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Hello again Dear Readers.
Sorry for the extra delay for this chapter. I caught a doozy of a flu and was out of work for over a week, and even after that, it was another week and a half before I felt halfway normal again. This was only two weeks before the big outbreak that took over the rest of the world. Mine was just the flu, but still just as debilitating. I have some vacation time coming up that I hope to finish this story and get out one (or more!) other, shorter stories. I have probably a lifetime supply of ideas already that I am anxious to get onto. If there are any ideas that you want to suggest, feel free! As always, all comments, suggestions, or even criticisms are welcome.
On to the story!
The next few days were a turmoil.
Dad had said nothing that would have implied anything more about my education plans, but that he had been so clever and devious about it had me nervous about anything else he might know. I mean, if he had wanted to let me and Jenny continue as we were was one thing, but if so, I would have liked to know! That we didn’t have to worry so much about being caught, or if he didn’t know, that we had to continue to be cautious. The uncertainty either way was maddening.
Thus, mom and I kept things very reserved between us. Not so that it was just as suspicious of us avoiding each other, but that we really didn’t do anything with each other for that short while.
Well, except the one time that we couldn’t resist each other while Jojo and Johnny were playing in the backyard and I had come up behind her and caught Jenny off guard. She turned to me startled and with one look into my eyes the two of us were suddenly pressed together and our lips mashed against each other. Even with what had happened, I think if dad had walked in on us that we wouldn’t have been able to stop. We didn’t do anything more than kiss and make out for ten minutes or so.
We pulled apart with alarm at the urgency of our passion and stared at each other with concern. Mom wiped at her lips with two fingers as if she could still feel me on them. I stepped back a step as I stared into her green depths.
She opened her mouth as if about to speak but stayed silent. I stared for another moment and then just turned quickly and bolted from the room.
If even in our caution that we could be so swept away said much about our lack of discretion.
I did avoid mom for the rest of that afternoon and evening.
Erin gave me little comfort either. She told me that I was imagining it all and was blowing dad’s sneakiness out of proportion. I couldn’t be sure that she was correct, but the alternative was too scary about which to be wrong.
There was a bright spot in the house though.
It was the week of my little sister’s birthday.
Jojo was going to turn nine and she went about the house letting us all know it. Frequently. She would hold up all her fingers save one and declared that that was how old she was going to be. With a grin that her face couldn’t contain. Just the sight of her, her carefree innocence, and sparkling blue eyes from her exuberance lit up the room. I had to smile each time that I saw her. She made me long for those simple days when my biggest concern was whether I could talk mom into giving me an extra cookie after school.
Now, I was getting more than cookies from my mother!
The only problem was, did my dad know I had my hand in the cookie jar!
Mom at least had the distraction of preparing a birthday bash for little Joanne.
Not that it was any big extravaganza like my graduation party; it would just be the family, Aunt Jess and Eric, Uncle Mike with his wife Rita, our cousin Dave, Grandma Sharon, and a dozen or so of Jojo’s little friends (and their associated parents). And of course, Jojo’s favorite older sister, Erin would be present. Mom rented one of those big inflatable bounce houses for the youngsters and had a collection of games that they would play such as pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs, and even planned on an egg and spoon race. With plenty of cake and ice cream on top of it.
Mom really knew how to throw a party, no matter the occasion!
I tried to put the issue with dad out of my head. There was nothing I could do about it in any case.
Instead, I tried to think of the perfect gift to give my sister. Besides a pony that is!
Then I realized that that would be the perfect gift!
But instead, that I would take her to a riding stable and let her ride a real pony, or even a small horse. She could have her pony without the awful mess associated with it!
I did a search on my phone and found a stable not too far from our house that had hourly rates to rent horses, and though the price was a bit higher than I would have normally spent on a birthday gift, the look on little Jojo’s face would be priceless! They even had a website so I could prepay for it. I did get an additional ticket for myself; then I had the brilliant ataşehir escort idea to add another for Erin so that we could make it a date. The added bonus of bringing Erin along for Jojo also wasn’t lost on me!
The joyous high of finding the perfect gift now outweighed any disturbing thoughts that had been bothering me.
