Not my characters; just borrowing them; yadayadayada.
Had a long day of ‘work’ writing and not enough time to do
a chapter on my other stories, so I thought I’d release this
little brain dropping.
I love those dimples. I can’t get enough of them. My
heart just melts every time she pours on the charm. At this
point, I don’t think she realizes that it’s ‘charm,’
but who knows. Maybe she does – she can be sneaky from
Our relationship wasn’t love at first sight. There was
just so much drama that came before, during and after her
arrival in my life. I just never got the chance to sit back
and truly admire her; to see her for who she is, and who she
could be. But really, that’s true of anyone if you think
about it. Now when I look at her though, it’s a different
story. I couldn’t see my life without her…or any of my ‘girls’
as I call them.
She’s trying to negotiate through the yard now as she
sways back and forth. Her arms are extended out, trying to
keep herself balanced and upright. The grass is a little high
– the landscapers should be here tomorrow – but I like it
high. After living in the city so long I appreciate the little
things, like grass. Besides, having it higher makes it more
cushy if she falls.
I don’t think I have to worry about that though. She’s
testing her independence while her sister and her mom keep a
watchful eye. Emma sits on one side while Olivia sits on the
other her arms extended. The joy on her face is one I expected
I would see one day as Francesca begins to ‘get mobile.’
What I didn’t expect was how whole it would make me feel.
I love Rafe – he’s my son. I’d die for him. But this
time motherhood is much different. I can enjoy a carefree
summer day outside without worrying about the electric bill or
getting to my third job just to make sure there is PB and J in
the pantry. While money doesn’t solve everything, it sure
does make it easier to enjoy even the simplest of things, like
a lazy picnic in the backyard.
Francesca finally makes her way into Olivia’s waiting
arms and wraps her little hands around Liv’s neck. They both
look my way and smile with a sense of accomplishment.
"Did you see Ma?" Olivia calls over to me.
"No help at all."
My heart swells at the adoration I feel for all of them
But Olivia’s wrong.
Francesca has lots of help, and lots of people who will
always be there to ‘catch her.’ And if not…she’s
always got dimples to fall back on.
Dimples 2: Terrible Twos
We walk inside the house and the first thing we see is
Olivia and Emma. If I'd known any better I'd think they just
went ten rounds with Thor. They both seemed to be breathing
hard and were…wet?
In her highchair sat Francesca, looking triumphant.
Spaghetti dripped from her hair and clothes, just as it did
from Olivia and Emma. The difference is Francesca wasn't
wearing Armani or Abercrombie & Finch like her other two
She had on the ducky pajamas that Blake bought her last
week – a duck that was now red with marinara sauce. It
looked like a bloodbath, well, except for the dimples that
blazed across her cheeks upon seeing us enter the room.
"Are you a dirty girl?" I ask.
She immediately started to flex her fists as she holds her
arms out to be picked up.
Next comes the chorus of "Da,da,da,da."
"Don't do it, Frank," Emma warns me. "It's a
trap. She'll get you too."
The severity in Emma's voice was so forceful it sounded as
if she was talking about a bomb detonating. As I looked around
the room closer – spaghetti on the ceiling fan, refrigerator
and cupboards – yes, it DOES look like a bomb went off. I
turn to Natalia who had entered with me. I see the smile on
her face as she shakes her head.
Natalia shrugs and says, "Looks like another day to
I creep closer and ask, "You wanna go bye-bye with
"No!" she all but screams. I feel myself cringe
"Don't take it personal," Olivia says.
"She's in a 'No' to everything mood today. Watch
this." She then turns to Francesca. "You wanna go
read a book?"
"You wanna go play with Oreo?"
"You don't want to play with the new kitty?"
Olivia tries again.
"You sure? He's cute – black on the outside; white
in the middle."
Emma joins in, "Would you like to get dressed in
something besides spaghetti?"
She giggles and then says, "No!"
I see Olivia nod to Emma who knows what the signal means.
Emma takes the shirt off of Francesca – or at least she
tries. Francesca isn't helping in the least. She's flaying her
arms around, making it hard for Emma to pull out the sleeves.
Finally, after the brief struggle, the garment is off.
"Go get changed Em," Olivia tells her.
"We'll take it from here." I watch Emma dart away;
relieved her duty is over for now. Olivia turns back to me as
she wets the dishrag in the sink. "I really did plan to
have her ready for you, Frank. Chessie had other plans
"I'm in no hurry," I tell her honestly. Besides,
I like watching them all interact. I feel assured that even
though I'm not here full time my daughter is still getting
lots of love and attention.
At that moment, Chessie takes what's left of the spaghetti
and dumps the bowl on her head. Olivia turns just in time to
see it. She casually tosses the dishrag over her shoulder so
it lands back into the sink. This cleaning project just got a
lot larger than a dishrag can handle. I try not to laugh and I
look to Natalia who's also trying to stifle a smile.
"We don't throw food," Olivia warns as she waves
her finger. Like clockwork, a piece of spaghetti flies across
the room and hits Liv square in the forehead.
She can't help herself and starts to smile.
"Oh, joy! It's a daddy weekend! You're goin' in the
tub for a scrub and then you can say no to him for the next
three days. Sound like fun, Chessie?!"
I grin as Olivia sighs, "Somehow I knew you'd say
Dimples 3: Three's a Crowd
Every other word out of her mouth is a 'W' question. Where
are we going? What's that do? Who's that? And, of course, her
favorite one today… "Why?"
