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Contemporary Fiction American

   March 21, 20XX

      15:31

B: Brandon took his first steps!

C: Oh my goodness, he did?! I am so happy for you guys, did you post it?

B: Yep, I took a picture of him walking over to Bryce.

C: I wish I was there to see it… :(

B: I do too. :`(

C: We miss you guys.

B: We do too.

Claire was about to lose it, her patience was thinning by the second. 

When impatient, her anxiety caused her to panic, causing her to practice her breathing exercises. Today was a day for testing that theory.

 She glanced at her Fitbit and the screen lit up with a bold 10:37. This is getting quite ridiculous—she thought—they have been getting ready for the last two hours. With the time in mind, Claire called up the stairs, “We are going to be late! I want everyone downstairs in twenty minutes. Not a minute later!”

A loud BANG sounded from the second floor, making this mother of three panic. Claire clambered up the stairs, and went to find who needed stitches or a cast. Her mind began to go through different scenarios, each ending with a hospital visit, stopping to one of the twins poking their head out into the hall.

“Charlotte, are you okay? I heard a loud noise—”

The young girl with freckles smiled up at her worried mother, “I am fine Mama, but you may want to check on Charlie. He was talking about capes and being a superhero—”

Claire didn’t allow her to continue the sentence, her six-year-old has been trying to ‘find his hidden powers’ all week. She had to see what he was up to.

When his door didn’t budge, she grabbed the key from her pocket and jammed it into the doorknob. He could be crushed by his dresser. She didn’t want to wait for him and find out, she had to see him now.

With an unlocked CLICK from the door, she opened the door to see Charlie being seconds away from jumping off his dresser. Which wasn’t a surprise for this mother, but it did little to calm this mother’s worries all the same.

Without a second passing, Claire rushed to his side and held him still. “Charlie, don’t do this. It’s dangerous, we talked about—”

“Mama, this is my superpower.”

She looked up at him, “Who told you that?”

“Cooper did! Grand Pappie was a secret superhero flying all over the world to beat baddies.” As if she needed a demonstration, he began to punch the air and made sound-effects.

She took a sharp intake of breath, before her anxiety could flare-up.

Just breathe.

With a steady release of breath, she set him down. “Uh-huh, when did he tell you this?”

He crossed his arms, “Only a few minutes ago Mama, I was in his room trying to ask him about helping me put pants on.” The mother didn’t need to look at her child, knowing well enough that he had trouble with keeping his pants on. 

“Oh honey, you know I can help with this.”

“I know.”

“Okay, where are your pants?”

The next few minutes were focused on making sure Charlie was wearing proper clothes for a brunch. Knowing her son’s dreams of being a superhero, she didn’t fight with taking off the cape. There were some battles she must fight; this wasn’t one of them. 

As he rushed past her to put his shoes on, she glanced down at her Fitbit, now showcasing a bright 10:46 across the screen. They had to hurry.

One down, three to go.

      ___

   June 3, 20XX

      9:53 

A: He sounds quite troublesome for his age!

C: Coop sure is, haha, which reminds me of someone…

A: I hope you aren’t referring to me.

C: But I am.

A: That isn’t very fair, if anything the eldest has to cause trouble for their younger siblings.

C: You should really see him soon, he acts just like you did when we were kids!

A: I would like that, perhaps we can see you guys soon?

C: Soon. :)

Claire’s frustration at her son was giving her an awful headache, which always disappeared after she focused on her breathing exercises.

We aren't going to be late. 

Breathe in. 

I can handle this. 

Breathe out.

Just breathe.

With a deep breath, she knocked on her eldest’s door.

“Coop, how is it going?”

Silence.

“Hey, we can talk about the incident with your brother later—” although it wasn’t too early, Claire thought, he does have a habit of sleeping-in, “—but you need to hurry, or we’ll be late.” She waited. “OK?”

There was a rustle behind the door, then a grunt. 

Her daughter’s door was only a hop and a skip away from Cooper’s, and before she had a moment to knock on it, Charlotte was shutting it behind her. She looked impish; you don’t have to be a mother to know something was up.

Claire leaned over her daughter’s shoulder and whispered, “Whatcha doin’?”

Her daughter jumped a foot in the air, caught in the act.

Without missing a beat she replied, ‘Nothing!

Claire knew her daughter, including how Charlotte’s poker-face needed work. Minus the red hair and freckles, Charlotte was just like Claire—both equally terrible at telling little fibs.

“Ah of course.” She fixed Charlotte’s stray hairs back behind her ears. “You wouldn’t lie to me.”

“I wouldn’t!”

“Oh yes, I know.” Replying with her hands pulled behind her back, “liars don’t get to eat dessert.”

