It was Friday evening, and the neighborhood adults were gathering in the Pancakes’ dining room. Bob was at work, so there were no refreshments. Most of them thought it was a good sign in hopes of a short meeting. It was already inconvenient enough for the meeting to be held on a Friday evening. Everyone seated themselves and engaged in their own conversations as they awaited Eliza to commence the meeting. However, she was trapped in her own thoughts. Although Bob’s presence at those meetings did very little for the actual progress of the meeting, she found that he left a hole in the production of it. Not only was he not there to prepare the food, but also he couldn’t keep an eye on Breanne who she was hoping would stay in her room and not wander outside to patrol the house.
Asia’s voice snapped her back to reality. “Hmm?”
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, of course. (ahem) Are we ready to get started? Uhh, Mary…you seem to be full of news. Why don’t you share with everyone first.”
“Oh! Sure… Well, I’m sure it’s made it through the grapevine already, but,” she nervously stole a glance from John, “We have added another little playmate to the neighborhood!” Her tone was fake but happy enough to sell it. “We had another little girl…” She wanted to end there, but she should have known it would be impossible.
“Good heavens, Mary! What’s her name?”
She glanced awkwardly at John again.
“Phoenix,” he said. “We named her after my mother.”
All the women said, “awww.”
“That’s a beautiful name,” India said.
Mary flashed a quick fake smile.
“Thank you,” John said. “I’m sure my mother would be proud to have a namesake.” His tone was honest—more honest than any of them had ever heard from either of them—and everyone was touched.
“In other news,” Mary said quickly—too quickly, “Our oldest daughter recently joined the cheerleading squad!”
She went on and on about how she was a cheerleader when she was her age and how proud she is to have her daughter carrying that mantle. Then she began about the grueling schedule and how hard it really is to be a cheerleader. “Cheerleading is a viable sport,” she said many times. Everyone was listless.
If Eliza weren’t still buried in her thoughts, she would have found a way to put an end to it minutes ago. “Thank you, Mary,” she said at the end. “Your family never ceases to amaze us. (ahem) Property values are still on the rise, and crime remains low.” Thanks to my little patrolwoman. That thought made her smirk, and everyone waited for her to share the joke. “(ahem) Uhh, we need to be mindful of our children’s whereabouts. There are still reports of truancy and missing children. We certainly don’t want one of ours to come across my desk…”
She said “ours” with authority and conviction. Not only was she in the mom’s club, she was taking over the joint. That’s when Asia knew why Eliza had been so distracted. There was only one thing that could make a mother become so unglued—especially someone with so many layers like Eliza. Asia got up while Eliza was still talking. Naturally, she looked at her strangely when she did. Asia winked and went upstairs to find Breanne. As she walked up the stairs, she saw the light from the back deck on and figured Breanne was out there. She was, and she was playing chess. Asia sat across from her.
“Miss Asia! Where were you?” She was a wee bit upset that Asia skipped out on their sleepover.
“I’m sorry, hon! I had to go to work and I couldn’t get out of it.”
“Mr. Jared said you had fun though, right?”
“After I made sure everything was safe.”
“But, Jared is a grown-up. That’s his job.”
“He can only keep up us safe from aliens!” she said matter-of-factly.
Asia peered inquisitively at the girl. She was so much like Eliza, yet completely different. She was absolutely nothing like Bob. What an odd little family. It got her thinking about nature vs. nurture. Are children destined to be a certain way, or do the parents shape them that way? She wasn’t totally sure, but however her next child came out, she was certain that she and Jared would be equipped to handle it.