Jared had finally finished his rocket a few weeks ago and was able to go on space missions on his own accord. He was grateful because the extra missions greatly increased his value, and every time he turned around it seemed he was getting promoted again and again. He’d be a space ranger in no time! Although he was a morning person and did not mind such an early schedule, he welcomed his most recent change. His new schedule was Monday through Thursday from 10 – 6 p.m. He hated that he and Asia wouldn’t have days off together anymore, but all the other benefits helped. He loved having the mornings and a full weekend with his children.
Friday morning, Jared was up early as usual; he couldn’t get used to sleeping in. He thought he would have breakfast by himself, but to his surprise, Kaiden joined him and smiled somewhat painfully.
Jared loved that one of his children had a passion for fitness. It didn’t come naturally for him, and the only reason he began working out was because of his space training. But, after a while, he began to enjoy it. Kaiden’s love came naturally. He was a very energetic child who ran everywhere and loved to be outside. Jared would catch him doing situps and pushups everywhere. In present day, Kaiden began waking up early a few times per week to get a workout in. Jared had no doubts his son was sore, but there seemed to be something else that bothered him.
“Is that all?”
Kaiden shifted in his seat and hesitated a bit. “What if…I think…how do you know if you’re supposed to be with someone?”
That wasn’t the question Jared expected, but it did not surprise him. It seemed both his sons had their fair share of fans although Kolby never got anywhere with his because of their age differences. Kaiden had so many admirers, Jared could understand why he’d be confused.
“Are you thinking of anyone in particular?”
“No. Maybe. Not really.”
Jared chuckled. “Well, you just know. After you’ve been together for a while and you know each other quite well, you’ve seen how she reacts to things, how she treats you and others, her habits, her goals…you’ll know if you want to be with her for the long haul.”
“Are you ok, son?”
Jared didn’t believe him but made a mental note to revisit this subject when they both had more time to discuss it. In a way, he was glad Kaiden was thinking about the future but hoped he wasn’t thinking too deeply about it. He had quite a ways to go until his next birthday. Jared didn’t think he needed to make any life-altering decisions at such a young age. He and Asia met in high school, but they didn’t think about marriage until the end of his teen years. He gave her a promise ring, but he didn’t officially propose to her until they had a chance to date as young adults. Maybe not everyone would agree so much caution was needed, but Jared had always been a very cautious person.
After a long day, Jared rounded up the children for dinner. He wanted to meet Kolby at a nice restaurant to send him off properly. Kaiden already knew because they discussed it at breakfast. Jared thought he saw Kori go outside and went looking for her, but she wasn’t there.
“I’m back here,” she called from the other side of the fence.
“What are you doing back there?”
He went through the gate and was not happy with what he saw.
“Kori! What on earth?”
Part of him was glad she hadn’t made this mess in the house while the other part of him wished she would have done it inside the gated yard. Now all the passersby and people at the park behind the house could see him scolding her.
“I wanted to use the art table but Kaleb wouldn’t let me.”
“So you come out here and paint the grass?”
“That makes no sense and it’s unacceptable behavior. Find something else to do while you wait your turn.”
“But, he’s always at the art table! I never get a chance.”
She had a point although her sudden interest in the art table puzzled him. She always seemed to enjoy logical things like chess just as he did. If she wanted to be creative, that would be fine, but he enjoyed
beating playing with her on the chess table.
“Ok. I’ll talk to Kaleb, but this is not ok.” He looked at his watch. They needed to go. “You can clean this up later. Go put on a nice dress. We’re having dinner with Kolby.”
They returned to the house, and Jared found Kaleb just where Kori said he’d be. He peered over his shoulder and got a good look at his work. The boy was quite good.
“So…what’s this I hear about you hogging the table? I didn’t buy it specifically for you, you know.”
Kaleb continued drawing. “I know.”
“So why don’t you let your sister use it?”
“She can’t draw!”
Jared chuckled. “That’s not a good reason, Kaleb. Make sure you share and give Kori some time on the table too. And, please be careful with that glitter!”
Thoughts of seeing the shiny little nuisances all over the house made his inner neat freak shudder.
“We’re having dinner with Kolby tonight. Go put on a shirt and tie. Right now.”
Once all the Pruetts were properly dressed, they went to Newcrest to pick up Uncle Irvin so they could go to Windenburg together. A new restaurant had opened, and the reviews were good so far. Jared hoped it met his high expectations.
Once they were seated and looked over the menu, Irvin got up and cleared his throat. Jared knew he wanted to talk.
“Kolby, watch the kids for a sec, will ya?”
“What’s goin on, Franks? Everything all right with the Mrs?”
“Oh yeah, yeah. She’s good. She’s good. She uhhh…she wants to have a baby.”
“Nice! I guess things are going well between her and the little prince, eh?”
“Yeah, she likes him. You remember how scared I was to tell her about him. She’s been so great about everything. I definitely have a gem.”
“I told you!”
“I know, I know.”
“So, what’s up? You don’t seem to sure about having another child.”
“Well…yeah. I love my son. I hate the situation he’s in, but I wouldn’t give him back. But, he doesn’t live with me, and it works. I know that probably sounds a bit selfish, but it’s where I’m at right now, bro. I’m not sure if I’m ready for this full-time dad thing. But I want to make Penny happy too.”
