January - Jace

January - Jace

A Chapter by Abigail T
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Jace Miller, Alli's mother, runs into difficulties with the different members of her household.

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January

Jace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mom, have you seen Alli?” Heather asks, her mouth half-full of the Granny Smith apple she’s holding in one hand.

            I shake my head. “Did you check her room?” I try to focus on the apple-baked pork chop recipe in front of me, aware that I’m starting dinner preparations late tonight.  It took much longer to leave the pet shop than it normally does, since the evening shift was down an employee for the first hour.  I know I should fire Nancy, but she’s just a kid trying to balance a job and school, and I know her parents don’t really have enough of their own income to share with their daughter.

            Heather hesitates before responding. “Yeah, I knocked a couple times, but there was no answer.”

            “Do you have a question for her?” I ask as Heather finishes off her apple and reaches for another one from the fruit bowl on the counter. “Hey, I’m cooking dinner with those!”

            She pulls back her hand and stuffs it into the pocket of her jeans, and shrugs, “Yeah, I was wondering if she had my Ace bandage back from Caroline, yet.”

            “Wait, why do you need the bandage?” I ask. “Are you okay?”

             She nods vigorously, “Yes! Yes, I’m fine. I just twisted my ankle at practice today,” and after seeing my expression she adds: “But really, I’m fine! Coach just wants me to wrap it tonight.”

            “How’d you twist it?” I ask, turning to pre-heat the oven.

            “I ran a little too fast towards the ball and slipped on the mud right as I was about to kick,” Heather shakes her head and smiles, as if she’s embarrassed at making such a silly mistake.

            For the first time, I notice her usually green soccer uniform is smeared with brown on the sides.  I walk towards her and turn her around to look at the back.

            “M-o-o-o-o-m,” Heather whines as I examine her.

            “What? Can’t I worry about my daughter?” I note several little red scratches, on the back of her legs. “Did you put any antiseptic on those?”

            “Seriously, I’m fine! I didn’t even notice I had any cuts,” Heather insists, confirming that she did not put anything on the scrapes.

            “We’re getting you Neosporin,” I announce and head for the bathroom. I open the mirror cabinet and hand her the slightly used tube.

            “What are you making for dinner?” she asks while gently massaging the lotion onto her cut-up calves.

“Apple-baked pork chops,” I say, leaning against the sink counter behind me, “I haven’t made them in a while.”

            . “Oh, good!  I love your pork chops.” She winces slightly at the pain.

            “Go upstairs and let Alli know that you need that bandage now, okay?” I say to her as she finishes up with the Neosporin, “I don’t want that getting any worse. Did Coach say if you needed hot and cold on it?”

            “Mom, it’s really not that bad,” she reiterates, but I can’t buy it.  She’s never seriously injured herself, but I keep hearing stories of other girls ignoring their injuries and regretting the consequences.

            “Fine, but go get that bandage, okay?” I give in, hoping she’s on top of this. Anyway, the more I push her, the more she’ll resist.

            “Okay, Mom,” She sighs and hands me back the tube. “Oh, and do you need help with dinner?”

            I shake my head and take the ointment from her, but I can’t resist one more prod. “No, just wrap up your ankle and prop it up.”

            “Yeah, yeah,” she calls, as I hear her lumbering up the stairs two at a time.

 

***

 

 “Sometimes it’s really obvious that Eddie doesn’t have a family to go home to,” Greg gripes as he skewers a chunk of meat.  In the end, it didn’t matter that I started making dinner late, Greg arrived from Brown just as I was taking the pork chops out of the oven.

“What kind of department chair schedules faculty meetings on Friday nights?” I ask, sympathizing.

“Someone who lost the meaning of ‘Friday night’ a long time ago,” Greg is trying to appear dower, but I can see him smiling at his own joke.

“Well, it’s not like you missed much here,” Heather replied, half-smiling.  She passes him the basket of rolls.  I’m starting to relax, now that we’re all finally eating dinner. I lit a pair of unscented candles, just to celebrate the start of the weekend.

“I feel better now, Heath Bar, thank you.”

Greg and Heather snicker at themselves, as Alli moves her food around.

“Eat up, Alli. You need the protein,” Greg gently nags.

Without a word, Alli immediately stabs her fork into three cut pieces of pork chop and stuffs it into her mouth.  She chews loudly and obnoxiously, while staring directly at her father. 