In one hand, I have a bag of old bread. My other hand has
my pinky extended. Chessie wraps her small fingers around it
as we walk toward the water edge.
"Looks like Chester made it back," I say as we
approach the pond.
"Where?" she asks.
I pick her up and settle her on my hip. Then I point out
across the water to the one duck that has a white mark on top
of his head. We saw him last year before winter and she had to
name him Chester after a cartoon dog she likes to watch on
"Where he go?" she asks in broken English.
Sometimes the child sounds like a New York taxi driver and I
"He flies south during the winter because it's
"How he get home?"
"He flew," I answer.
"No, why he fly HERE?" she says as she motions to
"How did he know how to come back to THIS pond?"
She just nods. "Birds do something called
"Close enough," I giggle. "Yes, migration.
It's an instinct inside that tells them where to fly so they
know where home is. I guess Chester likes it here because he
came back to the farm."
"It's a nice farm for ducks."
"There's this big pond. Plus, there're no hunters
"We don't let people shoot animals here."
"We like our birds and other animals."
That seems to satisfy her for the moment.
"I feed Chesder now?" she asks, not quiet
pronouncing the 't' correctly.
"Yep," I say as I put her back on the ground and
open the bread bag. She digs in with enthusiasm. I have to
admit it's been years since I've seen anyone this excited
about ducks and I grin even bigger. I know I won't have much
time with her. Not like this, anyway. In a few years I'll be
on my own, like Rafe was. So I'll take what I can get now.
"How're my girls?" Ma calls from the back porch.
"Look Mama!" Chessie jumps up and down and points
to the water. "Chesder come home! See?"
Ma starts to make her way over.
"Yep, that looks like him alright," she answers.
When she finally arrives, Chessie gives Ma's leg a slight
"You go," Chessie says firmly.
"I have to go. Why?"
Now I know who she gets the 'why' from.
"Me and Em feed Chesder. No Mama."
"Oh, I'm not allowed to feed the ducks too, huh?"
"No. Just Em," Chessie says firmly.
Ma holds her hands up in front of her. "Well, excuse
me for intruding," she chuckles. "Sheesh."
"You checking up on me? Making sure I don't dump her
in the lake?" I ask.
"No." Natalia grins and pats my arm. "I know
how responsible you are. Just wanted to let you know breakfast
I feel a small sense of pride wash over me. I'm starting to
see that being a teenager now has its advantages. I give her a
short nod as Chessie continues to try to make her go away.
"Hey munchin," I say as I pick up my sister.
"How about we eat and then come back out and feed the
ducks some more? What do you say?"
"Just Em and Chessie?"
Ma tries to hide her smile.
"Just us," I promise.
Chessie wraps her arms around my neck and gives me a wet,
sloppy kiss on the cheek. Having a baby sister was tough at
first, I'll admit. But now… I'm starting to see the
Dimples 4: Fearsome Fours
The shrill scream could have competed with Jamie Lee Curtis
in her heyday. Seriously.
We immediately shot up in bed and looked at each other in
horror. I was convinced we’d find Dimples at the bottom of
stairs with a broken arm, broken leg, severed finger, who
knows what. That’s when we heard the scream again and I
realized it was coming from her room; not below us.
Someone had to be in the house; in her room.
Natalia ran toward the door while I ran to our closet safe.
By the time I arrived with my glock in hand, Emma was standing
in the doorway rubbing her eyes, while Natalia sat on the bed,
stroking Chessie’s long, dark hair behind her ear.
"What’s going on?" I ask.
"She’s trying to make me fail my finals
tomorrow," Emma replies.
"Nu-uh!" Chessie disagrees firmly. "There’s
a monster over there!"
I look to the closet where she’s pointing.
"Oh, for Pete’s sake," I mutter under my
"Olivia!" my wife reprimands me. "She’s
really sacred," she adds, which prompts Chessie to nod
"And I need to get up really early," Emma
announces, sounding annoyed.
I walk over to the closet and I open the door wider. I want
to have a look to be on the safe side. I’m sure there is no
‘monster,’ but she might have seen a prowler.
I continue to inspect the room as Emma continues
complaining. "How many years have you said these final
years of school will be the most important? Huh? I don’t
want to bomb out freshman year. It’ll set a precedence for
the rest of high school."
"Emma," I sigh. "Ditch the melodramatics
My elder daughter snorts. "Says the woman holding a 9
millimeter for a monster inspection." She made sure to
put the words ‘monster inspection’ in air quotes. God, she’s
so much like me sometimes. Yes, it’s exasperating.
"I really don’t like a gun in the house,"
Natalia says to no one in particular.
"Daddy has a gun," Chessie points out.
Ha! I love my kid. That’s my Dimples! Comin’ through
for Mum again. I smile proudly and wave my hand in her
direction in a ‘See? Frank has a gun,’ fashion. My wife,
however, is not as impressed with our daughter’s
"We’ll discuss this later," she says to me. At
least I have a reprieve for the moment.
"I don’t wanna go to bed," Chessie says as she
pulls the covers higher. "Maybe he went under the bed. Do
you see him, Mum?"
I’m really gonna have to do this, aren’t I? I’m gonna
have to get on all fours, look on the floor and then somehow
try to get back up. I take a deep breath resigned to my fate.
I move to the floor and pull up the dustcover.
"Nope," I call up. "No monsters down
"Because there’s no such thing as monsters,"
"Are too!" Chessie argues.
