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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: War and Peace (not about the book) (07/07/11)

TITLE: War of the Roases
By sandra hoolihan


Carly holds up two outfits in front of me with the look of irritation perfected by overworked waitresses and traffic cops. She juts her left out as she asks which of the two she should wear to church. I vaguely remember being as defiant at fourteen, and make a mental note to send my mother flowers this afternoon.

The first outfit is a slinky blue tank top paired with an a medium length black skirt. The second outfit is a dress more modestly cut, but made with zebra print fabric that screams party rather than prayer. I try to determine which of the two outfits will draw the least amount of stares from Mrs. Johnston who always seems to wrangle her pre-teen kids into outfits could have been purchased at Amish tag sales.

Carly Ann Roase has started middle school this year; the magical years of being too young to be considered grown up, but too grown up to be considered young. We live in no manís land where the power shifts change day by day. Each day her mood determines whether we are at war or at peace. Every day I take her emotional thermometer and monitor her body language. Today we are at war. Today I am the enemy.

ďI really like the dress.Ē I lie with wide eyes and exaggerated enthusiasm. ďThe cut of it isnít as form fitting as the first outfit, but it is so cute. Definitely the zebra dress,Ē I say being sure to stress the word cute and capitalize on the fact that it is loose fitting.

She makes a bobbing motion with her head as if she is taking in my words then turns without a word and heads up to her room. Ten minutes later she comes clip-clopping down the steps wearing the blue top and black skirt.

I roll my eyes in mock annoyance being sure to hide my smirk. Lose the battle, win the war, I remind myself wondering how I am going to manipulate her into wearing a sweater to cover her bare shoulders in church; another rule of mine she doesnít seem to agree with.

I head to my room and choose an outfit for myself that is more modest and prudent than usual. I pair a white button down blouse and navy skirt with silk paisley scarf hoping that maybe my attire will redeem hers. I stop to look in the mirror as I put my earrings in. My face looks ashen and lifeless so I dab concealer under my eyes and paint my lips an unnatural shade of berry. I see a wiry grey hair standing on edge and pluck it fiercely with my bare hands. Somehow I feel better, younger as I head back downstairs to strong arm my daughter into submission and find my other shoe.

I make a big show of putting on a cardigan and then sighing loudly when I hang it back up. As if on cue Carley asks why I put it back. I donít let on that I am overjoyed that she is still paying attention to the little things I do. There will be a time, I know, when she wonít.

ďI donít think I need a sweater in church today. I know Iíll regret it since the sanctuary is always as cold as a meat locker, but - oh- I just donít want to deal with it.Ē I say before I scamper off to another room to leave her alone with the coat closet and her thoughts. She gets cold at church. Our regular, unofficial pew, in front of the Johnstons, behind the Millers, is directly beneath the air vent. I yell out that we will be waiting for her in the car and I sit in the front seat and start to pray: mainly that she knows we are on the same side.

By the time her car door opens I am pretending to be looking in the passenger side mirror separating clumps of mascara out of my lashes. My husband, oblivious to our shenanigans, pays her a compliment. She blushes and I am jealous that my compliments, like my advice, are off limits to her.

I pretend that I need to adjust the mirror to fix my lipstick, but I angle it to see her outfit. She looks angelic, like the little girl she so recently used to be. A thin white cotton sweater is modestly covering her bare shoulders.

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This article has been read 463 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lillian Rhoades 07/14/11
Nice, tricky title. At first glance appeared to be a spelling error. If only all battles between parents and teens could have such a happy ending.

Perhaps less use of "I". First person stories tend to overabound in them.

Warm, credible depiction of parent/teen relationships
Noel Mitaxa 07/14/11
Even a male can see through the strong estrogen flavor here, to detect a long-term strategy with an instant awareness - yet another example of the multi-skilling that is denied to our gender! However, I loved your warmth and gentleness. The note about flowers for your mother is terrific, and the last line wraps it up so well.
Carol Penhorwood 07/15/11
How clever to write about that battle that takes place with our teenage girls! LOL
Catrina Bradley 07/17/11
This mom is so clever!! She obviously has much experience in the War of the Roases, and she's learned battle strategies well. :) A technical note - at 14, I don't think she's just be starting middle school, but it could very well be different where you live. LOVE this story!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/22/11
oh the angst of being a teen girl. It is definitely the hardest part of life. How lucky Carly is to have such a wise and loving mom.

Congratulations for placing 10th in Masters and 16 overall!