“Alli, stop it,” Heather hisses to her sister, but Alli doesn’t break eye contact with Greg, who just looks back at her silently. 

            “There,” Alli says, once she swallows her food. “Protein.”

            For a second, Greg is taken aback, but he quickly recovers. “That’s no way to speak to me, Allison.”

            “Sorry, was that too obnoxious for you? I’ll try to tone it down,” Alli retorts, a devilish look dancing across her usually soft facial features.  Her large, oval-shaped blue eyes are shaded with aggression, and her slightly upturned nose is wrinkled as if disgusted.  Her full bottom lip is pouting strangely while the corner of her thinner upper-lip is arched upwards into a sneer. She’s usually so beautiful, but now she looks bratty and petulant.

            Instead of speaking up, Greg stares down his daughter, unblinking, and she stares back.  I keep waiting for him to say something, but he just keeps looking at her.  A lock of her long, blonde hair falls into her eyes, and she takes a moment to tuck it behind her ear.  I’m sorry, but when did a staring contest constitute scolding?  He always does this.  He can’t ever be stern with the girls, so it always falls on me to be the “mean parent” who has to raise her voice and tell the girls to go to their room for the night. But of course every time I try to talk about it with him, he just gets evasive and somehow manages to avoid the topic completely.

            I quickly glance at Heather, who is sitting to my right.  She’s keeping her head down and quietly eating, while avoiding eye contact with anyone.  I remember that I wanted her to prop her ankle up during dinner, and I notice she doesn’t have it wrapped. That makes me speak up right away.

            “Allison Mae. Why doesn’t your sister have her Ace bandage back?”

            Her head snaps towards me. “What?”

            “Heather twisted her ankle in practice and needed that bandage. Why isn’t it on her ankle?”

            Alli shrugs. “I don’t know! She didn’t want to wrap it?”

            “It’s in your room, isn’t it?” I’m getting tired of this. All she needed to do was give her sister her bandage back.  God, she’s being so selfish.

            She doesn’t say anything for a minute, then her eyes soften. “Oh my God, you’re right!” She looks across the table at her sister. “I’m so sorry, Heather. I didn’t know you needed it. I’ll get it for you after dinner.”

            “I knocked five different times,” Heather mumbles back.

            “I’m sorry, I was sleeping.”

            Heather nods.

            “What, you’re not going to accept my apology?” Alli’s softness leaves her voice and face immediately as she changes focus to attack her sister.  I look to Greg for some support, but instead I see him on his smart phone, scrolling through emails no doubt.  I wish for just one dinner he wouldn’t be on that thing.  I especially wish he would just speak up when our daughters are fighting and not just run away.

            “I did!” Heather protests.

            “No, you didn’t! You just nodded. I was asleep, okay? Jesus.”

            “Okay, fine! Whatever! Just give it to me after dinner,” Heather gets up to leave the table, and Alli stands up, too. I don’t recognize her nearly see-through red sweater and hip-hugging jeans. When did she get new clothes? And when did she start dressing like she’s cheap and easy?

            “Damn it, Heather, Alli! Sit down!” I’m trying to keep my voice from screaming, but I’m tired of Alli attacking her family out of the blue, and I’m certainly tired of Greg just sitting there.

            “Don’t you want me to get the bandage for Heather so she can wrap her poor little ankle?” Alli asks with feigned innocence. She is still standing up, while Heather has sat back down, her gaze in her lap. 

            “You know what? No. I’ll go get it.” I say as I rise out of my chair and turn to go upstairs.

            “And I’ll get more coffee,” Greg says and gets up from his chair. Well, at least he said something.  I don’t acknowledge him. Sometimes his fear of making people mad is cute and endearing, and other times �" like this one �" it’s infuriating.

            “What the hell?!” Alli exclaims, and jumps up out of her chair and walks ahead of me to block my path to the stairs. “You can’t just go into my room! You’re invading my privacy!”

            “Allison Mae Miller. If you don’t get out of my way, you will be grounded for the night.” I don’t raise my voice, I just keep it firm.  After a moment of not moving, she relents and walks back to her seat.  I hear her violently pull the chair out and plop into it.

            “It’s on my desk,” she mumbles, and I go upstairs to fetch it.

