Breanne floated into the house with a big grin on her face. “Hi daddy!”
She plopped next to him. “Guess what!”
He had an idea. “What?”
“I got an A! I did it!”
His smile couldn’t be any wider. He threw his arms around her and gave her a tight squeeze. “Congratulations, Bre! I’m so proud of you!”
She pulled away from him and proceeded to make a request. “So, can I have my birthday in the morning and then we all go to the movies in the afternoon pleeeease?”
“Mommy has to work tomorrow.”
Her face fell. “Can’t she take a vacation day?”
“It’s a little last minute…”
He could see that she wanted this badly. This wasn’t one of her tantrums that accompanied an empty request. She was collecting on a promise and claiming her prize. They had to make this happen or else the lesson could be lost. “Ok…I’ll talk to your mom. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“Yes! Thank you, daddy!” She hugged him.
“Well, I guess since you’re not going to school tomorrow, you don’t have any homework, huh?”
She was beaming.
“Ok, well why don’t you go have some fun. Mom’s gonna be here soon, and I need to get dinner started.”
“Daddy? Can I eat with you guys tonight, please?”
“Are you going to be good? You know your mom doesn’t like disruptions in her meetings.”
“I’ll be quiet! I promise!”
“Ok. I gotta go.”
He made his way to the kitchen, and Breanne went upstairs to play in her room. It was getting extremely late. Bob didn’t have time to make anything fancy and decided to make a caprese salad. No sooner than he began to cut up the tomatoes, Eliza stormed into the house in a foul mood. She didn’t even say hello.
“You’re just now getting started? We have these meetings every month, Robert! I know your schedule has changed a few times, but the meeting time has never changed!
“We’ve set a precedent, Robert. Our neighbors have come to expect a certain quality when it comes to this neighborhood association! We cannot begin slacking now especially when we have a new neighbor joining us. For Watcher’s sake, Robert! Where is your head tonight?”
There was something different about this rant. Sure, he was used to her nitpicking about things, but this was different. It hurt. But, at the same time, it was unwarranted and came from nowhere. He took a few deep breaths and reminded himself that she didn’t mean any of it; she was just very stressed.
“Lizzie…” he said in a calm tone. “I realize how late it is which is why I’m only making salad. It will be ready long before you’re even dressed.”
Bob was always calm, but his calmness in that situation was reassuring yet surprising. She was definitely not trying to pick a fight, but she expected one and was ashamed of her behavior. “I’m sorry, Robert.
“I…I don’t know what came over me. I’m not upset at you. It’s work! I’m doing the best I can, but no one appreciates what I do! You would think they would be glad that I’m cleaning up the streets!”
Bob wasn’t quite sure what to say to her, but she certainly wasn’t going to be able to accomplish said quality with that attitude. “Maybe you should take a nice bath before the meeting. Relax a bit.”
“That’s a good idea, Robert. Thank you. I’m sorry, again. I hope I haven’t upset you two nights in a row.”
“I’m fine.” He smiled. “Enjoy your bath.”
“Thank you. Please put on a shirt before they arrive, Robert.” She retreated upstairs.
He chuckled and rolled his eyes. Only my wife can apologize and tell me how to dress in the same breath. Bob finished with the salad and went upstairs to tell Breanne she could eat. Within a half hour, all of the neighbors had arrived and were enjoying the meal. Eliza was in a much better mood after her bath.
“Will John be joining us tonight, Mary?” she asked.
She almost choked on her salad.
“No… John won’t make it,” she said with as straight a face she could muster. “I don’t think he’ll be coming anymore. It’s not his thing.”
It was hard for Eliza to stay focused on work when Mary made cryptic remarks like that. “Mmmm hmmm. I see… Well, he never seemed to enjoy himself much anyway. As long as one person from the household attends, we meet quorum.” Sounds of metal forks scraping against porcelain plates lingered in the air for a moment before Eliza decided to get going with her agenda. She cleared her throat. “So! As you can see, we have lost one neighbor and gained another. Why don’t you tell everyone who you are, what do you, and anything else you care to share.”
“Oh! Ok!” Her voice was as chipper and pleasant as the smile she gave everyone. “I’m Leah Murray, and I live in the house on the corner. I’m originally from San Myshuno, but I lived in Windenburg and Oasis Springs too! My daddy is a business man, and we moved whenever he started something new. Anyway, I am an artist! That’s what I like to do. I studied art, and I want to get my name out there without daddy’s help.”
Eliza didn’t know Leah that well yet. They had only met a few times, but so far from what she heard, Leah was shaping up quite nicely in her book. It was nice to have a neighbor whom she didn’t have to worry about bringing down the neighborhood, she thought.
“Well, partially without daddy’s help. I told him I wanted to do whatever it took even if it meant moving back to our old neighborhood. He definitely was not having that, so he bought me that house and let me redesign it how I wanted. It’s really nice now! I’d love for you all to come by and see what I’ve done with the place.”
There were various nods of approval mixed in with blank stares that accompanied private thoughts.
“So, how are you getting your art and name into the community?” Eliza asked.
“I try to get into art shows when I get the opportunity, but mostly I’m selling it wherever I can. You can find me at the flea market on Saturdays!”
Leah’s status fell by 12 points on Eliza’s scale. “So…you’re a street peddler then?”
Luckily, Leah laughed. “That’s what my mom says! I mean…if that’s what you want to call it. I think it sounds better than hustling.” She snickered.
Jared took the opportunity to save Ms. Murry from Eliza’s line of fire.
“Hi, Leah. We live across the street from you…I’m Jared.”
“Nice to meet you, Jared!” She kept looking at Asia whom he unfortunately forgot to introduce.
“I’m Asia…his wife.”
“It’s nice to meet both of you!”
“Oh, while we’re introducing everyone,” Eliza said, “That is my daughter, Breanne, and my husband, Robert.”
“You can call me Bob.” He waved across the table.
Leah was beaming. “You’re all so lovely! I can’t wait to get to know you better.”
However, Jared wasn’t done with the conversation he started and got back to his point. “I was just gonna say you might know someone in my family if you’re into modern artist…”
Asia didn’t appreciate the eagerness in Jared’s voice.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your last name,” Leah said.
She gasped. “Oh my goodness! I live across the street from some Pruetts? Daddy is going to flip! So, if you’re a Pruett…” She lifted her eyes to the ceiling as she thought of if she had heard of any artists named Pruett. She gasped again. “OH! Maliyah Greer! Is she your cousin or something?”
“No. She’s…well, she’s my ex-sister-in-law now…”
An awkward silence covered the room, and Eliza used it to regain control of the meeting. “It’s good to hear there are some grounds for growing relationships here, and sorry to hear about your brother, Jared.” She cleared her throat. “Ok, so if we can continue onto Courtyard Lane business… Our neighborhood is still quite attractive to potential home buyers as I’m sure Leah can attest to. All of the children we have had over the past month make us appear friendly and caring. However, we have to keep a good balance, so if you know of any single, responsible adults, encourage them to move into Rindle Rose now that it is vacant.”
“YEAH,” Breanne said. “And no bad people!”