The Pruett children didn’t usually hang out together. Kaiden spent his time either working out or in the clutches of Breanne with an occasional break. Kori liked to stay on top of her schoolwork. Kaleb…well, honestly Asia wasn’t quite sure what he was into yet. Lately, he had been working out a few times a week, but whether he actually enjoyed it or was just trying to be like his father and brothers was another story. Thursday night, however, they all came home from school and plopped in front of the TV. They usually weren’t big TV watchers, so Asia knew they were feeling stressed and needed to take their mind off things. Kori D. came home with Kaiden, and Asia was doubly glad to see her again. Maybe, if she kept coming, somehow, some way Breanne would stop.
“Hello, my lovelies! How was your day?”
Various grunts and apathetic responses confirmed her suspicions; they needed a break.
“Can I get anyone a snack? I feel like baking brownies.”
None of them really cared. She stopped caring as well when she saw her baby son’s sad face. “Good heavens! What’s the matter, Kaleb?”
“Nothing.” His voice was thick as if he had been crying or was about to.
“Kaleb…don’t lie to your mother. What’s wrong?”
The tears did come, and she briefly felt sorry for pressing him in front of the others.
She pulled him off to the side to get to the bottom of his troubles. “What’s the matter, honey? Please don’t cry. It’ll be all right, whatever it is.”
Luckily the other two had enough sense to leave the room.
When he was composed enough to speak, he confessed. “I tried to put a note in this girl’s locker, but I dropped it. Some kid picked it up and read it to everyone! It was so embarrassing!”
Her heart couldn’t take any more teen love. At least not yet. “A girl’s locker? S-so soon? I mean…that’s so sweet.” Hopefully she sounded like she meant it.
“I can’t show my face at school anymore! Everyone is going to make fun of me!”
“Why? It’s not bad to tell someone how you feel.”
“I know, but nobody writes notes anymore, mom! They say I’m weird.”
“All the best people are weird, Kaleb! Us weirdos have all the fun and make the world go ’round. Being normal is totally overrated.”
He wasn’t buying it.
“Like you said…no one writes notes anymore. So, you know what? You’ll stand out to her! She’ll always remember that note even if she never got the surprise of reading it herself. Being different gets you noticed. Don’t be afraid to be different, my sweet. Ok?”
“Keep writing those notes…but be careful next time.”
In moments like those, she was glad she had so much time off during the week. Who would her children have those conversations with if she were not there?
Dinner time was approaching fast, and she needed to get some food going before Jared got home. Kori D. gathered the dishes that were scattered around the house and washed them.
“Oh, Kori, you are the sweetest!”
“Don’t mention it.”
“I do enjoy when you visit. You’re such a breath of fresh air! I wish it were you Kaiden was dating instead of Breanne.”
“MOM!! WHAT THE PLUM?!”
She gasped. “Kaiden! Your language!”
“I think I’m gonna go,” Kori said. “See ya tomorrow, Kaiden.”
“SERIOUSLY MOM?? WHAT THE PLUM IS WRONG WITH YOU?”
Jared seemed to appear from nowhere and intercepted them. Though she was relieved for his presence, she had a feeling he would overreact and tried to de-escalate the situation for her son’s sake. “Hey, baby,” she said enthusiastically. “How was your day? Why don’t you go change out of that hot uniform? Dinner should be ready by the time you get back.”
It didn’t work. Jared stood between them, glaring at Kaiden. “I know I didn’t hear what I thought I just heard.”
She couldn’t see his face, but Kaiden’s uncomfortable face told her all she needed to know.
“Do you have a death wish, boy?”
She panicked. “It’s fine, Jared. I know he didn’t mean it… He’s been stressed. Let’s forget about it.”
“I don’t tolerate disrespect. Especially with that kind of language,” he said to her while maintaining his death glare at the scared boy. Jared stepped closer to confront their son. “What the plum is wrong with you??”
His escalated voice startled Kaiden, and he winced from his words.
“Doesn’t feel good, does it?”
“If I even so much as hear about you disrespecting my wife again, I swear I will mess you up so bad. Now, fix your face and go apologize to your mother.”