            “When I come down,” I say when I’m on the stairs, “You are going to your room and staying there the rest of the night, you understand? Maybe you can start that homework I know you haven’t bothered with.  Remember, you won’t be getting into any dream college without high grades.”

            “Of course, Mother,” Alli replies, her voice dripping with sticky sarcasm.

 

***

 

            Later in the night, I’m sitting in the living room trying to concentrate on the Sudoku puzzle in front of me, but feeling prickly and uncomfortable with the strain I’m still feeling from earlier.  Greg is already in bed after a long day of work and not doing anything to help me with our daughters, but I’m not tired yet. Or maybe I’m tired, but I’m not ready to go to sleep.  I look at my puzzle and realize that I’ve messed up almost every number. Great. I’m not even able to concentrate on this stupid thing.

            “Oh, hey, Mom,” I hear Alli’s voice ringing down the stairs next to the living room, “I didn’t think you’d still be up.”  She appears at the foot of the stairs, dressed differently than she was earlier, with much heavier make-up on.  The red sweater has been replaced by a black, skin-tight halter top, and she’s sporting a mini-skirt.  It’s the middle of January. What does she think she’s doing wearing that in almost subzero degree weather?  Then I notice the jacket on her arm.  Right, like that’s going to help.

            “It’s only 10:30,” I reply stiffly, putting my pen down in the puzzle book.

            “Yeah, you’re right,” Alli’s words don’t sound kind.  They sound harsh, like two pieces of sandpaper rubbing against each other, “It’s pretty early.” She’s just looking at me, that smirk planted on her face, nodding slightly.

            “You’re awfully dressed up for hanging around the house,” I say, looking her over, and noticing that she’s wearing her bright red heels as well.  I know where she thinks she’s going, but I want her to tell me.

            “Yeah, that’s because I’m not hanging around the house,” She’s grinning at me now, proud of the power she thinks she has.  What she apparently doesn’t realize is her confident cattiness just makes her sound like a brat.

            “No?” I c**k my head to the side, as if I’m confused, “But I’ll miss your spoiled princess routine so much if you go out.” If she wants to play this game, I’ll play it.

            For a second Alli looks taken aback, as if she expected me to just lie down and take her abuse. She quickly regains her composure, and flips her wavy, blonde locks over her shoulder.

            “Hm,” she muses as she gazes at her freshly painted fingernails, “I guess I didn’t realize where I got my bitchiness from until now.”  She glances up from her manicure to my face, which I forced to remain stoic, that knowing smile still stuck on her glossed lips.

            She revels in the moment before I stand up and walk over to her, my stride steady, and my eyes not leaving hers.

            “If you plan on ever leaving this house within the next month, you’ll turn around, go back upstairs, do the homework you probably haven’t touched, and go to bed,” I say, nearly hissing.  I’ve never grounded either of our children, at least not for more than a night, but I was happy to start.

            Alli doesn’t skip a beat. “Oh, Mom, you know us teenagers.  We’ll always find a way to get what we want,” she winks as if she just shared a very special secret with me, and maneuvers herself around my body toward the front door.

            Out of instinct and anger, I grab her arm and yank her away from the door. My heart is pounding through my chest, and my breathing is speeding up.  I can’t get past the pure anger and hurt my own daughter is stirring in me. Her voice and her words, they don’t sound like my Alli.  They sound like she’s been possessed by a self-involved, arrogant, nasty monster of a girl. 

She’s looking slightly down at me, as she has grown past my height, my hand still wrapped around her forearm.  She looks bored, tired, apathetic.

I can’t take it anymore. “If you think you can disrespect me like an egotistical little b***h, dressed up like a teenage hooker, you are encouraged to sleep in the car tonight.” I’m seething.  My breath is entering and exiting my chest raggedly without rhythm. My original irritation has escalated into full-on anger.  The worst part is, I don’t feel any remorse.

At first, Alli simply looks at me. For just one moment, her face is blank and impenetrable. But before I can react, she rips her arm out of my grasp and begins to sob as she snatches her father’s car keys off their hook by the door and runs out of the house. 

I exhale.  I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I heard the car start.  My first instinct is to chase after her, since she’s taking her father’s car when she only has her learner’s permit, but by the time I gather myself, she’s already gone.  I kick the bottom step hard, and don’t even feel the pain. She is in so much trouble.  And where the hell is my husband?