"Are not!" Emma retorts.
"Yes, sir," Francesca says. It’s a term she
picked up from Frank, which frustrates me to no end, but I let
it go. "That show we watched for your school class had a
"What are you talking about?" Emma asks.
"Last night, remember? That show had a guy who said
Hister was a monster."
Emma looks confused at first and then grins.
"You mean Hitler; not Hister. And for the record,
Hitler…" she pauses and considers her point.
"Hitler was a monster. Okay, you got me. But since there’re
no monsters HERE in this house so can we all just go to bed
Chessie shakes her head.
"Fine," Emma continues. "Take her to bed
with you guys then."
Natalia and I both look panicked for a moment. Oh, no! That’s
not gonna happen! I love my daughter, but that bed is for
adults sleeping and sex. Not snack food time. Not nail polish
time and certainly not kid cuddle time. Thank god Natalia
agreed to that pact years ago. I’m not gonna let us
backslide now. It’s called a ‘marriage’ bed; not the ‘everybody
climb in’ bed. There’s gotta be something that I can…Ha!
"You know, Dimples," I begin. She looks up at me
with those beautiful sea green eyes. How she managed to get my
eyes is astounding. "Why don’t you draw a picture of
the monster you saw?"
"He was ugly with shiny teeth – real big
"Well, draw a picture of him and Emma and I are going
bring back something I got when Emma swore she saw a monster
in her room at your age."
Emma looks at me like I’m insane for a moment and then
she starts to giggle.
"You still have that?" she asks, thankfully
"Yes, I do, so we’ll be right back."
I lock up my gun again before Emma and I make our way
"I forgot all about this," Emma says as we go
toward the kitchen.
"Yeah, you were once four too, so cut her some slack,
"I try. I do," Emma replies. "I just really
needed my sleep tonight."
I stop short of the kitchen door and turn to face her. She’s
taller than me now by about an inch and her body looks more
womanly than girl-like. I cup her cheek and give it a light
"You HAVE done really great with her, Bean. Really.
Sometimes though you just need a little extra patience with
"I know," she replies. "Just tell me how can
I help so I can get to sleep tonight?" she teases.
A few minutes later we return to see Dimples’ picture. He
does look like a mean bugger and for four years old she’s
actually a darn good artist. Probably better than anything I
could draw. I planned to have her rip it up, but she’s
convinced if she gives it to her Daddy he’ll put it on the
wall with all the others pictures of the bad guys the police
are looking for. Once we get beyond what to do with her
picture, she notices something in my hand.
"What’s that?" she asks as she motions toward
"Tell her Em’," I say.
"It’s Monster Spray!" her sister announces.
"Monster spray?" Chessie and Natalia both ask at
the same time. Chessie however turns to Natalia and asks,
"Did you know about this, Ma?"
Natalia seems to stumble for a second.
"Of course!" I say pulling Chessie attention back
to me. "Every mom knows about Monster Spray, but she
might not have known we had some here. She probably didn’t
want to tell you in case we didn’t, but that’s not a
problem. Show her Em’."
Emma hands over the bottle that was nothing more than a
plant mister filled with purple food coloring and water. On
the front was a crudely drawn picture Emma made of a monster
that sorta resembled Dimples monster, thankfully. In big bold
letters she wrote MONSTER SPRAY.
"How does it work?" Chessie asks optimistically.
Yes! She’s buying it! Kid-free bed tonight!
"We have to use it once a year and it keeps away
monsters. It’s kind of like our spider spray we use outside.
Come here," I motion her over.
She comes to my side, with the bottle in hand, and I take
her to the window.
"Now, you don’t need a lot. Just three sprays here
by the window."
"One. Two. Three," she counts as she sprays.
"And one by the closet, just in case."
Again, she sprays.
"One on each side of the bed."
We all watch her squeeze the bottle making sure to hit the
left side, right side and foot of the bed.
"Oh, almost forgot," she says as she goes to the
head of the bed and makes Natalia move out of the way as she
squirts one more time.
"Now two at the door way over here." I motion her
"One! Two!" she says happily as she squirts
"There you go," Emma says. "You won’t have
to worry about monsters for a long, long time. Think you can
go back to bed now?"
Chessie nods enthusiastically; her dimples blazing. Natalia
and I both kiss her on the head as we tuck her in.
"Night," Emma says as she exits Chessie’s room
and heads to her own room.
"Bean?" I call out, which makes her stop. Yeah,
she’s not an adult just yet, but I wonder for a moment just
when did she grow up. "Thanks."
She smiles and just nods a ‘welcome.’
"Monster Spray… You’re brilliant," Natalia
tells me as I put my arm around her waist and lead her back to
"I am pretty smart, huh?" I say smugly, which
earns me a pitch on the side.
As I settle back into bed, with Natalia curled up, resting
her head at my shoulder, I have one thought on my mind.
I love my girls.
Dimples 5: Fearless Fives
I put the screwdriver in my back pocket and rise as I see
Munchkin Junior – MJ for short – make her way over to me.
I’m not sure how it’s possible, but she looks like all
three of them – Ma, Frank and Olivia. She’s got Frank’s
smile, Ma’s dark hair and dimples and Olivia’s green eyes.
Truth is… she looks more like Emma than me, her own brother.
