Thursday, July 5, 2012
The next few days passed quickly. Dawn kept accompanying Jamie to the meetings and Jamie kept chickening out about talking to Brian, but Dawn didn’t mind so much anymore. She was starting to enjoy First Principles and make friends there—it really was becoming a community, even though it swelled with members every day. By the end of the week, almost 250 people were showing up for each meeting. Together, the group repaired playground equipment, collected clothes for the needy, and drew plans for a youth community center. Her sister was proud of her too—Buffy kept telling her how great it was that she was volunteering and helping people out.
Dawn managed to avoid Timothy Huston the entire time, until one day when she was painting over graffiti on the side of a downtown building. She could feel him staring at her as she mechanically dipped the brush in the can and then onto the wall. He was making her nervous, and she was sick of it. She set the can on the ground and slammed the brush into it, sending little blotches of white paint everywhere.
“I know what you said about Buffy,” she said angrily, turning in his direction.
“Huh?” he said, surprised.
“My sister. I heard what you said about her being a freak. Somebody told me.” Her eyes bore into his as she put her hands on her hips. Around them, the other painters tried to appear casual as they listened in.
“I didn’t say that,” he said to her dubious face. “I said it was freaky how she always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that it was too bad because she seemed okay otherwise.”
“You . . . you did?” Dawn stammered, trying to regain her composure.
Timothy shrugged. “That’s right. That’s all I said.”
“Liar!” yelled one of the other painters in a mocking voice. “He also said you were cute!”
Dawn blushed and turned away to pick up the brush. Timothy leaned against the wall and spoke to her quietly so the others couldn’t hear.
“Really. I swear I didn’t mean anything against your sister.” He looked surprised when Dawn started giggling.
“You’ve ruined your shirt,” she said, pointing to the coat of fresh white paint he was leaning against. He jumped away from the wall and looked at his arm. “I meant to do that,” he said quickly, combining it with a charming, self-effacing grin. “You’ve heard of those old stone-washed jeans right? This is my new style I’m starting. I call them ‘paint-splashed shirts.’”
After that, Dawn didn’t go to great lengths to avoid him anymore. In fact, Jamie teased her that she was trying to bump into him.
On Friday afternoon, Dawn was in the crowd when Wittingstone gave a speech to his largest crowd yet. Most of it Dawn had already heard before, but she paid close attention anyway.
“Communities are the bedrock of this great country of ours. But communities aren’t static things— communities grow over time. Communities like ours grow when American citizens work together, and when outsiders learn the ways of communities, shedding their own peculiarities in the process. By becoming one people, we stand united where others would fall.”
Dawn joined in the applause.
“Community,” he continued. “Community is what First Principles is all about. American citizens deserve community, and community is what makes us strong as a people and as a nation. Community is working together to build each other up, not tear one another down. And most importantly, a community sticks up for members of the community when outsiders threaten it.”
Dawn lingered for several minutes after the meeting, chatting with other members and saying goodbye to Jamie. It was late in the afternoon when she got home, and she arrived just as Buffy was leaving for work.
“How was your group-thingie?” Buffy asked.
“It’s called First Principles,” Dawn said with a slight smile. She had told Buffy about it a hundred times but her sister could never remember the name. “But yeah, it was good.”
“Still sounds like the Girl Scouts to me,” Buffy said jokingly. “But seriously, it sounds cool. There’s a lot more ways to help people out than killing vampires. By the way,” she continued, as she opened the car door. “I picked up a pie from the bakery. Mind dropping it off at the new people down the street? I think their last name is Jocerta or something. They’re from Pakistan.”
“A pie? You can’t be serious. We never did stuff like that for neighbors.”
“I know. But Mom always did. She said it was the way to make people feel welcome. So I figured we’d take up the habit. Anyway, I’m sure the Jocertas are nice.”
“Maybe. But we should be vigilant of outsiders.”
“What? What makes you say that?” Buffy looked shocked. “Did you hear something about them?”
“No,” Dawn replied. “It’s just common sense, Buffy. Everyone knows it. People who aren’t part of the community might be a danger to it. We have to watch out for ourselves, you know.”
Buffy shut the car door and walked over to Dawn, eyeing her carefully. “That’s not how we are, Dawn. We give people a chance. Where did you get all that from? Is that what they teach you in that club?”
“First Principles isn’t a ‘club’ Buffy,” Dawn said, becoming visibly angry. “It’s a community. Members of a community protect one another from outsiders, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Then maybe you need to find another ‘community’ to hang out at if they’re making you think like that.”
“Maybe you should just leave me alone, like you promised!” she shouted. “They’re my friends and I’ll see them if I want to!” She stepped inside the house and slammed the door in Buffy’s face, hard.
Buffy thought about trying the doorknob but then thought better of it. Better to let her calm down. I can’t believe she said that. She doesn’t usually freak out so quickly. What a brat. Was I ever like this to Mom? God, I hope not. She walked back to the car and got in—an evening of burgers and fries was waiting.