All Andrew wanted was the typical American dream: a good career, a nice house, and a typical loving family. Instead he has a menial job, a small apartment, and children that remind him of creatures out of a sci-fi movie. To add insult to injury, he’s well aware that he’s not the only man that inhabits his wife’s thoughts and daily life. But how can he put up a fight when he’s reminded of the competition every time Bethany turns on the CD player? After one eventful dinner conversation when expectations, disappointments, and secrets collide, life may never be the same.
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Andrew squeezed himself to his place at the head of the table and glared at the boom box that sat on the counter right beside his head. With smug satisfaction he turned the CD off. As soon as the sound died away the spark of light that inhabited Bethany went out. Her slender shoulders drooped a little more, her delicate blonde head bent slightly, and the set of her mouth became tighter, as if she had a migraine coming on. Instead of being full of youth and motherhood she looked like a tired homemaker or a condemned prisoner. Is this how she feels with me around? Is this the effect I have on my own wife? He bit the inside of his cheek and studied the vinyl tablecloth. Don’t I get tired too? Don’t I get disappointed? I’m trapped in this life, just like she is. At least I live in reality! It was petty and childish, but he felt so much better when the stereo was turned off. It was just a hunk of metal and electricity then, not a challenge.
Miranda and Gregory returned and dutifully sat in their booster seat and high chair. They smacked still-sticky hands together and bowed tousled heads in the pre-meal ritual. Andrew cringed in slight disgust. When he was a boy his father had looked so happy at the end of the day. The old man had been full of contentment and Andrew still remembered being in awe of him. When he was nine at his parents’ dining room table he hadn’t been able to wait until that position of power and benevolence would be his own someday. And now here I am.
Yet as hard as Andrew tried the corners of his mouth wouldn’t climb upwards as he glanced over at his kids. The longer things went on the harder it was to smile even for his wife. The whole scene that should have been reminiscent of Norman Rockwell left him apathetic at best, and Andrew fought the urge to check his watch. There were other places he could be – places he should be. Places where he belonged. No, you belong here. This is what you wanted and now you have it. You live with it. It isn’t your fault you were given a raw deal. At least at the office he fit in, even if he was low on the corporate ladder. My opinion’s valued there. I’m around people just like me and not… Andrew’s thoughts trailed off and he swallowed down his frustration. This is your life, he reminded himself. It’s what you wanted — well what you thought you wanted. You just have to stick with it until things get better.
His inner pep talk faded when Bethany abruptly got up from her seat. “Forgot the broccoli!” she explained and dashed to retrieve it.
“But I hate broccoli,” Andrew sighed. The kids relaxed their angelic poses and began to regard their plates with sneaky expressions.
“I know, but they really love it. It’s one of the few vegetables they’ll eat without a fight,” Beth countered, the edges of her voice worn with fatigue like old denim. Andrew grunted a reply and idly trailed his finger over the mismatched plate before he sucked off the juices.
“You’re not supposed to eat before the prayer!” Miranda shouted and jabbed an accusing finger at him. Gregory followed his sister’s lead and cast out his arm, nearly sending his baby cup flying.
“I just put my finger in the sauce!” he snapped. His voice was less the deep paternal tone he would have liked and more like a teenager’s lame excuse. Bethany re-entered and a frown tugged across her face as the putrid green-filled bowl was placed on the table. No wonder the kids loved it; it probably enhanced their natural smell.
Andrew coolly returned her stare before clearing his throat. Let’s just get this over with and then you can go get some real food. “Alright, come on, let’s pray — what are you doing!?” Right in front of him, bold as could be, Miranda very carefully leaned over and ran a delicate pink tongue over the center of her plate.
“I just ran my tongue through the sauce!” Her voice was solemn and she took a moment to wipe at her mouth with her shirt sleeve. Bethany made a slight choking laugh before reigning herself in.
“Not at the table. And use a napkin,” she reprimanded, but her lip twitched as she struggled not to look his way.
Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. Her appreciation for a good story was enhanced by a love of reading, the many talented storytellers that surrounded her, and a healthy curiosity for everything. A talent for warping everything she learned didn’t hurt, either. She gravitates to writing fantasy and horror, but can be convinced to pursue any genre if the idea is good enough. Often her stories feature the unknown creeping into the “real” world and she loves to find the magical in the mundane.
She has four e-books with No Boundaries Press, including the upcoming novel ‘In the Red’. Her work has also been included in ‘The MacGuffin’, ‘The Realm Beyond’, ‘Stories for Children Magazine’, and the upcoming Wicked East Press anthology ‘Bedtime Stories for Girls’. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own.
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