In fact, if anyone didn’t know any better, they’d swear
that Bean and MJ were biologically related instead of she and
None of that matters though -- I love her with all my
heart. Growing up alone with Ma I never felt like I lacked
anything, but now I can’t imagine my life without her. Sure,
I don’t see her much, but now that she’s older she writes
me or sends me videos. She’s such a ham. Even the guys in
the barracks sometimes will ask to see what she had to say
that month. She’s got a subtle way about her that reminds me
of Ma, but she’s as quick witted and headstrong as her Mum,
Olivia. Yeah, I have to admit it…Olivia’s been good to
her; to all of us really.
I wasn’t sure why Chess always called her Mum, which
sounded pretty English to me. Not English like the language,
but English like the ‘pip, pip, cheero’ folks.
Ma said that when Chess was just learning to talk she said
‘Ma’ and ‘Da’ just fine. But they weren’t sure who
she was addressing when she said ‘Ma’ unless they were
So when Emma began to call Ma by the name ‘Ma’ and
Olivia ‘Mom’, they taught Chess to say ‘Mum’ -- it was
a sound Chessie could make and it sounded close to ‘Mom’.
So Ma stayed ‘Ma’. And Olivia became ‘Mum’. They
figured when Chess was older, she’d start to use ‘Mom’
like Emma did, but no dice. Olivia became Mum forever in Chess’s
And today since, I’ve been told that ‘Ma and Mum’ are
too old to keep up, and ‘Daddy’ AKA Frank is even older
than them, it’s my job to teach Chess how to ride a bike.
"Are you ready, Rafe?" she asks wearing her
kneepads and crash helmet. She looks like she’s ready to
play hockey. The only protection my head and legs had growing
up was a Cubs cap and jeans.
Little does she know I raised the training wheels. Right
now they’re off the ground enough for her to learn balance,
but not enough for her to notice they’re not touching the
driveway. If she leans too far to one side she WILL fall. But
I’m betting she’ll get the hang of it soon enough. In
fact, I’m willing to bet she already does. She just doesn’t
have her confidence yet.
‘Oh, yeah. I’m ready,’ I think. "Sure am,"
I answer her out loud and try not to smirk.
I pull the bike over to the middle of the driveway and put
the kickstand up. I hold it while she climbs aboard. She
wobbles a little at first.
"It feels funny," she says.
‘Maybe she’s brighter than I expected,’ I think.
"It’s fine. I put the training wheels a tad
higher," I tell her.
"They still touch, right?" she asks in concern.
"Yes." Okay, that was a bold face lie, but I’m
certain she can do this so I change the subject fast. "I’m
gonna run behind and help hold you up though if you need it.
You keep peddling no matter what. Got it?"
She nods and pushes off as I follow behind her. As I
suspected, at this point she has so much balance that I’m
not even holding the bike up. She’s doing it on her own. She
doesn’t realize she’s really riding on her own since my
hand is outstretched; yet not touching anything.
I look back toward the house and I see Olivia and Ma
looking out the window at us. They’re grinning and I give
them a thumbs up. It’s going great so far.
"Are you still there?" Chess asks nervously.
"Yeah, MJ, keep going!" I say optimistically.
She peddles a bit more and I let go completely, allowing
her to pull ahead. When she gets several feet down the
driveway I shout out to her.
"Keep going MJ, you’re doing it!"
She knows I’m no longer behind her so she has a fleeting
moment of doubt. I know because I see the bike wobble a little
after my words. But she recovers and keeps riding as I clap my
hands. She starts to get to the end of the driveway and slows
down. The wobbling gets more intense as I see her try to turn
the handlebars. That’s when I realize the problem.
‘Oh, shit! She doesn’t know how to turn yet.’
I start to run after her but I know I’ll never make it in
time. She topples to one side with the bike landing on her.
‘Shit! She’s never gonna trust me again.’
"You okay, MJ?" I ask as I run up to see the bike
on top of her.
I pull the bike off and put up the kickstand. It looks like
she’s crying, but I quickly realize she’s not sad. She’s
"Rafe?" she said in between giggles.
"Do you think you can teach me to turn first?"
I laugh too. "Yeah, that’s an important part of
learning to ride, huh?"
"Yeah," I said as I pick her up and dust her off.
"We’ll work on that, okay?"
Fearlessly, she climbs aboard again and we start back up
the driveway. This time I follow along and we take the first
turn together. I’m sure by the end of the day she’ll be a
Dimples 6: Six Simple Words
"Mum - tell me - what's dyke mean?"
It's only six words, but everyone stops eating dinner in
mid-chew. I'm not sure what I've said exactly, but I know it
got everyone's attention, that's for sure.
"It's a wall that holds back water," Mum answers
and then grins.
Ma and my big sister Ava, who's in from California, snort
and start to giggle. But I'm confused even more now. Why would
Heather call my moms big walls?
"Am I wrong?" Mum challenges the chuckling pair.
Ma shakes her head slightly. "Am I?" Mum presses
"No, but I'm pretty sure that's not what this is
about," Ma replies.
At that point, Emma comes into the kitchen like a tornado
and tussle with my hair on the way over to the stove. I really
hate it when she does that and I try to push her hand away,
but it's too late. It already feels knotty on top.
"Sorry I'm late," she says as she makes a plate
of food. "Volleyball practice ran over. What'd I
Emma stuffs a fork full of macaroni in her mouth and Ma
"Chessie just asked what a dyke is?" Emma coughs
a little and the fork falls to her plate. Then Ma adds,
"You wanna answer that one?"
