The UnOLWG prompts from the past 2 weeks stewed together with TN’s preamble story. The prompts are: playing a poor hand well; not a sound for miles around; like a poem without words; call him out; a matter of magic; the carousel only makes you dizzy.
Jasmine wandered aimlessly around the large, empty family room and kitchen while her children darted from room to room upstairs staking their claims. That was the deal: She would stay out of it and let them decide who would get which room. She knew it was only a matter of time before the wrangling would come to an impasse and she would, as always, have to step in as decider-in-chief. So, she listened and waited.
Evan impatiently negotiated with twins Sonja and Clara about who got the large room. The girls pushed back with their best argument that they were willing to share a room. Evan being the eldest held no sway. Marissa whimpered about the unfairness of it all and Michael, the youngest, was silent. Jasmine guessed he had slip-streamed his way through the tangle of his siblings’ bickering to zero in on the room no one seemed to want. As she predicted, he was the first downstairs.
“Why aren’t you taking the big parents’ bedroom?” he asked her.
“Because, like I said, I’m getting us a live-in and the master bedroom is going to be their room.”
“Why?” Michael was still at the age at which children cannot fathom an adult’s logic.
“I can only pay a nanny what I can. So, giving them the largest room, with their own bathroom and a separate entrance will make the deal sweeter. Anyway, that’s the idea.”
Evan was next down the stairs. Like the hormonal automaton he was these days, he went directly for the refrigerator.
“It’s empty, stupid,” Michael grumbled.
“Since when, with the ‘s’ word, huh!?” Jasmine scolded Michael with a gentle smack upside the back of his head.
“I’m going to check out the yard.”
Evan brushed past Michael, giving him a quick, soft warning shove against the wall. Jasmine watched Evan as he walked down the long dirt drive that lead away from the house. She sent him a text, if only to make sure he had his phone on him. He pulled his phone from his pocket, read the message, and put it back without replying.
Marissa called for Jasmine from the top of the stairs. “Evan and Michael took the rooms I want, and I don’t have a room!”
Jasmine took her daughter’s complaint as her cue to finally intervene. As she headed up the stairs, Michael rushed past her, down the hall, and disappeared into the room at the end. The twins were in the larger room mapping out a floor plan. Marissa stood in the middle of the hall wearing her ever-present look of despair.
“OK, so, it’s this one or that one,” Jasmine pointed to the two rooms on either side of the hall. “Which one do you want?”
Marissa pointed to the room to her left. It had a stunning view of the hillsides and the orange and red leaves blanketing the emerald ground beneath the trees in the yard. The morning’s cloud cover was giving way to blue sky and the mid-day sun streamed all the way into the room.
Jasmine took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. She knew moving to the country may prove she had succumbed to some sort of utopian idealism. After all, a spinning carousel, with all its bright colors, gilded adornments and twinkling lights, only looks like some sort of magic joy ride, when it really is just a dull, dizzying, and never-ending trek to nowhere. A move to a farmhouse situated in an idyllic country valley might be no better than just another muddy rut in which to get stuck.
Nevertheless, given the hand dealt her, Jasmine was reasonably confident she had played it to the best possible advantage. The change in her children’s lives would be hard on all of them, regardless the setting. She had nothing else to offer any one of her children other than her faith in the hopes and dreams for their future, and for each of them, a bright, sunlit bedroom all to themselves.
“Yeah, sorry, kiddo. Fine with me! You like it?”
“Then, this one’s yours.”
“When’s our stuff getting here?”
“They said today. My guess is it will be late.”
The sound of two-steps-at-a-time up the stairs announced Evan’s return from his tour of the outside. He looked at his mother and sister in the room in which they stood, then looked at the room across the hall. An equally stunning view of the valley made that room’s window seem all the larger. A good place for a seventeen year-old, Jasmine thought, to stare out to the horizon while listening to the siren song of the big, wide world calling him away.
“OK, that’s done!” She paused, waiting for a reaction. No one put up a fuss. “Let’s get the stuff out of the car and then we’ll drive into the town to look for a place to eat.”
“Does Dad know where we are?” Sonja asked. Jasmine turned back to see all five of her children staring at her with the exact same look; a combination of sorrow and fear.
“He does. Text him, let him know we’ve arrived. But guys,” Jasmine put up a hand of caution, “I need you to understand, OK? Your dad probably won’t come here. I’m not saying ‘never,’ but, you have to accept, he probably won’t…want to. He may say he will because he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, but he won’t. Again, it’s not that he doesn’t love you, or that any of us did anything to make him…whatever. OK?”
“It’s because he’s with that lady and them,” Sonja replied.
“He’s not with anyone at the moment, honey. Look, when he said you can visit him, he meant it. He is your father and he’ll always be around for you. OK? Anyway, we’ll figure all that out later, you going for visits. All I ask is that you give this place, your new home, a fair shake. You aren’t that far behind in school and you’ll make friends soon. And don’t forget, Grammy, Gramps, Nona and Grandpop…and Uncle Mack, Aunt Jeanne, Geoff and Allie… they all live really close, just, like, only ten miles away. We’ll get to see them way more often now.”
Her children gave her consolatory smiles. Jasmine knew what she offered was only a cold comfort. She kissed each one on the forehead and headed downstairs. She called back over her shoulder, “Evan, you want to drive?”
“Sweet,” Evan said as he vaulted past his siblings, snatching the keys from Jasmine’s hand.
“Wallet?” she asked. Evan patted his back pocket.
“Do we get to learn to drive this year?” Clara asked.
“I suppose. Sure.”
The twins jumped up and down, applauding. Marissa and Michael looked at each other wondering if they got a special offer, too.
Jasmine said, “And, when we get the TV set up, Marissa and Michael get to choose the first two family movie nights.”
The result was as hoped. The two youngest siblings high-fived and then chased after the others.
As the family made their way to the van, Jasmine suddenly felt like she was in a scene from the Planet Earth documentary series; the ones where bear cubs stumble and play alongside their mother as she leads them across the open fields to some yet unknown source of food. The image made Jasmine smile. If wildlife’s single mothers can hack it, she thought, so can I.