“Drab, Pulsate, and Tendril.”
“Shouldn’t you be doing that at home, Ben?” I dumped another pile of dishes into the sudsy side of the sink.
“Seriously. What kind of words are these?”
“I would assume your teacher assigned them to you so that you would learn them. Seriously, Ben,” I used his own words back at him. “Go home to do your homework.”
“I mean ‘drab’. What kind of word is that? Do people even use that still?”
“I do. It won’t hurt you to learn it, either. You might find yourself writing about a drab character someday, and need it.” I dropped the plate I’d just cleaned into the rinse water with a quiet little splash.
“What is a drab character anyway? I thought drab was only for clothes. Don’t you have any cookies?” Ben tapped his notebook with a mechanical pencil. Thump, thump, thump.
“The kids ate them all. Ben, it really wouldn’t hurt your work to improve your vocabulary. We’ve talked about that before. But nothing says you have to do it at my place. Is there something going on at your place?”
“It’s the band. Or more like Lisa and the band. They are practicing at my house and she came along with Tracy to talk about songs and videos and stuff. And I don’t want to be there when she is.”
“Why not? Aren’t you two going out together?” I glanced over my shoulder at him as I pulled all the dishes in the rinse water out and put them in the rack.
“Yeaaaah… no. I guess not. I said something about… um. About her writing.”
“You critiqued her?”
“No. I told her not to do it anymore.”
I had just dumped the next load of dirty dishes into the sudsy water, but I dried my hands off and joined him at the table. “Seriously? You told her to quit writing? Why?”
“I don’t know. I just…” He wouldn’t look me in the eye.
I stifled a groan. “Let me guess. You got jealous because writing is supposed to be her thing, not yours.”
“She doesn’t even really want to do it. She said she tried it and didn’t like it. But now she won’t quit. And she seems to think I owe her an apology.”
“You do.” I said it straight out. “Whether or not she writes isn’t up to you, even if you pulled her into it in the first place. How would you feel if she told you to quit? But you told me yourself it was something she said that got you thinking about taking it seriously. It’ the same.”
“But we can’t both be writers, can we?”
“Certainly. In fact, if you can keep your ego out of it, having someone close writing can make it easier for your to write.”
“How do you even know?”
“Really, you don’t know about Mr. Al? He’s my husband. He also writes novels. We often sit in the living room together, each working on our own projects. He makes me read his work and now and then I get him to critique mine.”
“You’re married to a writer?”
“Yep.” I got up and went back to the sink.
“I guess I forgot you had a family.”
The Girl drifted into the kitchen right then. “What’s for supper?” She asked as she fished something out of the refrigerator, and didn’t wait for the answer before she grabbed a bowl of cereal.
“Food.” I said. I’d long since learned that any other answer would result in a change in the menu. “Quit spoiling your appetite. It’ll be ready in about an hour. By the way, this is Ben. Suzie’s son.”
“Oh. Yeah. Hi.” She waved at him with no interest at all. He was only a couple years younger than her, but she wasn’t much into meeting strangers, and wandered back to her room without saying another word.
“That… that’s…” Ben’s eyes were saucer wide.
“My daughter. Yes. She’s usually here when you are, but she tends to keep to herself. My son should be home any minute now and Mr. Al will be back from his walk soon, too.”
And then The Boy walked in. Six feet tall, chiseled jaw, shaved head, sharp eyes; he can be intimidating at the best of times, though I did at least talk him out of the tattoos.
“Who are you?” He stood over Ben, looking down.
“That’s Suzie’s son, Ben. Supper will be on the table in about an hour.”
“Don’t set place for me. I’m going out.” He went to the fridge and started pulling out sandwich makings.
“I… I should do this at home.” Ben scrambled to pull his homework together and stuff it in his backpack.
“Good idea. And be sure to apologize to Lisa.”
“I’ll do that.”
He left before I had a chance to introduce him to Mr. Al.
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