John was perpetually frustrated. He was tired of his job, conflicted in his feelings about his family life, and was even more concerned about their finances. It had helped that Mary had curbed her frivolous spending quite a bit, but now there was another mouth to feed, clothe, and support. He loved her, of course, but thinking of her made him think of how mad he was at Mary. It didn’t matter now, but sometimes he couldn’t help but wonder if she really had planned it all out. It certainly would have been a brilliant plan.
“Mommy,” Tim said. “I think I need a new bed. My back hurts!”
“Hmph,” John snorted. “When you get your money this week, you can buy the most expensive bed you can find for your house!”
“What? It’s the truth.”
“I know, but you don’t have to bark at him like that.”
“You’re right… I’m sorry, son. Forgive me.”
“Mommy? Why does Tim have to go?” Phoenix asked.
“Because Tim is lucky,” Susie said before Mary could open her mouth. “Grandpa picked him to inherit allllll his money and is going to buy him a big fancy house in Newcrest.”
It was that time. Tim’s birthday was in two days, and Susie’s would follow immediately after. For the most part, Mary had accepted her lot in life. She tried not to blame John or even herself for what happened and tried to make the best of it. But every now and then, something would catch her off guard, and the anger would begin rising up. It was hard for her to listen to her daughter’s taunting words and not feel a tiny bit resentful toward her son
She couldn’t do it. She loved her son and recognized that her anger was misdirected. So, she did what she knew best: put on a smile and pretended like everything was fine.
Susie was pretty pleased with herself although she didn’t enjoy seeing her father in anguish. That was the least of her worries. It was prom night, and she had a huge project to get through before she could begin to put herself together. She promised Lester she would help make him over. At first it was only supposed to be for prom. But then she convinced him to do a complete makeover before his birthday; it was around the same time as hers and Tim’s. She had a lot of work to do and dashed out of the house as quickly as she could. She met him at a new formal wear shop in Magnolia Promenade.
He gave her an unenthusiastic nod.
“Are you ready to change your life?”
“Oh, is that what spending my dad’s money is supposed to do? You’re pretty sure of yourself, little lady.”
“HA! My mother and I may not see eye to eye, but I’ve learned a thing or two from being forced to wear things I didn’t want to wear all my life.”
“Then by all means lead the way.”
She led him into the store. He groaned at the sight of the mannequins donned in tuxes at the front door.
“You’re not gonna make me wear a penguin suit, are you?”
“Of course not! I will take your personal preferences and add onto them.”
They made one lap around the entire store just to see what Lester was interested in; there was a casual section upstairs. Then, Susie took his selections, put outfits together, and kept feeding them to him in the dressing room.
She was very pleased with herself.
Their next stop was to the salon to get his hair cut. After the salon, it was nearing 3:00, and she needed to get home to get herself ready.
One by one, the teens entered the facility dressed in their best robes.
Susie was on the prom committee and had ended up being entirely responsible for the evening by the end of the planning period. That meant it was up to her to secure chaperones. She asked her dad, Moira Fryers, and another man she knew.
Tim went inside to get a drink while Susie waited for Lester outside. She saw him walking down the street and already loved his haircut even before she got a good look at it. He didn’t look terribly happy, but then again she didn’t expect him to be.
“OMG, Lester! You look great! The haircut brings the entire outfit together…” As she was gushing about the look she created, she was distracted by something else. “Wait…your eyes…why do your eyes look different?”
“Ugh! My mom said that lighter eyes would brighten my face! She made me wear these stupid contacts, and now my eyes are all like dry and itchy and UGH!”
She giggled at his performance. He was always so dramatic. “Well, no one ever said looking good was comfortable.”
Inside, John was filling up the fountains and making sure the food on the banquet tables were still fresh per Susie’s instructions. When he was done filling up one fountain, he noticed his son at the bar out of the corner of his eye. Hmmmm…let’s see if the apple falls far from the tree…
“Hi. I’m Tim.”
“Are you graduating like me?”
“No. I’m a sophomore,” she said.
“Oh. Ok. Well, when I graduate, I’m gonna get a lot of money!”
(sigh) Oh boy, John thought. Slow down, son! He definitely does not possess my skills.
“And a big house with a pool!”
Meanwhile, a few feet away…
“So…do you dance?” Lester asked. The music was so loud he was yelling.
She couldn’t make out what he was saying. “Ants?! Are there ants in the bathrooms??”
She laughed. “Oh! Not really. Me dancing looks like killing ants!”
“Me too! Maybe later we can kill ants together!”
One thing Kolby didn’t like about being the youngest kid in school was that everyone already had their group of friends and weren’t accepting applications for new ones. There were some kids who acted like they didn’t like him, and he didn’t know why. All he knew was that he thought he made a mistake by coming and spent quite a bit of time hiding out.
Susie found him out there and convinced him to come back in and sit at her table. Kolby wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, but he made sure to grin at the other table of haters just in case.
But, she couldn’t stay, and Noelle didn’t know Kolby. He was left at the table alone again. However, another boy joined him as well as John.
“Having fun, Kolby?”
“No, sir. Not really.”
“I think everyone hates me or something.” He picked at his food.
“Oh, I’m sure that’s not the case. They just don’t know you. You’ve been there for less than a week, right?”
“Right! They just haven’t met you yet. Maybe try introducing yourself. I’m sure there are some girls in here who would love to meet a handsome lad such as yourself.”
“Thanks, Mr. Jones.”
Lester found Tim at the bar (still). He slid in next to him and said, “Are you gonna hold up the bar all night, or are we gonna show ‘em how it’s done?”
Lester had two left feet. He generally didn’t enjoy dancing. But, that night, he felt more confident than he ever felt. Perhaps Susie was right about a new look being life changing.
Lester couldn’t believe he got everyone to dance with him. It was epic.
Meanwhile, two of the chaperones had some unfinished business they were attempting to avoid mostly out of respect for their children who were near.
They hadn’t seen each other or even thought about each other since Kolby’s birthday party. John wondered if Susie had anything to do with it. He felt silly for acting like a teenager and decided to strike up a conversation with her. Most of the kids were shaking their groove things on the dance floor by then. There wasn’t anything else for them to do.
“They look like they’re having a nice time, huh?”
His voice startled her as they went from complete silence to talking.
“I’m sorry,” John said. I didn’t mean to startle you.
“It’s fine. I, uhhh…I guess my mind was elsewhere.”
“So…are you friends of the Pruetts?”
“I’m her doctor. We share a lot of the same friends, so we see a lot of each other. What about you?”
“We live next door.”
“Oh! In the cute little white house with the pool?”
“That would be us.”
Both were unsure of where to take the conversation next.
“Can I get you a drink?” John asked.
“That would be nice.”
When he came back with their drinks, they sat and settled into basic get to know you conversation. One of them settled a bit more comfortably than the other.
While they were chatting up, Kolby decided to take John’s advice and introduce himself to someone. He strolled over to the beautiful young blonde and said, “Hi… I’m Kolby Pruett.”
The young woman smiled eagerly and said, “I know how you are.”
He wasn’t quite sure how she knew him, but he didn’t care. “So, what’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Sofia.”
“The pleasure is all mine.”
Later on that evening, Tim decided to spark a similar conversation with Sofia.
“Hey there, Sof—
“Uh uh. Not gonna happen.”