Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Mother (as in maternal parent) (04/24/08)
- TITLE: Treasure
By Jeffrey Snell
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Cassie placed clean plates in the cupboard as sunlight brightened the front door landing of their split-level home. Four weeks earlier, her husband had begun a thirty-day assignment in London, to return Tuesday.
Two more days. I deserve a break. She fantasized flying to Hawaii, though she knew the library or café were more likely destinations.
Her son Jason's downstairs bedroom was near enough to hear the grunting reply she'd expected. Is he deaf? Oh, to have that ten-year-old again, tousling that brown hair, enjoying big hugs and hollers of "Love ya!" But he was "mature" now, "ready to be a man."
She called again. Ah, there was the grunt. Mature, hah.
Shaking her head, Cassie paced to her bedroom for a final mirror check. That pesky hair was still askew; even "ultimate hold" gel wouldn't improve things. Looks like a nail sticking out. Sighing, she considered pinning it when Jason's voice growled through the hall.
"Where's the milk?"
"Nice," she muttered to herself, willing the hair down. "Fridge!" He had to be told that? "But no time for cereal!" A bowl and spoon clinked.
"Jason, what are you doing?" she yelled from the bedroom door, hearing cereal pouring. "Didn't you hear me?"
"Yeah. I'm hungry, and you're not ready, so...." His voice faded into a giant crunch.
Completely ignoring me! Cassie leaned against the wall, eyes closed. Jason wasn't helping with the house, dog hair covered the carpet, Mt. Laundry waited (how could one sixteen-year-old boy fill a washer every day?), and her usually lovely flower garden wilted nearly beyond saving.
She caught her teeth grinding. "I'm putting the dog downstairs in her kennel. Please put your dishes away and get ready. I don't want to be late!"
When Cassie returned for her purse, the kitchen was silent; no sign of Jason. Now where is he? Refusing to be a doormat, Cassie left, locking the door.
Approaching their station wagon, she yelped, startled -- the engine was running! Jason exited and opened the passenger door, her favorite tie against his white dress shirt, a faint smile teasing his lips.
"I'm driving today, Mom." He motioned for her to enter.
Flabbergasted, Cassie moved haltingly. "What are...?" she started, but he shushed her. As he closed the door, her heart trembled. Jason entered and sat silently for a moment, then turned to her.
"I know you miss Dad. So do I. I haven't been helping much." He looked away. "Sorry."
She felt tears beginning. "It's okay."
Jason turned back to her sharply. "No, it's not okay!" He sighed and, straightening, backed out of the garage.
Minutes later, he chuckled quietly. "You can talk to me when I drive, Mom. I'm not gonna hit a car or something."
Suddenly aware she was gripping the seat, Cassie pushed her hands to her lap. A whisper suggested she may have underestimated her son.
"Jason," she queried hesitantly, afraid to fracture whatever this was, "when I call you...." She stopped, feeling foolish. Just be glad he's being nice. "When you ignore me like this morning, it hurts."
He made a left turn and nodded, surprising her. "Mom, I love you." He grimaced. "I'm sorry I didn't answer, but I was havin' a little trouble with this tie. I wanted to surprise you. The milk wasn't in the fridge door, and you always do the mirror thing for five minutes after you're ready, so I had time to eat." He took a deep breath.
Cassie's jaw was stunned open. How could she have misinterpreted everything that happened this morning? Expecting so little from him, a grunt; mocking his innocent question; asking him to essentially skip breakfast while she fussed with her looks. He was right. Oh Lord, when did this become about me? He's not my enemy; he's my son!
Slowing the car, Jason struggled for words. "I just... wanted to make this a good day for you." He pulled into their church, parked, and jumped out, opening her door for her. Cassie gathered her thoughts and retrieved her purse and Bible. Lord, forgive me. I've been listening to the wrong voice.
As she stood, she smiled at him, and he beamed. He looked so handsome, so much like his dad. Jason bent suddenly and hugged her, and though he was a head taller than she, it felt to Cassie just like those hugs she'd relished so long ago.
"Happy Mother's Day, Mom."
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