22.5 Unbearable

The twins’ moods had been unpredictable lately. Sweet Lily fussed about her clothes and wanted a more fashionable appearance. The cutesy, comfy outfits Eliza picked out were no longer acceptable. Lexi still wanted nothing to do with boys, but as time went on, they became less icky. These new behaviors were a constant reminder of their teen birthday which approached quickly like a scared child running away from a thunderstorm. While certain changes were expected, some behaviors were not normal even for that awkward period. Lily, sweet Lily, brooded and hid in her room. A lot. Though she was the more reserved twin, it wasn’t like her to be in a mood. She and Breanne were nothing alike, but Eliza couldn’t recall the older sister going through such a phase.

Dealing with adolescent crisis was not Eliza’s forte, but she was curious about what killed the girl’s spirits. Seeing her sweet girl that way was so disheartening.

“Good morning, my dears.”

“Good morning, mommy,” a pair of voices said. Only one half of the duo spoke with the usual enthusiasm.

“Lily, you’re much too pretty to look so glum. What is the matter?”

“I want to wear my bear costume.” Her voice was so quiet. No wonder her grades weren’t as good as her twin’s. The teachers probably overlooked her often, and she was too shy to speak up.

“Your bear costume? Whatever for?”

“So no one will recognize me and leave me alone.”

Bullying? What punk was dumb enough to bully the Pancakes girls? This would not do. But, before Eliza lost her head, she needed to find out more about this unfortunate situation. “I see. Why do you wish people would leave you alone?”

Lexi jumped in. “Ronnie and Ricky, they’re brothers. They call her mouse because she’s so quiet. When we’re at lunch, they throw cheese at her.”

Oh dear Watcher! The poor child. Eliza wanted to reach across the table and embrace the precious dear, but that would exacerbate the situation. There wasn’t a problem until she made it one. Good thing Lexi spoke so casually about her twin’s plight. It made it easy for Eliza to paint on a smile. Usually, she didn’t like Lexi speaking for her, but this time it was useful. Who knows what version of the story she’d get if it were up to Lily to tell it.

Robert finally joined them, and Eliza could not have been more relieved. She tried and failed to come up with comforting words for the child. One would think she possessed a fountain of encouraging words stemming from her own bullying career. What would you say to your child-self, she asked herself. Still, she had nothing. That wasn’t entirely true. She had something but wasn’t brave enough to say it and left the task for her very capable husband.

“What’s going on?”

Lexi so eloquently recanted the story. He too did not overreact, surprisingly. They weren’t the type to lose their cool, but when it came to the children, poise and rational thinking sometimes went out the window.

He sat next to Lily. “How long as this been going on?”

“Since the beginning of school,” Lexi said.

A vein throbbed in his neck as he tried to keep it together. Every once in a while Eliza enjoyed seeing fire in his eyes. It was so attractive.

Using his extra tender voice, he reminded her that she could talk to them about anything, they loved her, and all those things little girls loved hearing their daddies say. He was superb with the children, and she was so glad to be partnered with him. And to think, they almost went through life without having children. What a mistake that would have been.

22.4 Next Move
22.6 Changing of the Guard

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