A/N: Happy Belated Holidays and Happy almost New Year. So I've decided to return to this story. I noticed this chapter sitting on my computer nearly finished and finished it. Events got moved over to the next, simply because I feel like I should post something, but it's pretty complete as far as I'd say. As usual the O.C. doesn't belong to me, Josh Schwarz and FOX own these characters. The OCs belong to those of you who submitted, with only a few characters being mine, and anyway I've been babbling for a while, hope you enjoy.
Chapter Three: The Unexpected and the Early
I'm on site. Kirsten had asked me to check on one of the developments, and we were getting a new crew to work on it. I knew I was supposed to help Seth and Summer move back later, so I wasn't exactly fully alert.
"Oh, oh sorry Mr….uh…" One of the crew members runs into me. He's a guy, maybe mid to late twenties, skinny with dark hair and light eyes. "Didn'see y'there." He grips me by the shoulder. His words push together like they can barely get out in time. "Sorry man." He's slurring, or maybe he's just nervous. It's hard to tell actually. At least until he lets go and almost falls, although that could be from nerves too. I'm trying not to jump to conclusions despite it being clear as day.
"It happens." I say. I can't say I'm not relieved the slightest bit when he does let go, although I step nearby to catch him just in case. "Just be more careful…"
"Uh, yea sure...gotta say though least the supe wasn'here ta see this...y'know it bein m'firs day an all. Raul warned me. H...he tol' me… Denny, don't mess this up."
I try not to let on, despite his state making me uncomfortable. He seems to think I'm one of the crew, and I don't want to startle the guy when he's sloshed, and honestly he seems to need help more than a pink slip. I don't think Kirsten would disagree. "Yeah, I'm sure he did." I frown. "Denny, you said?"
"Ryan Atwood." I introduce myself. Maybe if I'm lucky, he won't flip out. "Kirsten Cohen sent me to check progress."
"Y'mean, aww goddammit!" The guy lets out a string of curses.
"Hey," I raise my hands. "Don't worry about it alright? Just, try to clean yourself up for tomorrow."
"Sure, sure thing boss."
"Alright." I nod. "Good. So, how's it look?"
"Uh...well we're makin good progress, I think we're on schedule, but it ain't so easy ta tell y'know?"
I look around confused by Denny's assessment. I'd definitely have to talk to another member of the crew, but looking around the project, his assessment seems ballpark. His hand… though… there was a sizeable gash on his palm. "Say Den," I nod in the direction of the offending cut. "When did that happen?"
"Wha...uh…" He follows my gaze, and almost seems shocked by the sight. "Well damn...uh I don't actually know Mr. Atwood. Musta been this mornin I guess with the sawin."
He guessed? Oh...boy. "I'll tell you what. Why don't you call it a day? I'll give you a lift home if you want. You get that hand looked at, and then come back early tomorrow and we'll finish cutting these boards then."
He nods. "Right, you know you're alright boss guy. Except, I actually don't need that lift. I'll be fine getting home."
I shake my head. "I'll give you a ride to the bus then. You can get your car tomorrow." Now I place a hand on his shoulder, guiding him before he can argue. He's either too tired or too out of it to try.
After I drive Denny to the bus stop a few blocks away and finish talking to the rest of the crew, I head home.
When I walk in, I hear music playing, and I see Taylor going through shopping bags. I go up behind her and cover her eyes. "Guess who."
Taylor grins. "You do this every day and it ruins the surprise you know Ryan." She laughs turning around and kissing me.
"Guess I'll have to come up with something else then."
"You really do." Her smile falls slightly, and I can't help noticing that even as she goes through the clothes in the shopping bag, she seems distracted.
"Hey," I kneel beside her. "What's going on?"
"Daddy!" We're interrupted as Maddie runs into the living room, sliding in sock feet and holding a toy microphone. "Guess what, guess what?"
Taylor shakes her head smiling slightly. "Slow down before you hurt yourself."
"You can't go slow when you sock skate, everyone knows that." Maddie says.
I shake my head. "Mads, you're going to slide too much and get hurt." I pull Maddie down onto my lap. "What has you so excited?"
"We met a girl who sings for money. And she's really really good."
"You did?" I look over to Taylor who has a look of concern on her face before I look back at Maddie. "You mean like a pop star? Was someone performing at the mall?"
Taylor shakes her head before Maddie pipes up again. Her face is wrinkled in concentration.
"Do pop stars have to sing on sidewalks Daddy?"
I'm taken aback by the question and still trying to piece together what exactly happened during their afternoon out. "Um...well they can sometimes I guess. But normally? They sing on stages."
"Oh, so I guess she wasn't then huh?"Maddie frowns. "Do you think maybe if I practice really hard, I can help her next time?"
"Help who Kiddo?"
"Weren't you listening?"
"Maddie, can you let your dad and I talk for a minute?" Taylor looks over to Maddie handing her a bag. "Maybe pick out a new outfit to show Grandma and Grandpa tonight."
"But I didn't finish the story."
I smile. "After I talk to Mom, I'll come up to your room and hear all about it okay?"
