Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: War and Peace (not about the book) (07/07/11)
TITLE: War of the Roases
By sandra hoolihan
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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 man’s 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.
“I really like the dress.” I lie with wide eyes and exaggerated enthusiasm. “The cut of it isn’t as form fitting as the first outfit, but it is so cute. Definitely the zebra dress,” 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 doesn’t 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 don’t 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 won’t.
“I don’t think I need a sweater in church today. I know I’ll regret it since the sanctuary is always as cold as a meat locker, but - oh- I just don’t want to deal with it.” 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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