When I informed mom of my gift, she was ecstatic, telling me what a great idea it was and that she wished that she had thought of it first. I grinned wider at her reaction. I added that I would go as a chaperone and that I would take Erin with us. Mom spun to face me, and declared that she wouldn’t mind going also. I wasn’t sure about that. Did she want to go as a mother, or that she wanted to spend more time with me and Erin? My gift was supposed to be about Jojo, not Jenny. I did tell her that maybe we could have a family day with all of us, including Johnny and even dad, but that this trip would be just Jojo, Erin, and I. Mom seemed a bit hurt, but reluctantly agreed with my decision. I gave her a quick kiss after a cautious look around, then told her that if she wanted to ride something I could possibly come up with some ideas. She batted my shoulder with a tender swat of her hand. A slight smirk touched her lips, but she still declined. At least at that moment!
I had been now out of school for some time and decided to follow up on my father’s demand to find a summer job. I skipped any of the traditional fast food jobs. ‘Do you want fries with that?’ just wasn’t my thing. Besides, I would probably spend more on food at work than my paycheck would cover. The point of my working wasn’t to cover my own eating expenses, although the savings at home might justify it. No, I wanted something a bit different. And that I figured all the regular teenager jobs would already be taken by those that had gone out immediately when school had gotten out. I did apply at a few places, but I didn’t hold out for my chances.
In a further bit of kismet for myself, Jojo’s birthday party turned out to hold the solution for my employment search.
The big day was a Sunday.
Johnny sulked at all the attention being focused on our sister and even though I teased him to get him out of his funk, it had little effect. He did perk up when Aunt Jess showed up with her boyfriend Eric. As did I, with my gorgeous aunt wearing a pair of snug white shorts that contrasted with her tanned and shapely legs and a pink tank top that hid little of her large jugs! Her strawberry blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail that was casual, but just added that something special to her look. I had to quickly divert my attention when I saw Eric glance at me in a way that I felt was suspicious. Or that it was just my guilt that made me think so.
Dad and Uncle Mike couldn’t have been more separate and still be considered at the same event. My uncle chatted pleasantly with mom, Rita, and Eric. Dad didn’t let his displeasure with his brother affect how he treated my cousin Dave and talked garrulously with his nephew, Erin, and me.
Grandma Sharon arrived a little late, but as she had come from the furthest away, it was understandable. She arrived and after greeting everyone, she informed me that she had Jojo’s gift in her pickup and asked me to go retrieve it for her. I did so and was surprised by the very large gift-wrapped box with a big red bow on top. Was I about to be outdone in the gift department? I struggled with the box; it wasn’t that heavy but was more just awkward, especially as I didn’t want to tear the paper. Jojo eyed the package greedily when I carried it to the backyard where we were having the party.
The small herd of Jojo’s friends were very noisome and, I thought, somewhat unruly as they ran around our yard, climbing in and out of the bounce house in the shape of a clown’s head. Maybe it was just that I was really becoming an adult. I did eye the huge inflatable netted house with a touch of envy. I was too big to join the younger crowd.
But not my girlfriend though!
She was light enough that she was under the stated weight limits and with Jojo’s very firm insistence, she joined my sister joyfully jumping with the little kids. She waved at me as she jumped with such a look of enjoyment on her face that I wished I could have been in there with her. Mom came up behind me as I was watching my jubilant girlfriend and grasped my arm maternally.
“I know. I wish I could still do that too.” Her voice was tender and wistful.
I looked at mom and she was my mom at that moment.
But only for a moment.
Then I was thinking of other ways the two of us could bounce together! Just not in the backyard though!
She must have read my mind, as she always seemed to do.
“At least I can do that with you!” Her tone was playful, almost innocent, but I knew of that of which she implied.
We rejoined the others. Today wasn’t about us.
I had been talking with some of the others, my grandmother among them. It had come kadıköy escort up about my working over the summer before going back to school (NOOO!), and Grandma Sharon told me that she knew of a senior center in town that was looking for some part time help.
I must have had a look on my face as she smiled with some condescension and explained further.
