“Do I really have to go?” Samuel's pearl-white teeth, gritted together, sparkled in the sunlight.
Jennifer forced her eyes not to roll. “I think you know the answer to that question.”
“But I'm a vetrinarian now. There won't be anything for me to eat.”
She choked back a giggle. “Vegetarians can eat plenty of things at a barbecue. I'm sure there will be potato salad, chips, desserts, and plenty of other stuff.”
“Meat is gross. I don't even wanna look at it.” Samuel crossed his arms in front of him.
“So keep your eyes closed.” Jennifer placed his small hand in hers and tugged until he plodded with her of his own accord.
The pathway to the campground was bordered with wildflowers of every color, and the occasional birch tree, ripe with yellow leaves ready to drop. The crispness of an early autumn day filled the air.
She licked her top teeth and sighed. She wasn't exactly looking forward to the afternoon either. Figured the mandatory work barbecue would be a few days after she started her new job in a new town. Nothing like an office party with strangers.
And now Samuel's new friends had convinced him to forgo meat. Where did ten-year-olds get ideas like that? Just the day before he'd come home all aflutter about animals being living creatures and not wanting to eat anybody's pet. No wisdom, explanation or pleading had made him change his mind.
This was going to be a fun afternoon.
The aroma met her before she could see the gathering. She breathed in slowly and took in the scent. If she remembered correctly, spareribs, hamburgers and hot dogs were on the menu. The spices could only be the first. Burgers and dogs never smelled that good.
“Mmmm.” Samuel almost cracked a smile. “Man, that smells yummy.”
Jennifer nodded. “Doesn't it?” She gestured ahead, where the gathering was coming into view. Kids were tossing a Frisbee around and chasing each other, while a large group of grownups chatted and ate. “See, it doesn't look too awful, does it?”
He shrugged, slowing his pace. A moment later, however, his eyes lit up. “Look Mom. There's David! He's in my class from school.” He pointed to a tall blonde just beyond the kids. “Oh – and Mrs. Johnson is here too. How does she work here?”
“Must be her husband who works for Stavros.” She hadn't even considered that her supervisor might be related to Samuel's teacher – Johnson was such a common name.
“I'm gonna go play with David.” Samuel was out of earshot before Jennifer could give her assent.
She walked toward Samuel's teacher, her arm extended. “Mrs. Johnson? I'm Jennifer Blakely, Samuel's mom. We met a few days ago?”
“Oh, of course I remember you. And please call me Ann.” She smiled with her whole face, and her kind eyes sparkled. “Samuel is such a nice boy, and seems to be adjusting to school very well. My husband mentioned you were one of his employees, but I hadn't thought that you would be here.” Ann placed her hand on Jennifer's shoulder. “But I'm glad you are.”
“Me too. Do you mind if I ask you a question, Ann?”
“Any time. What is it?”
Jennifer rubbed her fingers together and shuffled her feet. “Have you been talking about vegetarianism in class? Suddenly, Samuel has sworn off meat.”
Ann raised her eyebrows and giggled. “Ah yes. You see, the day before Samuel started school, we had a field trip to a farm, and a few of the kids, shall we say, made the connection between animals and food at the grocery store. To be honest, it happens every year, and it generally passes after just a few days. I guess David and Max told Samuel about it. Those two were especially disturbed.”
“Well, that's a relief.” Jennifer smiled. “Not that I have anything against vegetarianism...”
Ann waved her hand in front of her face. “No – I know what you mean. It's good for the kids to understand where their food comes from, of course, but some take it to an extreme – especially this young.” The teacher glance toward the buffet table and smiled. “And I think your son's new obsession may pass sooner than you might think.”
Jennifer followed Ann's gaze to find her son and David walking toward her, each sinking their teeth into a hamburger.
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