The Pruett clan was forced to juggle several emotions and put on different faces. Jayden, in front of Maliyah, had to pretend to be ok with the way things were as he promised to give her the space she needed to figure things out. All the while he was dying inside, and all he wanted to do was grab hold of his wife, squeeze her tightly, and never let go. Maliyah, on the other hand, although she loved Jayden and wished that everything could magically be ok, she had a cause and she needed to support that cause and couldn’t let her guard down for a second. The children ultimately were forced (unknowingly) to choose a side and forge alliances which unfortunately is always the case when parents fight. The other Pruett couple were in a very odd situation, having to pretend like they don’t notice what was going on in public, but were deeply concerned behind closed doors all the while trying to keep a smiling face in front of Kolby.
As a matter of fact, everyone in the house was sensitive to Kolby. There was something about the presence of pure innocence that no one wanted to taint. No one fought, behaved badly, or even complained when he was around. All he ever wanted to do was play, dance, and listen to music, and that’s all he needed to do. The weight of the household strife should never be on a child’s shoulders.
Up until now, the war between Jayden and Maliyah was a “silent” one. Of course, Maliyah would say things to him in public, but they didn’t fight about it with the family was around. No one really knew what the problem was exactly and had formed their own opinions. However, that slowly started to change once Jayden began to learn what Maliyah had been spreading around the house.
“So, Brittany. What’s been going on? How is your music? Is there anyone, umm, special in your life?”
“You’re soo funny, daddy,” Brittany laughed. “I’m not going to have time for anyone special! I’m learning three instruments and I have a job now. I want to focus on my career before I think about entertaining any suitors.”
He didn’t have proof, of course, but that’s when he knew his wife had began to spread her message to the children. Was there anything wrong with what she said? No. Not really. But he didn’t appreciate Maliyah talking to his children about something he didn’t 100% agree with without first talking to him about it. He felt like be was being bamboozled in his own house.
“Whoa…you don’t want to get married? You don’t want children?”
“I didn’t say that. I just said that marriage is not on my radar right now. And to be honest, daddy, I’m not sure if I even want to have children.”
Jayden felt like someone had punched him in his gut and knocked the wind out of him. This was only one conversation, but he felt like his world was unraveling. True, Brittany was not the heir and was not responsible for carrying on the family name or anything for that matter. But there is something inside of a father that always yearns to protect his daughters. No matter successful she is, he always feels like her life could be better and more secure if she had a husband around to care for her and love her like no one else can. That’s what Jayden wanted for Brittany. He knew that she wouldn’t live in this house forever and was just afraid to let her chart the waters of the world alone.
Over the next few days, Jayden kept to himself as he was trying to decide how to handle the situation. He even missed his own birthday! The stress was wearing on him, and he just had to speak to Maliyah.
“[sigh] Look at all my wonderful masterpieces. You guys are going to make me very fam–“
“Babe,” Jayden interrupted. “Can we please talk about this?”
“I’m working, Jayden. Do I interrupt you when you’re working?”
He couldn’t even reply and simply walked away, dejected. He went outside to be alone because he felt himself starting to be emotional. His eyes welled up with tears as he lamented over his relationship with his wife. He went out the pool so he could cry alone, but he wasn’t alone. Asia was outside practicing making drinks.
“Blech! That one definitely needs more work. Jayden? Good heavens! What’s the matter?”
“I,” he began to say with a weak tremble in his voice. “I don’t know what to do! I just don’t know what to do!!”
The tears were flowing now and he couldn’t control them. He didn’t even care about who saw him.
“Oh, Jayden,” Asia said compassionately. “What is it? I know you guys are going through a rough patch, but I honestly do not know what it is about.”
Jayden composed himself enough to give her the nutshell version.
“She doesn’t want this life.”
“What…all this,” she asked, confused, looking around at all they had.
“No, that she loves. Don’t get it twisted. She wanted to be a career woman. She never wanted to have a bunch of kids, and she definitely doesn’t like all the rules to our way of living in the Pruett family.”
“Oh my. I see. That’s very difficult.”
“But I could deal with that. We could have worked something out to make her happy, but now she’s poisoning our children with her agenda. She’s got Brittany saying that she doesn’t want to get married until she has her career established.”
“I totally get that, Jayden, but just playing the devil’s advocate here…is that so bad?”
“Well…no, it’s not. If that’s what she wants to do, it’s fine. I’ll support her. I just don’t appreciate Maliyah going behind my back and planting the idea in her head! That’s something she and I should have discussed! And IF Brittany had decided that on her own, she would have had the unbridled support of BOTH her parents, but now I feel like I’m being bullied into this.”
Asia had compassion on him and wanted so badly for things to get better, but she didn’t have any ideas. This was purely a situation of a difference of opinion. Better yet, this was two belief systems in opposition.