"Did Mum tell you it's a wall?" Emma asks me.
'How did she know?' I wonder and just nod.
She then turns to Mum. "You need some new material,
Mom." Emma then looks my way again. "She used the
same line on me when I asked years ago. But lemme guess,
someone at school said something about living here with
I nod. "Heather Decker," I answer.
"Decker," Mum growls out the name. "Go
figure that widow-duping, m-money-grubbing son-of-a-bitch
would raise a homophobe."
"Olivia! Language!" Ma corrects her.
As usual, Mum just rolls her eyes… and, as usual, she
tells me, "Don't say bitch. It's a bad word. Unless
you're talking about a female dog. So if you think about it
I'm not sure Decker is human so is that really a swear word
"Olivia," Ma warns again in her 'I'm getting
"Please! The man shacked up with his 'mid-life crisis'
after he left his wife and now has a spawn to call his own.
Isn't that grand?"
This time Ma says nothing. The look in her eye, or more
correctly, her raised eyebrow, says it all. Mum knows it's
time to give up and let it go. She blows Ma a kiss and just
goes back to her mac and cheese with a grin.
"So," Ava pipes in, "tell us, what happened
at school, Sweetie?"
"Well, at lunch Heather Decker told everyone at the
table that my moms are big dykes and that I'll be a dyke
"While it's true a dyke is a wall," Emma begins.
"…it can also be considered a derogatory word for a
lesbian. Do you know what derogatory means?" At first, I
do nothing. I don't want to appear dumb, but I'm not entirely
sure. I just know it must mean something bad so I just shake
my head. "Derogatory means insulting. Some people use it
as an insult to a woman who's gay."
"Right," Ma agrees. "But sometimes even
women who are gay use the term with each other."
"But if it's an insult then why would they use
it?" I ask.
Ma shrugs. "Maybe because by using it then it
'Desensi-what?' I think
Emma smiles because I think she sees the confusion on my
"It's like when I got braces," Emma replies.
"Remember how Mum called me 'brace face' all
"Yeah, Ma would get real mad."
"True, but Mum was right. I got used to it. So when I
went to school in the fall and the kids called me that name it
didn't hurt since I was already using it. It's kind of like
"Yeah, I guess I could see how that might make it not
hurt as much," I say. "So do you call yourselves
dykes?" I ask my moms.
Mum starts to laugh and tries to talk at the same time.
"Your Ma is the biggest dyke around."
Ava and Emma start laughing too while Ma turns about three
shades of red and hits Mum with her napkin.
"Keep it up Spencer and this week I won't be," Ma
replies and starts to laugh too.
I'm not sure what that means exactly, but they all laugh a
little harder for a few moments.
"Well, don't worry about Heather," Emma tells me.
"Gay, straight, bi – it doesn't matter in this house.
You're lucky, you know? A lot of kids are still cast aside by
their family for who they love. Here though, we just want you
to find someone who's good to you, good for you and makes you
laugh after a decade like these two… Find that and you'll be
just fine – 'dyke' or not, Dimples."
I smile. I can live with that.
Dimples 7: Slippery Sevens
"It was an accident, Frank!"
"And I think it’s a mistake she was ever
Emma is on one side of me while Ma is on the other. All
three of us are on the sofa as Mum and Pop go back and forth.
While they argue, my tongue plays with the gum where my top
front tooth used to be.
"You can’t guard her the rest of her life!"
"No, but I can keep her safe now."
"What about the bigger picture? Kenpo Karate can give
her the ability to defend herself someday!"
"She got her teeth knocked out for Pete’s
sake!" Pop says.
"Teeth?! It was a tooth - one baby tooth! And it was
"Is that true?" he asks me.
I look to Mum, who’s rolling her eyes. I’m not sure
what to say.
"No, I made that part up," Mum mumbles.
"Look," she says louder, "It was gonna come out
Pop turns to Ma. "What do you think?"
"Front baby teeth do come out around now."
Pop sighs impatiently. "I meant about the class."
Ma just puts up her hands. She doesn’t want any part of
this and I don’t blame her.
"Leave me out of that," she says.
Pop asks her, "Do you think it’s okay to have
Chessie’s teeth knocked out?"
No one’s asked me what I want or what I think. Am I
invisible here? The truth is, it was just an accident like Mum
Ma shakes her head again. "I’m staying out of this.
If anyone’s going to make the decision about the class, then
it should be Chessie."
She then looks over to me.
"Fine," Pop begins as he looks at me. "Do
you want to keep going to class and getting your teeth knocked
"No," I answer.
Before I can add more he points to me and faces Mum.
"See, Liv? She wants out of the class."
"No!" I say louder than I intended. Everyone
looks at me. "I don’t want out of the class. I just don’t
want to get my teeth knocked out."
"Well," Pops starts, "If you keep-."
"May I finish explaining please?" I say,
interrupting him before he can start ranting again. No one
speaks and all eyes are on me, so I continue. "Ruby didn’t
mean to hit my mouth. Besides, I had on headgear - her hand
slipped and blamo! She got a point for the perfect hit and I
got toothless. Heehee, well, not entirely toothless. I still
have teeth, but I gotta say... sheesh, Pop, to hear you tell
the story you’d think I needed dentures like Grandpops."
Everyone chuckles, expect Pop.
"Up top," Emma says as she raises her hand for me
to high five.
Pop finally starts to grin slightly.
"Listen Dimples," Mum begins, "Your Dad is
just worried about you. He doesn’t want you to feel like you
have to go to the dojo."
