The day had come. Mary had to fight back the tears all morning. The previous night, she didn’t put up much of a fight against Susie’s plan. It did make a lot of sense. She just had to wrap her mind around both of her babies moving out so soon.
Phoenix joined them at breakfast with a long face.
“Sweetheart, what’s the matter?” Not that she didn’t know.
“I don’t want them to go!”
Tim and Susie were surprised that she was still so upset. They hadn’t realized how much Phoenix liked them.
“I know, sweetheart. I don’t want them to go either. Maybe they’ll invite us over to their house soon…”
Don’t hold your breath, Susie thought.
“Will you have toys at your house, Tim?”
“No house should ever be without toys, Phee.”
Sweet watcher, Tim! You’re such a wuss!
The previous night was interesting for John and Mary. Susie broke the news to Mary as soon as they got home leaving Mary to explain to John whenever he got home. She waited until it was almost bedtime to tell him. She had been acting strange all night. Her face was long and she looked like she was on the verge of tears. He wanted to ask her if everything was all right, but he was too prideful. Luckily for him she was going to tell him anyway. When she said they needed to talk, he was greatly concerned for he couldn’t come up with a reason for her to be that upset. The tears began to flow before she even opened her mouth. He hoped it was nothing serious and was even more concerned for whatever the news was. He even reached out his hand to touch hers hoping it would calm her down. The gesture shocked her at first. She knew it didn’t mean anything, but she found comfort in it anyway. She began sobbing uncontrollably and threw herself into his arms crying “Oh John!” He awkwardly put his arms around her shoulders as if he were trying to avoid catching a disease.
“They’re leaving,” she cried.
“Both of them! Our babies, John. They’re leaving!”
He understood, and he let her cry. At one point, she was calm enough to speak clearly, and she told him the story. He was shocked that he didn’t know anything about Susie’s plan. It saddened him to know that she would be leaving him behind so soon and in such a devious way. Did she even think about me? Tears fell from his eyes as well. Mary embraced him, and he actually returned the gesture. They didn’t need to say anything. That night, John heard Mary crying in her sleep a few times. He would scoot closer and drape his arm around her torso not because he loved her but because he was in the same anguish and understood. Mary being the master of masks put on a happy face for the children, but John was unfamiliar with that concept.
He got a plate of French toast while the children exited the house for school. Mary let him eat in silence as she cleaned up the dishes and stowed away the leftovers.
Eventually, he got himself together and went to work.
That night, before the party, Mary suggested they all ate something before the guest began to arrive. Some of them took heed while others didn’t. It was no skin off her nose. She was inside her own head.
John pulled her out of her thoughts. He had his “perfect Jones family” smile on just like she would want him (and the rest of them) to. Little did he know she didn’t care anymore.
“Anyone sitting here?” he asked.
“It’s your house… Sit where you want.”
He smiled nervously as he tried to figure out why she would be so cold in front of the children.
He chuckled and spoke through his teeth. “Are you feeling all right, my dear?”
She didn’t answer him.
He changed the subject to something he thought she may have been more interested in. “Well, my dear…we made it. We stayed married, haven’t killed each other, and our son got his inheritance.”
Part of her was proud that they actually made it, but she didn’t think it was funny at all. They finished their dinner in silence.
Susie finally came downstairs. She went to speak to her father, but he cut her off.
“You don’t have to do this,” he said quietly.
“Yes, I do!”
“What about me?”
“Dad! I have to start thinking about my own life now. I can’t stay here.”
He sighed. “I know. Guess I’m being a bit selfish right now. Happy birthday, kid.”
For once, the Jones family were in the same room not fighting, making accusations, or throwing someone under the bus. It would be the last time in a long time, and they all secretly enjoyed it.
A few guests had trickled in, but Mary left them to their own devices for a little while.
When the time seemed appropriate, Mary gathered everyone’s plates and put them in the dishwasher so she could greet everyone.
“Congratulations on your achievement, young man,” Eliza said.
“An education can take you places.”
He didn’t know why, but somehow she made him uncomfortable.
“Sooooo, do you have any big plans for the future?”
He wasn’t going to answer her anyway, but luckily Phoenix had run in saving her the embarrassment.
“Oh! Why hello, Phoenix! I haven’t seen you since you were a baby.”
“Yeah, heard that a million times.”
“Don’t be rude, Phoenix,” Susie said.
Later on, the party seemed to move to the kitchen. Breanne saw India sitting with Asia at the island and introduced herself.
“I’m Breanne Pancakes. I haven’t been to your house yet.”
India was taken aback by the little girl’s assertive greeting. She also almost choked on her food for she thought Breanne was a clone of Eliza.
After a while, Breanne began to get tired and whiney. “Moooommmmyyyy…” She had the sad puppy eyes to go with it.
Eliza ate it up. “Awww. What is it, my dear?”
“I wanna go hoooooooome!”
“Ok, but the party isn’t over yet.”
“I’m boooooored!” Her voice got a little bit escalated.
Eliza wasn’t rattled one bit. “Have you met Phoenix? Maybe you two can go up to her room and play.”
All the adults within earshot were in awe. No one except the Pruetts and Bob had ever witnessed Eliza the mom. They all assumed she would be some dragon lady or some frazzled pushover. Finding out that she was actually a good mother was a pleasant surprise.
Across the room, Lester and Tim were catching up.
“So, you got your big house and all your money, huh? This is the last time anyone is going to see you, right?”
They both laughed nervously. The two friends were equally afraid of the future and found themselves unprepared for change.
“My sister is coming with me.”
Lester sat up straight in his chair. “S-s-susie is going to live in your house too?
“Oh. [ahem] That’s unexpected.”
Mary whisked him away to the kitchen to put a stamp on the night.
“Isn’t she beautiful,” Asia whispered.
As happy as Susie was to finally reach this stage in her life and be free of her mother’s grasp, there was a brief moment of fear. Was she being too hasty? Did she know enough about the world to be out there on her own? Would everything really be ok? She was unsure. However, it was something she knew she needed to do and she wasn’t doing it alone.
That night, before she went to bed, she stood in the hallway outside her room. She hadn’t lived in that house for long, but it was still part of her. The part of her that accepted the house as part of her history also would miss the house in a way.