 

***

 

Greg comes out a few minutes later �" probably waiting for the yelling to end before showing himself �" and sits down next to me on the bottom step.  I’m just sitting there mindlessly pressing redial over and over again on the landline, trying in vain to get Alli to pick up her phone.  The first few messages were threatening, but after the fourth call, I stopped leaving voicemails.  I think I’m on call thirteen, now.

“She’s not going to pick up,” he says, putting his arm around me.  I’m not in the mood.

“Nope.” I shrug his arm off and stand up.

“What was that for?”

I’m pacing. “You were no help at dinner tonight, then you just went to bed and left me to deal with our fifteen-year-old daughter who has suddenly decided to run for the prestigious brat of the century award,” I snap, ignoring the hurt puppy-dog look he’s shooting me. “Oh, and I don’t know if you noticed, but she stole the god damn car.”

“It seems like you had it handled at dinner,” he replies, sounding hurt.  But I’m sick of him always playing the victim and forcing me to do all the parenting. “And I’m sure she’ll come back…”

“We can’t always be their friends, Greg,” I try reasoning with him, “I know you want us to, and I do, too! But that’s not how parenting works.  We have to discipline them and make them own up to their mistakes and disrespectful attitudes.”

“I was trying to parent at dinner, but you stepped in!”

“Only after you stared at Alli for several minutes without saying anything! What did you think a staring contest would accomplish?” I already lost my patience earlier when Alli stole the car, so now my tolerance is really running low.

“Well, what should we do now, Jace? We have a daughter without a license in the car we’re probably going to need tomorrow.”

“I’m aware of the predicament, dear.” I snarl out the last word, and I don’t even care right now.

“Okay, fine, sorry,” Greg holds his hands up in defeat.

I stand still and let myself think for a moment.  I need to really punish her for what she’s done.  The fact that she stole the car still hasn’t fully set in, and I know it will tomorrow, but I know I’m angry and I know I have no patience left.

I step over Greg’s shoulder and I start walking upstairs towards Alli’s room.

“What are you doing?” Greg whispers, probably trying not to wake Heather up.  If she’s going to wake up, she would have done so already after hearing me scream at Alli then snap at him.  No point in whispering anymore.

“I’m taking something of hers,” I reply in my normal speaking voice.

“You’re what?”

“I’m taking something of hers.”

“What thing?” he calls after me, but I don’t answer. I’m not even sure myself.

I march into her room that is absolutely covered in clothes and various items of trash.  Her bed is completely unmade with mismatching floral sheets, and also has a ton of dirty laundry on it.  I see her backpack leaning up against the bottom of her bed and it’s obvious she hasn’t taken anything out of it today.  I scan the area for a moment and my eyes land on her laptop on her desk next to her bed, and it is open with tons of blinking instant messages from all her friends. Bingo. This will hit her where it hurts.  I walk towards the desk, close the laptop, and tuck it under my arm.  I go back downstairs and place it in the bottom drawer of my dresser in my bedroom.

“She won’t be getting her laptop back for a month,” I say to Greg who followed me into our room.

“But what about her doing homework?”

I shoot him a look.

“Okay,” he sounds resigned, “Are we going to call the police to look for her?”

“No,” I shake my head, “If she’s not back by tomorrow, we’ll see what we do, but I highly doubt she won’t be back.”

“Alright,” I wait for him to disagree with me, but he doesn’t, “I’m going to make myself a snack. Do you want anything?”

“No. I’m going to bed. Long night.” I take a nightgown out of the drawer above the one I put the laptop in, and start getting undressed.

“Okay. Goodnight, then,” I could hear Greg dragging his feet out of the room, but I’m still too angry and frustrated to do anything about that.  I’ll apologize in the morning, but he’ll have to finally talk to me about being more assertive with the girls.  I love him, I really do. I always have.  I wish I weren’t in such a mood, because I can tell he wants to hold me and take care of me, but I can’t do that right now. I’m too far gone.

Once I’m in my nightgown and in bed, I roll over to my bedside table and open it.  In it are tissues, a few photos of Heather and Alli growing up, watches that haven’t ticked in years, and a bottle of prescription Ambien that Greg doesn’t know I take each night to sleep soundly until the morning.  I pop one in my mouth and dry-swallow it.  Within minutes, I’m drifting into a dreamless sleep.