"But I wanna go!" I reply. It sounds like she’s
starting to side with him. This isn’t good. "I do. I’ve
got my junior yellow and I’m close to my junior
"Sweetie?" Ma says, "Do you want to stay
there? Yes or no."
"There’s your answer, Frank," Ma says in her
‘end of discussion’ voice.
"Alright, but she’s-she’s only seven."
"She’s learning that Karate isn’t what you see in
Hollywood," Mum explains. "She’s learning
discipline; dedication and, perhaps most importantly, she’s
finding out how to protect herself, even from people bigger
than her. Be honest. Have you seen rape victims her age?"
Pop doesn’t say anything. He just nods. "I don’t want
her to be a statistic," Mum adds although her voice
cracks a little. She clears her throat and then says, "So
she stays then?"
"Yeah," he finally relents.
Yay! Besides, picture day is over - not like I’d have to
worry about that. Come to think of it though, I’m kinda
disappointed. I coulda had something to remember my match from
years from now if I had a big toothless smile.
Pop turns to Emma with a grin and asks, "So I hear you
took regionals -- think your volleyball team’ll go all the
way this year, Captain?"
"Everyone stays focused and strong with no injuries,
then yeah, I do," she replies. "We’ve got the best
"And the best captain," Ma says as she pat Emma
on the shoulder as my sister blushes. "And I remember why
Coach Ballard picked you - he wanted someone who’s, and I
quote, level-headed, capable of leading, and has a "take
control" kind of personality."
"Bossy," I add. "Did she mention
Emma wraps her arm around my neck and proceeds to give me a
noogie. I try to squirm away but when that doesn’t work Ma
pitches Emma’s side and makes her laugh and she releases me.
"You said semi’s are the 15th?" Pop asks her.
"Yep," Emma replies. "We’ll be at Catholic
"Good, if there’s nothing huge going on at the
station, I’ll be there."
"Cool. Have Ms. Toothless here save you a seat,"
she teases me as she grabs a pillow and hits me with it before
she darts to the kitchen. I try to throw it back at her, but
Mum steps forward and catches it mid-air before it hits the
mantel. Good save.
"My son was never this rowdy," Ma replies.
"Whoever said girls were ‘easy’ never had three girls
in one house."
"Three?" Pop asks.
"She counts me too," Mum says.
I should have seen it coming, but no. Bam! Pillow upside
the head as Mum runs away too. I’m such a sucker sometimes.
Dimples 8: inquisitive Eights
‘What in the world?!’ I nearly drop my glass of water.
‘Is Ma hurt? She sounds like she’s in pain.’ I creep
closer to the bedroom door and listen a moment longer. She’s
fighting for breath. I can tell.
‘Something’s wrong! No, wait! If Ma was in trouble then
Mum would help her, right? And I can hear Mum’s voice, but
she doesn’t sound like she’s in a panic, even if I can’t
make out the words she’s-Wait! There she goes again with the
moan! Okay, I gotta know for sure if Ma’s okay.’
Knock. Knock. Knock.
"Ma?" I call out. Suddenly, I don’t hear
anything. Not Ma. Not Mum. No breathing. Nothing.
"Mum?" I try when no one answers.
"What is it, Sweetie?" I hear Ma ask.
Wait! I bet they were...OH MY GOD! I gotta think of
something fast to say!
"I forgot to tell you."
"Tell me what?" She sounds as nervous as I feel.
"Tell you that I, uh, I needed a fruit tray for the
Valentine’s Day party. Can we leave early and get one at the
store?" Smooth move. A fruit tray? That the best I could
think of? What am I gonna do with a fruit tray at school
I hear Mum giggle and then the sound of skin against skin.
Ma musta slapped her to stop laughing. Oh god, I am SO
embarrassed right now.
‘Someone just answer me please so I can go to bed and
hide under the covers.’
"Okay, Chessie. We’ll stop tomorrow. Go back to bed,
"Night," I call out. Without waiting for a
response, I dart back to my room.
The next morning I’m sitting at the table eating my bowl
of cereal alone. Everyone else is in bed, even Ma, who’s
usually the first one up. Of course, last night was a late
night for her. Ewwwwwwwwwwww! I gotta get that out of my head.
I’m thankful when Emma stumbles into the room.
"Where’s everyone?" she asks as she yawns.
"I think our moms had a late night," I reply
Emma turns her head slowly toward me and then just bursts
"Really?" she asks conspiratorially.
I’m failing to find the humor in this. This is too much
to deal with. I just nod and take another bite of my Cheerios
"So what did you hear?" she asks with an evil
grin. She’s enjoying my discomfort way too much. I told her
what happened and how now I have to take a fruit tray to
school for no reason whatsoever. That made her laugh only
harder....God, my big sister can be so annoying sometimes.
"It’s not funny, Em!" I say in growing
Suddenly, Mum walks in and pats me on the head as she walks
by, going to her first stop of the day - the coffee pot. I
cringe slightly at the thought of what those hands might have
been doing just hours before. It’s almost as Emma is reading
my mind because she laughs even harder.
Now Ma comes in and asks, "What’s so funny?"
‘Emma, you better not say it. You better not even think
"Chessie heard you two having sex."
‘You’re an ass, Emma.’
Mum is behind me so I don’t actually see her spit out her
coffee. Instead, I hear the slight choking noise followed by a
brief cough to clear her throat.
