My Dad's Boss(5)

By: Mia Madison



“Your hair just looks so grown up in that up-do. And sexy,” she said, with a little laugh.

“Mom!”

“Well, I’m sorry, but it does. Too bad there won’t be any boys your age here tonight.”

I groaned inwardly. In the past month since I’d been home from school, Mom had mentioned quite a few of her friends’ sons. But she never pushed too hard. I think she knew how difficult this last year had been for me. “Don’t worry about me,” I said. “This is your big night.”

“It really is a pretty special event,” she said, coming over to stand in front of the mirror with me. She looked great, especially for a forty-three-year-old. She was wearing a blue dress that was perfect for her. Her blonde hair, a little darker—and less real—than mine hung loose around her shoulders. In contrast, mine was up in a carefully arranged “messy” bun that still allowed a lot of loose tendrils to dance around my neck. I’d done my makeup with extra care, too. Even from here, I could see the way my eyes popped with the dark mascara and dramatic eye shadow. Mom had lent me some jewelry, so my earrings and necklace sparkled. The spaghetti straps of my red dress ended in a low-cut neckline. In short, I looked like a grownup.

Funny how I always wanted to look older and Mom always wanted to look younger. But she looked really vibrant and beautiful tonight. “I’m really happy that you and dad get to celebrate tonight.”

“I am, too,” she said. This party was supposed to happen last year for their twentieth anniversary, but it hadn’t worked out. Mom’s father had been gravely ill in the hospital, and then my dad tripped and broke his leg. So, they’d canceled the party. It had been a really hard time. Mom practically lived at the hospital, and my grandfather passed away a few weeks later. I’d just found out about Brad and Stephanie, and I was so miserable that I wasn’t as much help to my mother as I should have been. I’d always regretted it. But now things were better for all of us.

“Not everyone gets a lavish twenty-first anniversary party. Only the really special couples,” I told her.

She smiled, gave me another little squeeze, and released me. I moved forward to squint at a small black fleck on my cheek, and in the mirror, I saw her sit on the bed and turn toward me. “Any luck finding a summer job?” she asked.

I groaned as I dabbed at the little mark on my skin. Mom and I usually got along well, apart from a few years when I was in high school. Now I was no longer a rebellious teen, and I appreciated her a lot more than I used to. However, questions like that drove me nuts sometimes. “Not yet. I’m looking, but there’s not much out there.” Both parts of this were true. I’d applied for a dozen jobs, but so far, no one had even contacted me for an interview.

“I’m sure you’ll get something soon. I told you that the supermarket is hiring, right?”

“Yes, you did.” Twice. But surely I could find something a little more stimulating than that for the summer?

“I just hope you can find something soon. It’s not good for you to spend so much time hanging out here or that coffee shop. You need to be with people your own age. It’s too bad St—” She froze, and I knew she’d been about to say Stephanie. We’d been so close in high school, best friends for the whole four years. We’d grown apart a little last year when we went to different universities, but I still never would have dreamed she’d go after Brad like that. Sometimes it felt as if she’d cheated on me every bit as much as he had.

“I’ll find something soon, but in the meantime, I’m good. It’s nice to relax a little now that classes are over.”

“I know you will, honey.” She rose and headed to the hallway. “I’m going downstairs. When you’re ready, maybe you could give me a hand with some last minute things?”

“Sure. Be down in a minute.” After she left, I thought about what she’d said. Or almost said. It really was quiet around here. Last year, it had been the three of us, Brad, Stephanie, and me. We’d done a lot together in May and the beginning of June—before I found out that they were sleeping together. Then I pretty much retreated inward for the rest of the summer, rarely emerging from my room. No wonder my mom wanted me to get out and do things, meet people.

In the kitchen, my dad was examining the list of guests who had RSVPed. The printout had been up on the fridge for a week, but he’d ignored it until now. “Why aren’t the Harpers on here, Gwen?”

“They’ve been in Michigan all week, won’t get back until late tonight.” That was a relief. Mr. and Mrs. Harper were nice people, but they reminded me too much of their son, Brad. And I’d already had one reminder of him this week.

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