well. Opening the pantry, he found the store-bought cookies that brought a smile to his lips. Good. Mom must have made it to the grocery.

Glancing into his parents’ study, which had been a dining room with the former owners, he saw both parents hunkered over the open books on their desks. The room was littered with old documents, books, and papers that covered the shelves, desks, chairs, and even the floor. Corban and Phoebe Costas taught at the University, devoting their studies to ancient Greece—the language, the history, the lives of those from centuries ago.

“Hi, mom. Hi, dad,” Luke called out, not expecting a response. When they were bent over the ancient texts, little penetrated—especially not when their heads were buried in their work.

His mother finally wandered out of her office and as soon as she laid eyes on her only child, her face brightened into a smile. Her short hair was swept back from her make-up free face and an ever-present pencil was tucked on her ear.

“Luke, I didn’t hear you come in,” she greeted, moving to the refrigerator. Opening the door, she stared inside for a long moment as though searching for the meaning of life.

“Mom, nothing’s gonna jump out at you.”

Glancing over her shoulder, she grinned. “Yes, well, I can always hope, can’t I?” Turning back, she said, “Hot dogs with mac n’ cheese?”

Hiding his sigh, Luke nodded. “Sure mom. That’ll be great.” He thought of the meals some of his friends boasted about…all home-cooked, including desserts. Still munching on his cookie, he hopped up on the stool at the kitchen counter.

“How was your day?” she asked, her gaze moving between his face and the study door.