She did it. Eliza was able to solve the two cases she needed for promotion within two days. She is now Captain Eliza Pancakes. Scoffers, eat your hearts out. Bob was so proud. They had to celebrate her accomplishment. As soon as she made the announcement, he ushered them all to a nice restaurant–after giving her a warm squeeze and a kiss, of course. They put on their fancy wear and headed to Villa Bovine.
“So, Bre, what do you think about your mom’s accomplishment?”
Although Eliza was the sort to make a big deal out of everything, all the attention she was getting from the two people she loved most made her a wee bit bashful. She had no doubts they would be happy for her, but all of the fuss was greatly appreciated. Deep down, she wondered if they ever resented her ambition. After all, everyone had been affected in some way by her unrelenting race to the top.
“I’m glad mommy got promoted! She’ll make sure big bad people don’t get me now. And she’ll find their secret hideouts, and blow them allll up!”
Uncomfortable laugher ensued. They both knew that insanity would always be part of her life, sadly, but they hoped that whatever interests or world-view she adopted when she got older would even-out the crazy.
Eliza had something on her mind that she wanted to clear up before any other conversations began. “Breanne…” She cleared her throat. “About last night…”
Oh for Watcher’s sake, Lizzie! Just leave it alone.
Eliza never stammered. That’s how Bob knew the unfortunate incident had rattled her more than she let on. Although he would have preferred another topic of conversation, he knew she had to get whatever it was off her chest.
“So…what you saw…” She cleared her throat again. This wasn’t working out. She knew one day she would need to have that conversation with her, but she never imagined having it before her teen birthday…and being so unprepared. Before she began again, she took a moment to gather her thoughts. Then, she tried another approach. “Your birthday is very soon, and you may begin to feel differently toward certain people in your life…”
Bob knew that conversation was necessary as well and was glad it was Eliza giving it and not him. It didn’t make him more comfortable though. He plastered a smile on his face to get through it.
Eliza continued. “You may want to do things…” She was so nervous, but she tried to hold it together. “Excuse me, may I have some water, please?” She flagged a waiter down who was nearby. She cleared her throat again. “As I was saying…certain things you may want to do, such as what we were doing, should only be done with someone you love…preferably within the confines of a marriage.”
“Here is your water, madame.” The waiter placed the glass on the table and walked away in a hurry.
Oh Watcher…everyone is hearing this! Bob wanted to disappear.
Eliza took several gulps before she gave her attention back to her daughter. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Something was wrong, Eliza thought. That was too easy and Breanne wasn’t freaked out. Maybe she didn’t really understand. “Do you have any questions?”
“Nope.” She had no clue what her mother was going on about, but she did recognize that Eliza was uncomfortable and thought perhaps she caused it. “I didn’t know you were home and I just wanted to say hi. I didn’t know you were playing with daddy.”
“Playing?” That explained a lot. “How do you think me and daddy play together?”
“You were wrestling! We wrestle at school all the time. But not for real wrestling, but play wrestling. The kids who wrestle for real get into trouble.”
Eliza was even more embarrassed than she was before, but relieved. She laughed as she realized her speech and all the build up was a waste. “Ok, my dear. Well, you’re mostly right. Parents need play time like children need play time. So, in the future…knock and wait, ok?”
“I’m curious though…why did you scream if you thought we just playing?”
“Daddy wasn’t wearing a shirt! It was scary.”
“OK,” Bob shouted. “So, did the office throw you a party?”
“Here you are, folks.” Saved by the server. “Bon appetite!”
“I don’t get the feeling they appreciate my hard work, Robert. The chief does because it makes him look good, but I think he knows I aim to have his job one day.”
“I’m sorry, Lizzie. They know you’re a gem. That’s why they don’t treat you well.”
“True. It doesn’t make it less hard though. What about you?” It had just occurred to her that they didn’t talk about his job much. She made a mental note to change that.
“Things are ok. They’ve had me at the bar for a little while. I’m not really sure why.”
“Mixology? Oh no, Robert. That will not do. Your talents cannot go to waste on juice!”
“I know. They said everyone has to do time at the bar before moving on, so… I guess I’ll do my time and move on.” He shrugged and took a bite out of his asparagus.
“Hmph! They don’t appreciate you. You should leave and open your own restaurant! That’ll show them what you can do.”
He chuckled nervously. “Let’s not get too crazy. I don’t think I’d make a good manager, and all the schmoozing I’d have to do with the customers? Nah. It’s not for me. I just want to cook.”
“Oh, Robert. You simply must come out of that shell, dear. You know what they say…success is just on the other side of your comfort zone.”
Bob understood Eliza’s need for everything to look nice and be perfect. There was nothing he could do about it except let her do whatever she needed to do to feel satisfied. He let her tell him how to dress and what to buy and who to talk to. He let her do these things because he loved and understood her. But, hearing her attempt to change him once more was yet another reminder that she still didn’t understand him. Maybe she didn’t even try. He tried not to think about how one-sided their marriage felt, but sometimes he couldn’t ignore the signs. It frustrated him.
“Introversion isn’t a shirt I can just take off and put on when I need to, Eliza.”
She gasped. He hadn’t called her that in ages. She was only trying to help, but she had gone a bit too far.
“I just want to be a chef. Maybe I’ll write some cookbooks or go on TV or something. If I get a little celebrity out of that, fine. I just want to cook. I hope that’s ambitious enough for you.”
“Robert…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean–
“Can we just discuss the child’s birthday?”
She always knew one day she was push him too far. Why did it have to be that night and over that topic? Here they were celebrating her accomplishments while she harped on his lack of accomplishment. She wanted to make it right, but he was done with that topic for the night. If she didn’t move on, it would make things worse. She cleared her throat, put on a happier face, and changed the subject. “Breanne…we’ve decided to allow you to have an early birthday on one condition.”
“I already know! You want me to finish the Whiz Kid Program.”
They were both surprised and very proud of her intuition.
“Yes, that’s correct, my dear! Why don’t you give us a progress report?”
“Well,” she said with a haughty smile, “I only need to make one more A!”
Eliza’s face lit up like a San Myshuno skyline after dark. “That’s splendid, Breanne! Well done!”
“Good work, Bre.”
They continued with their meals in silence, but Bob’s wheels were turning. He was proud of his little girl, but not quite sure if he was ready for her to be not-so-little yet. What would she be like? What would she get into? Will she be even more of a handful than she already is? Whatever the answers to those questions were, the pride he felt overpowered the fears. This birthday wasn’t just a response to a request. It was a milestone for him and his wife as well.