"What did you hear?" Ma automatically asks and
then immediately back peddles, "What I mean is that, yes,
sometimes your mother and I are intimate and we don’t mean
to disturb you so-."
"I’m already disturbed, okay? This entire
conversation is disturbing. Can we just drop it?"
"Amen," Mum mutters.
"It’s nothing to be embarrassed about," Ma
‘Oh, god, why is she STILL talking?’
"I’m shocked too," Emma adds. "I mean,
really, you haven’t heard them until now? Moaning comes out
of that bedroom three, four times a week."
"Emma!" my moms both say.
Emma only smirks.
"I just want you to know that it’s nature," Ma
says, to which Emma starts to sing ‘I Want Your Sex’ like
"It’s chemmmmicalll (let’s do it). It’s
logicalllll; habitualllll(can we do it)." I look back to
Mum who’s started to snicker as Emma continues, "It’s
sensualllll, but most of alllll - sex is something that we
should do. Sex is something with me and you."
At this point, both our moms are trying not to laugh and I
have to admit that it’s pretty funny.
"Emma," Ma interrupts before she can continue the
chorus, "Go get dressed."
"But I haven’t ate yet," she complains.
"Go," Mum orders and Emma gets up.
That doesn’t stop her though as she makes her way out.
She continues to sing, "Sex is natural; sex is fuuuuun.
Sex is best when it’s one ON one."
I look down into my cereal bowl and I realize... I’ll
never look at Cheerios the same way again.
Dimples - Know-It-All Nines
"But how do you know?!" I really want to
understand this and my hands slap the kitchen table a tad
harder than I expected.
"It’s called Faith," Ma says firmly.
"I’ve looked online. Nowhere in the bible does it
describe what heaven is like or how it looks or-."
"Gee. Online? Really?"
"Heaven exists. End of story."
"But how do you know?"
"In Revelation John says the city itself and its
streets are pure gold, yet like transparent glass."
"I don’t remember what verse, but it’s
Mum shuffles in the kitchen, going straight to the coffee
pot, which is her morning ritual.
"Mum? I got a question." All I get is a grumble,
but it doesn’t stop me from continuing. "Does the Bible
describe heaven as a place in the clouds with babies with
wings playing harps?"
"Francesca," Ma gripes.
"I wanna know what Mum thinks about God and
"Your Mum’s opinion doesn’t count." My jaw
drops and even Mum’s head swings around. "No!" she
adds quickly. "It counts, but not until she’s had a cup
of coffee. I mean just don’t ask her anything right
"Well, if you wanna know what I think..." Mum
"Olivia, no," Ma pleads to her. "It’s too
early for you to have THIS discussion."
"Our daughter is having a crisis of faith at the
moment," Ma says.
"It’s not a crisis," I tell her. "I’m
just trying to understand what heaven is and how everyone who’s
ever lived, and been good, fits up there. When you think about
alllllll the people who ever lived it just seems..."
"What?" Ma asks.
"It sounds pretty ridiculous." There. I said it.
Ma opens her mouth, but no words come out. Mum immediately
rushes over to her. I’ve never seen her move that fast
without at least one cup of joe. Then she pulls Ma to her feet
and leads her into the living room. I can hear Mum whispering,
but Ma’s still not saying anything. After a few seconds go
by Mum returns alone.
"Your Ma’s getting ready for church."
I hang my head. "I did it, didn’t I? Ma won’t love
me anymore for not being sure about God and asking
"Test everything; hold fast what is good."
"What?" I’m not sure what Mum is trying to say.
"It’s from Thessalonians, in the Bible. Years ago,
before you were born, her Priest tried to, well, talk your mom
out of loving me. She held onto that verse. What it means is
never stop questioning things. Look at all the angles. You’ll
find a lot of crap in this world, so hold on to what’s
right; what’s good. Your Ma loves God, but she realized she
had to leave her church because her love for me wasn’t a
sin. She could love us both. She held on to me because she
felt like a better person with me and she left her church to
find a place more welcoming."
"Which is why we go to Uncle Josh’s church?"
"But what does all that mean for me?" I wonder
"It means," Mum speaks up. "Question God.
Test the faith your Ma wants you to have. Look for answers
outside, but look in your heart too. Then hold fast to what
will make you a good person and the rest...fall away."
Mum gets up and goes back to her coffee.
"Mum? Tell me the truth. Do you believe in God?"
She puts in her cream and then faces me.
"For many years, I doubted God existed."
"Ma convinced you?"
"In a way. But it wasn’t her faith that rubbed
"What was it?"
"It was her. She’s my miracle. There has to be a god
because how could someone as wonderful as her not give up on
"I think you’re great Mum."
"Again, I had a life looooong before you came along
Dimples, and not all of it good. Your Ma saw beyond all that,
even beyond things I did to her...she’s my proof that God is
real. But remember, Thessalonians, which says...?"
"Test everything; hold fast what is good."
"Good girl," Mum says as she returns and kisses
the top of my head. "Now go get ready for church."
Hmmm. If Mum can believe then...maybe there is a God.
Dimples 10- Terrible Tens
Author note: There is a character death in this little
brain dropping. Be warned.
"I’ve made a decision," I tell Emma as she
takes a seat beside me. I still haven’t turned to face her.
I’m still staring straight ahead. The backyard is filled
with mourners. Doris is hugging Ma, both of them look like
they’ve been crying. For the moment though, they’re trying
to smile, but the smiles never quite reach their eyes.
