Back to School - A short story by Tara Mills
Jeannie turned from the stove, one hand still holding the skillet, the other the spatula, and sighed at what her daughter was wearing. "Mica, honey, I thought we chose an outfit last night."
"I wanna wear this."
"But baby, those green leggings don't go with your purple dress. No. Go back and put the other outfit on. And hurry up. Scrambled eggs are just about ready."
Mica grumbled and dragged her feet out of the kitchen, her ponytail askew.
Facing the stove again, Jeannie noticed the heat under her pan and swiftly turned off the burner. Giving the eggs one final flip, she let the residual heat finish the cooking for her. Breakfast was ready.
"Honey!" She looked up at the ceiling overhead and bellowed again for her husband. "DAN! I could use some help down here."
The unmistakable sound of rolling skateboard wheels made her spin around with a frown.
Danny was only carrying his board. Sighing with relief, she shook her head at him. "You can't take that to school."
The kid was not a morning person in general. On the first day of school? He looked downright surly. "Other kids do."
"I'm not going to argue. You know very well we got a note about school policy a month ago. The skateboard stays home. Put it in your room and while you're up there, check on your sister. Help her get dressed if you have to, but get her down here or you're both going to miss the bus."
"Who cares? I hate the first day of school," he muttered, kicking the tiles on his way out. The toe of his sneaker made a high-pitched squeak that set her teeth on edge.
"Oh yeah?" Jeannie retorted under her breath. "Well I love it." She popped two more slices of bread in the toaster and buttered what she'd already set on the plate.
Huffing out her irritation through her nostrils like a bull, she picked up her steaming mug of coffee and brought it over to the cabinet above the fridge and took down the bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream. This morning seemed to call for it.
"Dan!" Damn it. Where was he?
Savoring the rich taste of spiked coffee on her tongue, she snorted at what sounded like the entire Green Bay Packer's team coming down the stairs.
Jeannie set her mug aside and carried the big frying pan over to the table and went around to each plate, doling out portions according to appetite.
Dan skidded in on his stocking feet and tugged her over so he could kiss her on the cheek. "Sorry, didn't hear you. I was in the shower."
"It would be great if you'd write the check for the kids' lunch money."
"No problem. Is there coffee?"
"In the pot." Jeannie assessed her daughter's wardrobe change with approval. "You look very nice."
Mica slid onto her chair. "Can I wear my purple dress tomorrow?"
"As long as you don't put your green leggings under it, yes."
"Okay." The little girl seemed satisfied with the compromise and picked up her fork.
"Is this all the toast?" Danny asked, the expression on his face not winning him any fans this morning.
"No, there's more coming and stop touching every single slice. Share some of that with your sister."
Her husband chuckled and took the empty pan out of Jeannie's hand. "Sit down and eat, babe."
Ushering the kids out the front door twenty minutes later, Jeannie cocked her eyebrow at the lingering kiss her husband gave her.
She eyed his sweats and t-shirt. "You're going to be late if you don't hustle and get dressed."
"I'm on it." He tipped up her chin, a devilish look in his eye. "See you later."
Her look of confusion made him smile as she did a double take over her shoulder then hurried to catch up with the kids on the sidewalk.
Mica glanced up at her mother with a sullen expression.
Oh great now she was going to have two crabby kids in the morning? "What's wrong, sweetie?"
"I want to stay home with you."
"You can't. We all have jobs to do and yours is to go to school."
"But you don't have a job."
Jeannie's mouth fell open and she stared down at her daughter. "What? Of course I have a job. Taking care of the house. Taking care of you two and your dad is a lot of work. If you don't believe me, just wait. I'll be working on my resume when I get home and I'm going to need all of you to pitch in more when I get a second job."
Danny and Mica both shrieked in horror at that news. "What?"
"You're going to have to start picking up after yourselves without being told and no more slacking on chores. It won't be so bad. Just part of growing up."
They could have given Oscar the Grouch a run for his money after that news. No matter how hard she tried to get them to smile for their first-day-of-school photo, neither was in a cooperative mood. Sliding her camera back into her jacket pocket, Jeannie gave a final wave to the bus as it drove away.
They'd be okay. Every kid went through this. Now it was their turn.
Taking her time on the way home, she enjoyed the stroll. The air was cool this morning, brisk even. Autumn was coming. She could smell it.
Pulling her house key out of her pocket, she took hold of the knob and went stumbling right through the front door as it whipped open before she could let herself in. Dan caught her before she fell in the entry, her momentum sending them both in a fast spin.
"Dan?" She stared at him in shock. "You're still here? My god, you're not even dressed yet."
He pressed the first two fingers of his left hand over her lips and gave her a mysterious smile. "I know."
"But what about--"
"I took the morning off."
"You did? When?"
He chuckled. "Well, not to answer a barrage of questions." He gazed down on her with a contented smile. "I simply wanted to spend a little quiet time with you, no kids."
His confession melted Jeannie's heart. "No kidding."
"No kidding." Dan brushed his lips against hers then started leading her in a slow dance right there.
Chuckling now, Jeannie stretched for the door and sent it swinging closed. She lay her cheek on his chest and hummed with pleasure, her hands stroking his waist and the small of his back.
There was humor in his voice when he kissed the top of her head and said, "Don't stop there."
Laughing, Jeannie slid her hands down a bit farther and kneaded his tight rump. She growled with pleasure and gave him a deeper squeeze. "Oh god, I love your ass."
"Show me how much." With that, Dan scooped her up and bounded up the stairs, his wife bouncing against his chest, laughing and holding onto him for dear life.
Next installment next Saturday. Join me.
"Image courtesy of Photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"