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Monday, April 6, 2015

Growing Up by Meg Gray


Nothing stays the same...
Fern tossed the bag of burritos on the kitchen table and her family came running like a herd of rhinos. Hands dug into the bag and wrapped burritos were passed around along with little containers of sour cream. Fern stood back watching them, all consumed with the food. No one appeared to notice her arrival home from her long day at the office.

“Hi Honey,” Daryl said, kissing her briefly with a plastic fork in one hand and his burrito in the other.

“Hi,” she said, heaving a sigh and taking her seat. She unwrapped the remaining burrito, smoothing the foil wrapper out flat. They didn’t even use dishes anymore. Or silverware. It saved on dishes, but Fern missed setting the table every night with plates, napkins and silverware. She didn’t have the time anymore.

The rush to dinner had quieted as her family went about tearing into their meal. Fern bit into hers. It tasted the same as last week. If she’d made it at home she would have used less salt and more fresh tomatoes. Although, it beat the chicken wings and fried potatoes from last night that left her feeling like a slug all day today.

The meals her mother left behind in the freezer after her five day stay last month were gone in two weeks. It had been a delicious fourteen days. And the organization her mother had wrangled around the apartment—managing to get all the laundry put away and scrubbing that pink ring in the shower that hadn’t appeared until Fern abandoned her weekly cleaning schedule for more of a monthly or once every six weeks task—had all evaporated. They were back to chaos.

But at least her family was here, present, and at the table together. That had to count for something.

“How was school today, Mitchell?” she asked, eyeing her son.

“Great,” he said, his eyes lighting behind his glasses. “In Biology class we got to check our bacterial growth petri dishes from last week when we swabbed out our mouths. And mine had the most colonies of growth inside it. White ones. Yellow ones, and even a couple of gray ones.”

Fern set her burrito down and covered her mouth.

“It was so cool,” Mitchell said before he bit into his burrito again.

“Eww,” Erika said from across the table. “You are so disgusting.”

“No, you’re disgusting,” he said back at her.

“Shut up.”

“You shut up.”

“Enough, both of you,” Daryl said, putting an end to round one thousand-five-hundred and fifteen of the fight these two had been rehearsing since Mitchell could babble.

“I’m so glad you enjoyed your experiment,” Fern said, trying to push the image of rapidly growing mold spores out of her mind and focusing on that beaming smile her son hadn’t quit wearing since he started at his new science and technology academy. He was coming into his own and it was amazing to watch. “What about you Shelby-bug? Did you have a good day at school?”

Shelby nodded and smiled, bits of lettuce and tomato stuck in her teeth. “I have another loose tooth,” she announced. Her tongue pushed out one of her top front teeth, right above the nubs that had pushed through her lower gums last week.

It reminded Fern of when those tiny teeth had first pushed through her baby’s gums. Those bottom two teeth had been the first and only ones to appear when Shelby was six months old. All the rest filled in when she was eleven months old, right before her first birthday.

“Wow,” Fern said. “Looks like the tooth fairy is going to have to make a stop back here again pretty soon.”

“Yeah.” Shelby wiggled her tooth with her tongue again. “I hope I get five dollars for this one.” She stabbed her fork into a bean and popped it in her mouth.

“I don’t think the tooth fairy hands out that kind of cash for teeth,” Daryl said with a chuckle.

“Yes she does.” Shelby nodded. “That’s how much a boy from my class got for his last tooth. And Sari got Justin Bieber tickets. But I prefer cash. The more the better.” Shelby dipped her finger in her sour cream and licked it off.

“Well, we’ll be thankful for whatever we get, right?” Fern said, wondering what was up with the inflation on teeth.

Shelby shrugged her shoulders and tossed her head as she took another bite of her burrito.

“How was your day?” Fern asked Erika, wondering if today would be a warm or cold response day. It was hard to tell with her teenage daughter these days.

“Fine,” Erika said, lukewarm.

Mitchell crumpled his wrapper into a ball. “Can I go watch t.v.?” he asked.

“Me too. Me too.” Shelby pushed her unfinished burrito away.

Daryl nodded and the kids ran into the living room, except Erika. What was going on with her?

“Can I go out Friday night?” she asked, not making eye contact.

“Where are you going?” Fern asked.

“Just to a movie,” she replied. Her eyes quickly flitted in Fern’s direction before returning to the table in front of her.

“Who are you going with?”

“A friend. From school.”

Daryl brought his hands together in front of him. His face turned to gray stone. “A boy-kind of friend?”

“Yes, Daddy,” Erika said.

“Do we know him?” Daryl continued. Fern was glad to let him take over the questions, because she had the feeling this conversation was going to end the same way all the others did with Erika these days. Badly.

“I don’t think so.”

“What’s his name?”

“Ray.”

“Ray what?”

“Ray Jimenez.”

“Is he picking you up?”

A date? Fern thought. Erika’s asking to go out on a date? With someone they didn’t know? The only boy Fern had ever heard her daughter talk about was Caden and they only spent time together in groups with their friends. Was she ready for her daughter to start dating?

“I don’t know.”

Daryl quirked an eyebrow at Fern. “She doesn’t know if the guy who asked her out is going to pick her up or not,” he said as if she hadn’t heard the entire conversation. But Fern knew it meant Ray was starting out with negative points in Daryl’s book.

Shelby walked back in from the living room and climbed up on Fern’s lap, like a little kitten and pressed her head to Fern’s shoulder.

“Any person with a Y chromosome wanting to spend time with my daughter will pick her up and introduce himself to her father before she may ever go anywhere with him. Understood?”

“Dad, that’s so lame. People meet at the movies all the time.”

“Fine.” Daryl crossed his arms over his chest. “Then you can meet Ray at the movies and the rest of us will tag along and sit right behind you.”

“We’re not going to some cartoon show,” Erika said, looking at Shelby.

“That’s okay,” Shelby said, raising her head. “I can cover my eyes if there are any bad parts.” She put her head back down.

Erika performed a gold-medal worthy eye roll. “You guys are so ridiculous. It’s just a movie.”

“It’s not just a movie.” Daryl kept his calm. “Ray picks you up and takes you or you don’t go. Those are the rules.”

Erika stood from her chair and stalked off to her room where Fern was sure she was dialing up some friend to feed her woes to, but Fern was still grappling with the question as to when her first-born had become old enough to date. Where had the time gone? They were all growing up so fast.
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Meg writes clean contemporary romance novels, featuring strong female characters. As a mom to two young girls, Meg is passionate about creating stories centered around female empowerment. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest where she still lives today with her husband, daughters, and crazy pets. She splits her time between homeschooling her girls and writing in the hours after she has put her husband and children to bed.
Check out Meg's new release novel, The Road Home, free books and giveaway offers at www.meggraybooks.com