"What’s that?" Emma asks.
I take a deep breath and blow it out slowly.
"I hate funerals."
"You’re in good com...company," she finishes.
She stops at the word ‘company’ and we both recognize why.
"Not too many people enjoy them."
"What’s the point of loving someone if all they do
is leave anyway?" I ask as I finally turn to face her.
She hands me a glass of something that appears to be some
kind of fruit drink.
"We can’t dwell on the time lost," she says.
"Instead we should focus on what time we’ve had. Death
could have came years ago so we’re fortunate for every year
we DID have. Heart conditions can be...tricky."
I can feel myself getting angry. I tell her, "It’s
"Life isn’t fair," she answers immediately.
"It’s cold and it’s hard and it’s pretty unjust at
times, like right now."
"Some pep talk, Em. Thanks," I say sarcastically.
"BUT," she continues with the wave of a finger,
"since it is such a rough place that’s exactly why you
need people to love. Yes, some of them leave, but some of them
She reaches into her pocket and hands me something. I look
"A quarter?" I ask.
"When my Granddad Alan died, my dad’s dad, I was
feeling pretty alone and sad. Our brother Rafe gave that to me
before he left for the service. So, I’m giving it to you
now. I’ve got to go back to college in a few days, but as
long as you’ve got that, I want you to remember I’m always
thinking of you, and no matter how alone you might feel, the
truth is... you’re really not. So if you need to talk, day
or night, I’m only a phone call away."
I rest my temple on Emma’s shoulder and try not to cry.
"I can’t lose you too Emma. Promise you won’t
"I can’t promise that, but I promise I’ll do all I
can to make sure I’m around for a long time, okay?"
She turns and kisses me on the crown of my head.
I look up to see Pop make is way over to us.
"Hey Sport. Em’," he says before motioning to
the house. "You two want to come help us in the
Anything beats just sitting around feeling sad. I nod and
both Emma and I make our way toward the house with my Pop
"What do you think you’ll miss the most?" I ask
Emma as we walk into the house.
She smiles. "Playing cards," she answers without
"Really?" I chuckled. "Me too because I’d
always win. He liked to call me a shark."
Emma giggles. "It’s a Spencer trait. At least I know
I trained you well."
We both grin. It’s nice to grin...even now.
We walk in and see Mum putting some pastry wrapped weenies
on a tray. Usually I love them, but today I don’t have much
of an appetite. How can I? Right at this moment, they’re
putting six feet of dirt over Grandpop Buzz and I’ll never
see him again, well, not in this life anyway.
"Emma?" Mum says breaking me from my morbid
thoughts. "Can you take the dip and chips out?"
"What can I do?" I ask.
"Frank?" Mum says, kind of ignoring me.
"There’re two bags of ice in the freezer. Can you fill
up the chests outside?"
"Yeah, no problem."
He walks out, ice in hand, and I move to Mum’s side.
"What can I do?" I ask again. If I have to ask a
third time I’m gonna get pissed.
"Are you okay? You’ve been pretty quiet." I
just nod. "Whatever you feel, it’s okay to feel."
I hesitate. "Even if I hate God right now?"
"Hmm, I wasn’t expecting you to put so fine a point
on it," Mum mutters.
"See? Told you."
I start to walk away.
"Chessie, stop. Come here."
Reluctantly, I go back.
"There are times that I’ve hated God too," she
continues. "And yeah, it does make me mad that Buzz is
"Hell-Heck, yes." I have to grin a bit. Anytime
Mum corrects her swears it’s a bit funny, even now. "I
think of all the mean people in the world and wonder why didn’t
God take them. Why take your Grandpop? But your Ma says there’s
a bigger plan at work here that we don’t always understand
in the present time. And some things will happen that we won’t
understand until we pass over into the next life..."
"Do you believe that?"
"I have to, because sometimes it’s the only way to
get through things like this."
"Is it true you almost married him?"
"Who told you that?"
"My sister, Marina. I heard her talking at the funeral
home... No one ever said anything about it before."
"Yes, it’s true. I loved him and he loved me, but we
were meant to be with other people."
"So my pop was almost your step-son?" I grin for
Mum smiles and nods.
"Which means I would have been your
"Yes," Mum chuckles.
"Wow." I heard Marina but until just now I didn’t
do the ‘family math’ in my head. "So why didn’t
you? Get married I mean?"
"It just wasn’t...right...And although it hurt at
first, we got beyond it and it worked out best for everybody.
I eventually found your Ma and Grandpop Buzz found Grandma
Lill... Like Ma says, sometimes we eventually learn the reason
why bad things happen. I know the marriage didn’t happen
because God planned on putting me with your ma...But
sometimes...well, sometimes we might not see or understand why
certain things happen.
"Like this for example?"
Mum just nods.
"Right now it just hurts to think about it too
much." I feel myself tearing up again. Mum pulls me to
her side, and like Emma, she kisses the top of my head.
"Then don’t right now, okay?" I nod. "What
do you say you take that tray out to the table?" I pick
it up and start to carry it out. "And Dimples," she
tells me. "Make sure to have a few of those weenies. I
know you’re sad, but Grandpop knew you like those. He'd
still want you to enjoy yourself."
"You think so?"
"I know so," Mum says with great confidence.
I start to make my way out again, but not before popping
one in my mouth.
‘Well, maybe I could have just a couple more,’ I think
as I pull another from the plate and make my way outside.