“Maybe you guys need to get away for a while. Go on vacation or something so you can be alone and think things through.”
“Oh please. She goes through great lengths to make sure we’re never alone. As a matter of fact, the only reason she sleeps in the same bed with me is because we don’t have a spare room!”
“Wait…you guys aren’t….”
“No, we’re not. As a matter of fact, we haven’t done anything since Brandon.”
“GOOD HEAVENS,” Asia exclaimed as she spit out her drink. “Nothing?? All these years you guys haven’t even kissed??”
“Not even a hug! I’m a frustrated, old man, Asia.”
“Oh my word! I just…wow! I don’t know what to say to that. I’m just so sorry you’re going through this, and I wish there was something I could do.”
“I appreciate that, but don’t worry about it. We’ll make it through this. Just make sure you and Jared stay on the same page so you guys don’t have to go through anything like this.”
Jayden came away from that conversation comforted, but still heavy as to be expected. He still attempted to speak with Maliyah but was always met with opposition…or silence. They even took to having little spats in public more often, and everyone was well aware of the problems.
“Why do you always take mom’s side? You know she doesn’t care about us,” Bianca said.
“Of course she does! She told me!”
“Figures. She cares about you.”
“Bianca! Don’t be like that. She loves us…all of us! And what’s so bad about what she’s saying? Why should we have to get married if we don’t want to?”
“That’s not the point, Brittany! The point is that she’s evil and she undermines everything dad does! On top of that she treats him like crap!”
“Bianca!! Don’t talk about mom that way! She’s still your mother, and you will respect her.”
“Oh whatever, mommy’s girl! Whatever! I will respect her when she starts doing right by dad. She can start by fulfilling her duties as a wife! When was the last time you woke up in the middle of the night and heard them carrying on in their room? Huh? It’s been YEEEEARS!! That is just not right, Brittany! I don’t care what you say! It’s not right.”
That afternoon when the children came home from school, Brittany was in the music hall oblivious to what was going on upstairs. The children walked through the door and were met by the escalated voices of two frustrated adults. Bianca decided to exercise her judgement as the oldest person around and get them out of the situation.
“Oh god…not again,” she whispered. “Ok, guys. Let’s say we all take a break for a couple hours and go to the park. Does that sound cool?”
“Yeah,” Brandon said. “I’m down.”
“The park?? YES,” Kolby said excitedly.
“Great. Let’s go,” Bianca said as she hurried the boys out of the house.
When they arrived at Magnolia Blossom Park, Kolby made a mad dash to the jungle gym. He met a couple other boys, and they played an epic game of Pirate.
Bianca and Brandon weren’t as lucky to be so care free. All they could do was just sit, enjoy the fresh air, and talk.
“Brandon…how do you feel about what’s going on?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you have any opinion on the matter?”
“I don’t know.”
She tried to back off, but she was just so consumed with so much hurt and anger she couldn’t let it go. So she brought it back up, and then change the subject but bring it up again. But, luckily for Brandon, about an hour into their excursion, Bianca found herself distracted for once.
“Do you see that guy over there?”
“Who? Which guy?”
“The one playing chess.”
“Do you know him? I’ve never seen him before.”
“Like you know everyone in town. You barely leave the house anyway, so how would you know him.”
“Ok, I wouldn’t, but…man…he is gorgeous!”
“He looks like he’s way older than you.”
“Nah, he doesn’t look that old.”
“Why are we talking about this?”
“Because you’re my wing man! Oh! Brandon! He’s coming over here!”
“Good afternoon,” the stranger said as he walked past them.
“Holy llamas, Brandon! He’s even cuter up close!! I’ve got to talk to him.”
“Do what you want.”
“Aww, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing. I’ve got my own plans,” he said preoccupied with another stranger.
As Bianca was watching the cute stranger walk away, Brandon was gazing upon another cute stranger coming toward him!
“Hey…I’m sorry to interrupt you guys, but are you in Mrs. Bumgardner’s 3rd period Simlish class,” she asked Brandon.
“Yes. Oh! I remember you now. You’re the new girl.”
“Yeah, it was my first day today.”
“Cool. So you’re new to the neighborhood then?”
“Yep. We moved here from Bridgeport. My mom and her roommates got sent out here to start a new branch of the company, so here we are. Oh, I’m sorry, guys. My name is Amira Quraishi.”
“I’m Brandon Pruett, and this is my sister Bianca. It’s very nice to meet you!”
“I’m gonna leave you guys for a minute. It was nice to meet you, Amira.”
Bianca went to go find the cute stranger, Brandon and Amira walked around the park getting to know each other, and Kolby was still content to fight off sea monsters. Bianca looked all around the park for her unknown interest, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found. After a few minutes she gave up and went back to the playground. Just when she began to feel dejected, she heard a voice.
“Is this seat taken?”