Charlotte’s eyes widened. “No-no dessert—”

“Of course not!” Claire knelt down and looked at Charlotte. “You wouldn’t lie. Would you?”

Her daughter knew this was a lie, and her ears began to turn red. “Well…”

Well?

“I was going to leave my room.”

And?

And, pretend I cleaned my room.”

“Ah.” She straightened back up. “Looks like you have to finish it up. Before heading downstairs.”

Her daughter nodded and asked, “Will you leave without me if I don’t do it on time?”

Claire was about to laugh, but she caught herself, as soon as she realized her six year-old was serious. “No, but you may miss dessert. I will just have to eat your portion, I don't mind if you finish.”

With a gasp, Charlotte closed the door. Simply for the sake of—Claire knew—cake. Why her daughter would only listen to cake, she would never know, but she didn’t care as long as Charlotte would clean her room on time. They were going to be on time, they had to be.

“Go downstairs when you finish, I expect to see you as soon as you’re done! No more than—” With a look down at her Fitbit, she saw an illuminated 10:54 on the screen. “No more than five minutes!”

Charlotte poked her head back into the hallway, “I got it Mama, don’t worry, I will finish.” She closed the door and yelled through the wood, “GO, SO I CAN FOCUS AND GET MY CAKE!

With a chuckle, Claire began to head downstairs, happy with her daughter’s devotion to eating cake. 

Two down, two to go.

      ___

   November 27, 20XX

      21:28

C: She ate the whole pie! You’d think she didn’t eat dinner—lol

A: It’s been years since we last visited, but she’s still so cute. I was the same way with desserts, she’s fine.

A: Oh, that reminds me, the twins’ birthday is coming up! What is their favorite cake? 

C: Hard to say, Charlie would eat anything. But Charlotte? Probably… Red Velvet?

A: Gotcha, I will send over some for my favorite niece and nephew. ;)

C: Ah, they’ll love it! I will send pictures.

A: Can’t wait!

Cameron was calm and collected, always there to calm Claire when she needed him most.

This moment was no different. As Claire proceeded to go through her mental checklist of what snacks needed to be packed for the 10-minute car trip, Cameron was ready. He managed to scavenge a plethora of snacks and items they wouldn't need. He knew this, but he still went along with the idea to help calm her nerves.

And it did. As Claire rounded the corner into the kitchen, she found the bag fully packed on the island, alongside her husband tying on Charlie’s shoes. 

“Look Mama, my red Spider-Man sneakers!” Charlie lifted his left foot, as his father tied his right.

Claire laughed at his enthusiasm for light-up shoes, and nodded back. “Do you like them? Aunt Beatrice picked them out for you

“Mama? Who is he?”

She,” Claire corrected, “Aunt Beatrice is a she.”

Without blinking the boy replied, “That’s what I said.”

Claire rolled her eyes at him, and stood beside the counter. “Of course, how silly of me? We’ll see her when we get there, if we get there on time.” She focused back on her husband. “How much longer until Old-Timer will be loaded up?”

Her husband puffed-out his cheeks, estimating how long the 2013 Toyota Sienna will be warmed-up and fully packed. “I would say ten more minutes…? I am not too sure.”

Claire looked at her Fitbit and saw 10:58 across the screen, before she would remind her family of their tardiness, Cameron placed his hand on Claire’s arm.

“We are going to be fine. Just breathe.”

He was always her rock, Cameron always knew what she needed to hear, and Claire loved him for it.

We are fine. 

Breathe out.

Calm.

Breathe in.

Down.

Just breathe.

Claire nodded back at him with a smile on her face. “Thank you, I needed that.”

He smirked, “I knew you did. That’s why you married me, remember?”

Hardy-har-har mister, I at least had the courage to propose.” She crossed her arms. “I knew well enough what I was doing when I asked you to marry me, in front of all those joggers at our favorite park.”

He set the curious Charlie down, and turned to her. “Speaking of parks, aren’t we going to Coffer Woods, or another suburb?”

Satisfied with winning the small battle of wits, she nodded back at him. “Yes, that was what Bryce told me in the text.” Bryce, being the husband of her older sister Beatrice, was known for being a stay-at-home dad. As such, he had the role of setting up playdates and family get-togethers. Claire didn’t question how he managed to do it, only thankful for his persistence in texts. “We are bringing

Cameron picked up a bag from a chair behind the island, “Plates, utensils, and cups. For an easy clean-up. I have it all here.” He turned for the garage. “I am going to get Old-Timer up and going. I will be outside.”

With his mother’s permission, Charlie followed his father and ran to help him in the garage. ‘Help’ being relative to being silent and waiting in the minivan patiently.