They wanted someone friendly (I was friendly), able to do a bit of heavy lifting (I had been lifting Jenny, and Erin!), with a flexible schedule (I was free almost all day), and young (eighteen!). I was now a bit intrigued and asked for particulars. She told me that they wanted someone to help with the residents, some light janitorial, helping those with restricted mobility, and just to talk to them and brighten their days. I was more interested the more she told me. It would definitely be different than other jobs. And it didn’t sound really all that hard. I asked about pay, though that wasn’t really a deciding factor. I didn’t expect to make my first million that summer. She wasn’t sure, but her guess was a little more than I could get anywhere else. She pulled out her phone and gave me the name and number of the place. I was already hopeful that I could land this job.
The party progressed through the games. Erin sat beside me with our hands held tight as we watched the kids compete. I had a slight out-of-body experience as if I had traveled through time and it wasn’t my sister with her friends, but instead it was mine and Erin’s kids we were watching. I felt such a wave of contentment fill me just before I shivered and was back in the present. I turned to look at Erin and she turned to return my gaze at the same moment. Her gentle smile seemed to cement that vision into a future reality.
“I love you Erin.” I stated with my present being and all my future tenses.
“I love you too hun.” Her tone had a touch of curiosity in it, but was just as heartfelt as my own declaration had been.
Then we progressed to the cake and ice cream.
Mom had told me ahead of time for me to wait until everyone else had been served first before I massacred any of the three cakes she had baked. I almost took offense at her insinuation, but then I just took it with pride! I did have a large piece of each cake variety. Even Erin gave me a stern look.
That left the main event, the gift opening!
Jojo was on top of the world in anticipation of all the presents piled on one table, along with the large one from our grandma sitting on the ground next to it. My small card was buried amongst the many small packages.
Dad did the honors of giving Jojo the presents to open. He started going through the many miscellaneous ones from my sister’s many friends. The usual assortment of various toys, dolls, and games. Jojo opened each with the same level of enthusiasm and thanked each giver happily. Then dad picked out the ones from family.
There were a few from mom and dad; a bunch of clothes, and a new pair of sneakers. The usual parent gifts. Jojo was still just as thrilled with them. They were clothes and she was a girl.
Dad’s brother, and family, gave Jojo a large stuffed monkey with a toy store gift card stuck to its hand.
Next was a small envelope from Aunt Jessica (and by default, Eric also), which somewhat surprised me, as our aunt was usually a giver of the ‘big’ gift. Jojo opened the card the envelope contained and waved the gift card in the air.
A gift card?
Aunt Jess was better than that. And she was. She immediately explained to my sister that the two of them would go shopping together as a girl’s day out. Jojo’s face lit up expansively at that. I was suitable impressed.
A flat square present from Johnny was next. I wondered, and worried, what my brother had gotten our sister. They normally got along okay, but they also did have many quarrels, as all siblings did. Well, at least ones that weren’t so disparate in ages as I was with them. Jojo opened it slowly, clearly also cautious about the gift. A soft look came over her face and she then rushed over to where Johnny sat, and gave him a huge hug. I was curious. Jojo then held up the framed certificate with ‘Best Sister’ elegantly scribed, and clearly handwritten/drawn, on it. I looked at my brother impressed.
Although it wasn’t required of her, Erin had brought my sister a present also. It was a decent sized box, wrapped fancily and had a red bow on it. I had seen her bring it, but I still turned to glance at her sitting next to me as Jojo opened it with bated breath. She then yelled at a pitch that I’m sure dogs heard blocks away. She dug out a handful of fashion dolls that girls her age fawned over and waved them about to her spectators. They weren’t in any packaging and so they weren’t new. There was also a large number of outfits and all the usual accessories associated with such dolls. Erin then explained that they had been hers when she had been Jojo’s age and she was now passing them on to bostancı escort my sister. Jojo was nearly in tears at the explanation and gave Erin a hug to exceed the one she had given Johnny. Erin then promised that she would come over one day so they could play together.
I hoped Erin would come over one day and play with me! Again.
I was still curious about Grandma Sharon’s large box, as was of course the birthday girl who had glanced at it constantly all afternoon.