She looked up, and it was him! She felt like every fiber of her being was on fire as she was extremely excited to find him again.
“No! Please sit.”
“Thank you. I’m Giancarlo,” he said extending his hand to her.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine!”
Both Pruett kids were enamored with their cute strangers enjoyed their company.
“Does your sister know that guy?”
“She does now. Why?”
“That’s one of my mom’s roommates.”
“Oh cool. Small world I guess.”
“So, what is there to do in this beautiful little town,” Giancarlo asked.
“I really don’t know. I know there is a nightclub and a museum, but I’ve never been to any of them. I mostly just stay at home with my family and practice programming so I can get a killer job when I graduate.”
“How old are you?”
“Seventeen. How old are you?”
As the evening progressed and relationships grew, both pairs had the same struggle. Bianca and Brandon were trying to mask their pain for the sake of having a good time, but they couldn’t hold it in when the cute strangers asked about their families.
“Oh that’s a cute one! Can you send it to me?”
“Sure. You’ll have to give me your number though,” Brandon said in a mildly flirty tone.
“Of course you can have my number. So what’s your family like? Is it just you and Bianca?”
“Nope. I have a sister who is older than we are named Brittany. The little boy over there in the red shirt is my cousin. He and his parents live with us.”
“Wow. That sounds like an awfully large and busy home!”
“It is. My great great great grandfather built the house by hand, and it’s the only house we’ve ever lived in. It’s gonna be mine when my father dies.”
“That’s awesome! What about your mother?”
“What about her?”
“What does she do? Where does she come from?”
Something inside Brandon’s heart shifted. He didn’t have an opinion on the matter before, but after recounting his family history and his own future, he suddenly had an opinion.
“She makes trouble. That’s what she does!”
He went off. He didn’t want to or even mean to, but he had kept everything inside for too long, and this was the time it came out.
“That’s very unfortunate, Brandon, and I’m very sorry to hear it. But, at least you have parents!”
“What do you mean? What about your mom?”
“She’s not my mom. Well, she is legally, but she’s not my real mom. I’m not even from this country. I was an orphan in Al Simhara when she found me. She was only 18, but she couldn’t leave me there. So, here I am! I’m grateful for her, I am. But I would have loved the opportunity to know who my parents were!”
“I’m so sorry, Amira. I had no idea.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. Let me give you my number before I forget.”
“…and she just frustrates me SOO much! I’m sorry. I’ve dominated this whole conversation with my problems. I’m so sorry. You didn’t want to know any of that.”
“It’s ok, really. I could tell you just needed to vent, and I’m a good listener. I can see in your eyes that you love her a lot.”
“You see that?”
That comforted Bianca a little seeing as how she was not able to see it. But what she did see in front of her was beautiful as she stared into his greenish blue eyes.
“I’m sorry for staring. I just think you have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen,” she said.
“Pardon me, miss, but I think you are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”
“Me?? I’m not that beautiful.”
“Sure you are! Beauty is the eye of the beholder, and I behold an intelligent girl who loves her family dearly, has a plan for her life, and has strong beliefs. That is beautiful to me.”
“I don’t know what to say to that.”
“Don’t say anything. Just accept it. It’s getting late, and I have a lot I need to do tonight, so I need to get going. But I would love to see you again. Would your parents mind if I came to visit you?”
“Honestly, Giancarlo, I don’t really care what my parents think right now.”
“I see. Well, I don’t want to add to the trouble, so here’s my number. I hope to hear from you soon.”
“I really enjoyed hanging with you today, Brandon.”
“So did I.”
“I’ll give you a call sometime so we can do it again.”
“I would like that!”
“There’s my mom. I gotta get going.”
“OH-EM-GEEZY! I am like soooooooo glad you’re making friends, Mimi!”
“Beth! Don’t embarrass me! This is Brandon. We have a class together.”
“It’s nice to meet you…Miss…”
“Greenwood, but please call me Beth!”
“Well, it was nice meeting you both. I’ve got to get going as well.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Brandon.”
“I’m sure we’ll be seeing you a lot,” Beth said with a determined tone in her voice.
All three Pruett kids went back home in silence in hopes that the fighting at home had ceased. Two of them were on cloud nine, replaying the afternoon in their heads over and over. Those two went straight to their rooms. Kolby’s night was nowhere near over.
“Mommy! Mommy! We went to the park and there were these other two kids there and we were on the ship trying to kill the sea monster!”
“Oh did you now?”
“Yeah! I was sooooo FUN! The ship was going to sink because the sea monster was trying to tip it over and me and the other kid had to get all the water out before we drowned! And then there was another sea monster on the OTHER side, and we were like AHHH and then we got our pirate swords and fought the sea monsters and saved the ship! Can we go to the park again mommy please please please?”
“We’ll see. I think you’re definitely going to need some warm milk tonight.”