"Okay." She sighs, but leaves.
Once Maddie is gone, I turn to Taylor. "What's going on?"
"When we were out to lunch, Maddie and I heard a girl singing."
"She didn't look much older than Sophie Rose Ryan, and she was collecting money on the side of the road."
I frown. "Did you talk to her, get any information, name, age, anything?"
"I tried. She didn't say anything, basically told me to get lost. But something doesn't feel right about it." Taylor's hugging herself, and biting her lip. "It really doesn't."
I plant a kiss on the top of her forehead. " This is really bothering you isn't it?"
Taylor nods. "I'm a headcase aren't I?"
I shake my head. "No, not at all. Where exactly did you and Maddie go? Do you think you can remember anything about her? On my way home tomorrow, I can drive past. I might run into her. How far could she have gone?"
"Is that your honest assessment?" Taylor looks at me.
"Well," I shrug. " Call it an I'll give it a shot assessment."
Taylor hugs me. "Thank you."
As I return Taylor's embrace, I find myself wondering what would happen if I actually did run into this girl tomorrow. I wasn't actually sure I'd be able to think that far. "I should probably let Maddie finish telling me about this 'pop star' before we head to Sandy's huh?"
"That would probably be advisable." Taylor laughs. "Go."
"I'm going." I rise to my feet and head in the direction of the stairs.
It took me a total of ten minutes to begin freaking out about this dinner invitation. I wasn't even sure why Sandy had invited me. He was definitely different than other bosses I'd had. Most never even took an interest in the person that was only meant to help them. He seemed to just assume that his family would be okay with meeting me. I mean wasn't there usually some kind of professional distance you were supposed to put between these things?. He seemed like the kind of person that wouldn't care about that, but it still took me aback.
I went to my closet and tried to pick an outfit, but I wasn't sure what to wear. I settled on a nice top with a heart pattern, jeans and black converse, I then took a scrunchie with a black ribbon and pinned my hair back. I examined myself in the mirror. Well, it would have to do. I grab my keys and head out.
When I get to the address Sandy gave me, I go up the driveway and park. I already see another car. I get out and walk up the drive and knock.
A man with short, curly dark hair answers the door. He looks a lot like Sandy. This must be his son. "Oh hi, you must be Sylvia. I'm Seth, Sandy's son. Um… you can come in if you want to. You're actually the first one here"
Oh, so I was early? Great. I'm so nervous, I'm getting here early. "Hi, yeah, um...I'm Sylvia." I wave.
Seth nodded. "Nice to meet you." Seth stepped back so I could come in.
"You too," I bit my lip slightly as I entered the house.
"Do you want anything to drink?" Seth asks.
"That would be nice, thank you."
As Seth leaves for the kitchen, take the opportunity to look around the house. It was big, much bigger than my apartment. The view outside didn't do justice to the space, although the bit of mess didn't do any favors. They were clothes, teenage girl things mostly. A jacket was strewn haphazard on the couch. I tried to remember what Sandy had told me about his family to match whose jacket it was. I remembered Sandy saying he had a 15 year old daughter. This must be hers. I don't think electric black with what looked like a sequined butterfly would suit Seth very well.
"Oh hi!" I turn as I hear another voice. A woman with dark hair and eyes comes down the stairs and enters the living room followed by a blonde older woman who was carrying a laundry basket.
"You're Sandy's TA, Sylvia right?" The young woman asks. "I'm Summer, Seth's wife."
"That's right, nice to meet you." I say. "Um...I'm sorry I'm so early I wasn't sure of the time and it looks like you're trying to clean up, um...I can go somewhere else if you want."
"Don't even worry about it," The other woman replies shaking her head. She begins going around the room and picking up the assorted clothing items throwing them into the basket after checking the pockets. "I'm Kirsten by the way, Sandy's wife."
"Alright," Seth reenters the room. "Well, it looks like we're out of soda, but we have water, lemonade and ice tea." He grins as he notices Kirsten and Summer. "So you guys met Sylvia, awesome. Um...oh! Dad's in the kitchen getting the menus. He just sort of grabbed all of them, but…well, we have more company."
Seth delivers what seems to be a remembered last minute message before I can even answer about a drink preference. Why do I have another feeling I came at a bad time?
"More?" Kirsten looks at Seth. "What do you mean more? Did Ryan, Taylor and Maddie come yet?"
"No not them…" Seth says. "Callie's here."
A/N: So, Ryan met a worker on the crew of the development he's supervising who doesn't seem to be in the best of shape. When he got home he heard about the "pop star" that his daughter and Taylor crossed paths with on their day out, the pop star of course being Lexi. Taylor's maternal instincts are kicking into gear as she asked Ryan to see if he can locate her. Meanwhile, Sylvia arrived at the Cohens meeting Seth, Kirsten and Summer and the awkwardness is only just beginning as someone named Callie has arrived and Sylvia has to meet even more people.
Next chapter: We hear from Kirsten, Taylor and Callie, as Sylvia's introduction to the younger set proves all the more challenging for all of the parents present as teenage trouble kicks into gear. And we catch a glimpse into Jack's foster home.