But my own present was the next to be presented. I did feel bad about the size of it, being just the card in an envelope, but as my aunt had shown, it wasn’t the size of the gift.
Dad handed Jojo the card and declared that it was from me. Jojo smiled at me and opened the card. She studied the contents for a moment as everyone watched. Then she jumped up and hurled herself at me that shocked me with its force.
I nodded to her and told the rest what my gift was.
“Mommy! I’m going to ride a horse!” She exclaimed jubilantly.
Mom smiled cheerily at her daughter’s joy. Then glanced at me, sharing some of that smile with me.
Then I added.
“And Erin will come with you and me too.” I had not previously informed Erin of this.
“What?” She cried out beside me. “Horseback riding?”
This earned me another hug, this one from my girlfriend. She also added a brief kiss.
Then for the final gift, the one that I’m sure had everyone curious.
Dad bent to pick it up and then had to make a second attempt, as he hadn’t realized it’s heft. He set it before his daughter with a glance at his mother-in-law who just grinned as she watched Jojo tear at the paper. For such a large gift, I’m surprised that Grandma Sharon had even bothered wrapping it.
“Mom! Dad! It’s a bike! A new bike! Thank you, grandma! Thank you!” Jojo exuded her joy loudly.
She continued to tear at the paper until there wasn’t any left before she tried to open the box that was heavily-stapled shut.
“Here, let me help you honey.” Dad stepped over and pulled the flaps open.
The two of them then pulled out the fully assembled small bicycle. It was pink, with streamers from each handgrip, a basket behind the seat, and a bell on the handlebars. Jojo looked ready to race down the street right away!
“Mom! You didn’t have to do this.” Mom told her mother.
“Sure, I did. Joanne is my only granddaughter.” Grandma Sharon said firmly.
I did notice the slight look my grandmother gave her other daughter at the mention of granddaughter.
Or, I’m sure any grandkids forthcoming from my aunt!
Dad was preventing Jojo from climbing on her present; telling her that she still had a party going on and she couldn’t abandon all her guests. She pouted slightly but relented. Barely.
“Besides honey, you haven’t gotten all your presents yet.” Dad told her.
I looked at the table. It was empty. What was left?
Then I noticed that mom was now missing. They must have had another gift in hiding.
I saw mom appear at the backdoor with her back to the yard and was obviously holding something in her hands.
“Close your eyes Jojo.” Dad told her.
I could see that my sister was giddy with anticipation and had trouble doing as required. Mom crossed the yard while still hiding what she held. I caught a glimpse just before she turned to present it to Jojo. Mom then told Jojo to open her eyes.
I had to shake my head from the ear-piercing shriek that emanated from my sister’s throat when she saw the small form in mom’s hands.
A tiny black kitten. All black save for a large white spot over one eye, a white rear foot, and a snow-tipped tail.
It perked up at my sister’s screech and stared at her.
Then Jojo was grabbing for the small animal.
“A kitty cat! A kitty cat!” And then another shrill yell.
Okay, mom and dad did manage to outdo my simulated pony!
“Just for me? No one else?” Jojo asked our parents.
“Just you honey. You will have to help take care of it; it is your kitten.”
“Oh, I will mommy, I will!” Jojo hugged the small kitten gently with all the love a child could give a pet.
I did wonder at Johnny’s reaction to this gift, but he just looked on sweetly at his sister with no hurt apparent on his face.
“Now you have a live addition to your animal menagerie.” Mom told her daughter. “What are you going to call her?”
“It’s a girl kitty?” Jojo asked and mom nodded. Jojo then looked at her new love studiously.
I fully expected something along the lines of Spotty (my personal choice).
“Her name is … Sally.”
Sally? For a cat?
Then again, I had a goldfish that I had called Mr. Fishy, so I guess I couldn’t say much about her choice.
Jojo then showed her little friend to the rest of her friends; playing as they had Sally chase a ball in the grass. Even Jojo’s new bike was then forgotten.
The adults chatted for a short while, I had more cake, and the parents with their youngsters began to peter out.
Before she left, my Grandma Sharon reminded me of my promise to visit her that summer and I told her that I would once again.
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