“I hear you. I think it’s natural to be scared. Most of us are. But, I think you’ll find that things will be different this time. You’ll be having a child with your wife. The woman you love! And because the child will be part of her, you’ll find it easy to make whatever sacrifices you need to make the child’s life great.”
Irvin chuckled. “Leave it up to Pruett to have all the answers.”
“I should start charging you for my sage advice.”
“You should, bro. You should!”
The two friends laughed as they returned to the dining room. Once Jared opened his eyes, he saw yet another sight he was not impressed with.
“You have GOT to be kidding me! What is going on with you kids today??”
Out of the corner of Jared’s eye, he saw Irvin laughing at him.
“I’m sorry,” Kaleb said.
“Sorry? So you admit to knowing this isn’t right?”
The boy was speechless.
“Clean this mess up right now!”
This was a new experience for Jared. His oldests were wonderful and never caused trouble apart from the teasing between them. Kori and Kaleb weren’t bad children at all. They were just more free spirited and did stupid, embarrassing things for no reason.
“I thought I told you to watch them,” he said to Kolby.
“I was! I had to take a call.”
“So you left them here unsupervised?”
“Kaiden was here…”
Jared rolled his eyes.
“I’ve been sitting here the whole time, daddy,” Kori shouted.
“You’re still not off the hook, young lady. Have they taken our order yet?”
Kaiden shook his head. They sat around and waited for what felt like an eternity. Kori drew three pictures on her mat. Irvin stepped away to take phone calls from his wife and India. Why was the service so slow?
Although it was a Friday night, Jared still didn’t want the younger kids to be out late, so he decided to abandon their table and go to another restaurant. Maybe he and Asia could come back there sometime separately and try it out.
Villa Bovine was just around the corner, so they went there.
“Hey, how are you? Welcome,” the host said.
“Heh, our night could be better.”
“Nothing good food can’t fix, right?”
“I sure hope so. I know we should have called ahead, but this was such a last minute thing. Do you have a table for six?”
“We sure do! Let me just make sure it’s not reserved for a party tonight.” She tapped her screen a few times. “Yep! We got you!”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh good. Thank you!”
“No, thank you.”
She showed them out to the patio. It was a great night to sit outside. Jared made sure the kids got seated and gave them stern looks as he announced he was going to the restroom.
“You’re in charge, Franks.”
Upon his return, he was glad to find everyone and everything as he had left them. Asia was not going to be pleased to hear about their behavior.
“How’s the menu looking?” Jared asked Irvin.
“At least this place has regular food.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. I didn’t know the other place was so experimental. I guess it’s good we left.”
“And you keep laughing at me and my kids! It’s gonna be you one day.”
“Bruh, don’t curse me like that.”
Jared snorted. “It’s inevitable, Franks.”
While Jared quickly looked over the menu, Irvin turned his attention to Kaiden.
“So…I hear you’re making all the girls forget their names.”
“Kaiden,” Jared said, “Why don’t you ask Uncle Irvin what you asked me this morning?”
“I’m not trying to embarrass you. I just thought you’d like another opinion.”
Kaiden rolled his eyes and sighed. “How did you know you know Aunt Penny was the one?”
Irvin’s eyes grew wider, and he turned toward Jared. “Listen to this kid! I didn’t start thinking about marriage until I met Penny!”
Kolby laughed. “Slow down, little bro! You haven’t even asked her out yet and you want to pop the question?”
“UGH! SHUT UP! You know I don’t like her like that!”
“Like who?” Jared asked.
“Dad, you haven’t noticed all the time he spends with Breanne?”
Jared’s eyes went wide this time. “Breanne Pancakes?”
That wasn’t exactly the name he wanted to hear.
“Good evening, everyone. I’m Mike, and I’ll be taking care of you this evening. Can I start you off with something to drink and some appetizers?”
“We’re ready to order if that’s ok,” Jared said.
Everyone rattled off their orders, and Mike disappeared promising to return shortly.
Jared was still on this Breanne Pancakes thing, and he wanted to know more about it especially after Kaiden’s odd question this morning. Kolby’s dinner, however, was not the place to question him. Instead, he turned the attention on the man of the hour.
“I know it’s only been a day, but how are you enjoying living on your own?”
Jared laughed. “All the fuss you made about not taking our money and the excitement over finding this place and all you can say is ‘it’s cool?'”
“It’s fine, dad. Just…ask me in two weeks when I’ve adjusted.”
Jared patted him on the shoulder. “Ok, son. Ok.”
Kaiden and the men spoke while Kaleb played with his favorite toy and Kori drew on the placemat while they awaited Mike’s return. And, just as he promised, he came back quickly with their meals.
“Here we go. Can I get anyone anything else?”
“We’re fine. Thank you, Mike.”
“This looks awesoooome,” Kaleb shouted.
“Right?” Kolby said.
Jared snorted at his excitement. He acted like he never had pasta at home before. Kaleb just loved food so much, all of it excited him.
“Before we get too far into the meal, I want to say a few words. Kolby, we love you and wish you the very best in all your future endeavors. We’re proud of you and know you’re going to have an awesome life. And, ummm, don’t forget to come home every now and then. To Kolby!”
Everyone raised their glass and toasted to Kolby.
“Thanks, dad. This is the best family anyone could have.”