 

***

 

“Alli came home last night,” Greg informs me once I make it to the dining table with my black coffee.  Greg always puts half-and-half and three sugars in his. For me, coffee is just a way to caffeinate myself, so I don’t care what it tastes like.  But he won’t drink it unless it’s a treat.

“How late?” I ask, sitting down across from him.

“I’m not positive,” he says after a sip, which was obviously too hot since he pulled his mouth back quickly. “All I know is that I heard her moving around up there early this morning.”

“I’m confused,” I say after chugging down half my cup, “I’m sure she’s noticed her missing computer by now. Why hasn’t she said anything?”

“Maybe she’s been too tired or worked up to notice,” Greg offers, but I don’t buy it.

I shake my head. “No, she’s attached to that thing. She had to have noticed it.”

As if on cue, I hear Alli’s bedroom door open and the sound of her socked feet slowly making their way down the stairs.  I give Greg a look, but he just blinks down at his coffee. Coward.

“Mom?” I hear my daughter’s sleepy voice call from the bottom of the stairs.

“In the dining room,” I answer in a tone that I hope sounded neither cold nor friendly.

Not two moments later, she walks in, her hair a mess and make-up smudged all over her face.  She doesn’t look angry, just exhausted.

“Where’s my computer?” She finally asks after looking from me to her father a few times.

“You will not be using it for the rest of the month,” I state firmly, trying to look into her eyes, but some of her blonde mass of hair is blocking part of her face.

She doesn’t say anything and just stands there for a few moments, then, “Okay.”

Greg takes this moment to take out his phone from his robe pocket and fiddle around on it.

“I hope you understand just how unforgivably rude you were last night,” she doesn’t say anything, so I add: “I know I said some mean things to you last night, and I am sorry for that. I should never speak that way to you. But you should also know better than to speak that way to me, are we clear?”

She nods slowly, as if all the life was zapped out of her.  I can’t tell if she’s acting this way because of her punishment or if something else is going on.

“Homework?” She finally says, and I’m somewhat shocked that homework is her first thought.

“You can do it at the library,” I verify.

At this, she nods again and turns to go back upstairs.

“Excuse me!” I call out after her, and she stops in her tracks. “Don’t you have something to say to me and your father?”

She turns around and tucks her hair behind her ears so we can see her face better.  Not only is it smudged with last night’s make-up, but it’s also obvious she’s been crying.

“I’m sorry for what I said and did last night. It won’t happen again,” she croaks out.  She tries to give us an apologetic smile, but it just looks like her face is about to crack into a thousand pieces.

“Thank you, Alli. Make sure you apologize to your sister, too. You really hurt her feelings,” I say, trying to soften up a little bit after seeing that she isn’t in the best place to be harshly scolded for much longer.

“I will.” She turns towards the stairs and trudges back up them into her room.

Once I hear her door close, I turn my attention back to Greg. “What the hell was that?”

He looks at me with his head cocked to the side, “What do you mean?”

“Greg. Our daughter acted like an undead.”

He just shrugs and says, “I mean, you were punishing her. She was probably upset or embarrassed.”

I shake my head, “It was something different than that. Sure, she’s probably upset, but she didn’t seem to take the punishment that poorly.”

“I guess it was a little odd,” Greg concedes.

A little odd? Her only concern was getting homework done. That’s more than a little odd.” I swill down the rest of my coffee and get up to pour myself another cup.

“She has been acting a bit out of character lately,” Greg says from the dining room as I’m in the kitchen pouring lukewarm coffee into my mug.

“Yeah,” I put the mug in the microwave for thirty seconds, “We should keep an eye on this over the next few weeks.”

“What should we do about it? Talk to her?”

“Right now, just keep our eyes on it, and figure it out as we go along,” I say, unsure if that’s even the right way to deal with teenage moodiness.  Damn, animals are so much easier to work with. Sometimes I think what my life would be like if I decided to live out my life with a bunch of puppies instead of a family.

“Are you sure?”

I take the coffee out of the microwave and walk back to the dining room.  He is waiting for my response, so I answer honestly. “No.”



© 2012 Abigail T


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Added on July 2, 2012
Last Updated on July 2, 2012
Tags: mother, daughter, fight, adolescent, teenager, young adult, marriage, dispute


Author

Abigail T
Abigail T

Amherst, MA



About
My name is Abigail, and I'm a recent college graduate now in the world to write fiction for young adults. I'm using this site to archive my work. more..

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