Before she could go check on Cooper and Charlotte, there were heavy CLOMPS down the stairsbelonging to a very winded redhead. “How did I do?” she huffed with a tired breath.

Hmm, let’s see.” She checked her watch for the hundredth time that morning, and found 11:01 across the small screen. “You are late,”

Charlotte hung her head down in defeat.

But—”

But—? Oh, please tell me I’ll have cake!”

The mom loved her daughter's passion for sweets, and Claire couldn’t hold in a chuckle as she looked ready to explode with happiness, all the while eager for a slice of cake. “Yes, you will have cake, but you will have to thank your brother

The girl bounded up to her mother and gave her a face-splitting grin as she enveloped her in a warm hug. “Thank you, oh, thank you!” She looked up at her mother, her face stern, “What type of cake?”

Claire patted her head. “Your favorite, Red Velvet, Aunt Ashley knew how much you liked it and decided to make it for today.”

“Who is she again?”

“The aunt who bakes, she has cherry-blond hair, and frecklesjust like you in fact.”

I knew she was my favorite.”

Claire held a smile that mirrored her daughter’s as she released the hug. “Get going, we’re going to be late! Get into Old-Timer so we can get a move on and see them.”

Her red braid swished as she turned and began to walkno skiptowards the garage. She then faced her mother, “Coop is cooped up in his room still, Mama. He hasn't budged since you went up there.”

Claire gave the girl a face. “Are you trying to get him into trouble, or are you going to get in the car for cake?”

Cake, definitely cake.”

That’s what I thought, I will check on him, don’t worry.” 

Claire went up the stairs and looked at the Fitbit, showing 11:04. She let out a long sigh and muttered at no one other than herself, We’re going to be late again.

Three down, one to go.

      ___

   February 3, 20XX

      18:57

B: There is some time next month, and I am thinking a picnic will work.

C: Are you sure? For all of us?! :0

B: Yes I am, and I am thinking Brunch, just enough time for all our families to tidy themselves up! Hahaha

C: Hahaha, you’re right. I’ll mark it on the calendar. 

B: Yay! We can’t wait, I’ll text you if there are any changes.

C: Alrighty, text me the time when you can Bryce, we won’t be a minute late. 

C: I will make sure of it.

Claire knocked on Cooper’s door, agitated by the seconds ticking away.

She wasn’t mad at time itself, that would be ridiculous as no man—or woman—could possibly stop the flow of time, but instead the pressure it placed on her; as a mother, more specifically. 

Claire couldn’t ‘just breathe’ her way past this, she was looking forward to spending every second with her sisters and brothers-in-law—and let’s not forget all her eager nieces and nephews in tow. She was frustrated, not towards her family, but more towards herself. They should just call and say they can’t make it, and instead go to IHOP for a much-needed early lunch. Hopefully they could manage that.

In a daze, she walked to Cooper’s room and gave it a sharp three knocks. Lingering for a second, before putting her hand firmly at her side. She began to come up with excuses, ‘Cooper got the flu from his 4th grade dance,’ or even, ‘We all got food poisoning, maybe next time?’ If only she had woken up earlier and-

With a jolt, Cooper opened the door just as he was putting on one of his hoodies. “Is there a problem Mom?” There seemed to be the slightest hint of sarcasm, but she could tell he was—for the most part—sincere. 

“No, I’m fine.” And she meant it. “We can go when you’re ready.”

He shrugged off her look of concern. “I am ready.”

Almost as if she wanted to make herself feel worse, she glanced back at her Fitbit and wasn’t surprised in the least to see it was 11:09. She could get there at 11:25, sure, but that would be missed time. 

Wait a second.” Her son-of-a-giraffe was able to see over her shoulder, making her nearly trip down the final stairs as he caught her unaware. 

“What is it?” They weren’t in much of a rush anymore, so she gave her son her undivided attention as she stopped on the stairs.

Cameron pulled the watch from her hand. “You do realize your watch is wrong right?” 

“No! How could it be?” He gave her the are-you-serious-right-now look, making her question if she lost a few marbles this morning, or if she was just getting old. She was only 36, so it surely couldn’t be the latter.

“Well, it is.” He paused to show her his phone. “Today we fall back, and gain an hour. You—on the other hand—are ahead an hour. See?” Brandishing his phone in front of her, Cameron then synced the Fitbit to the correct time with Claire’s phone. 

For once, they were going to be early for once; no apologies, quick exchanges with family, nor making any excuses that were partially true. They were going to make it, with time to spare. If she wasn’t stunned, frozen in place, she would have hugged her son for telling her. 

If anything this was all ironic, she didn’t tell anyone the exact details, simply because she didn’t have faith in her family making it on time. Only to realize she didn’t need to do it all, all the frustration and breathing exercises, just to work with her family. Perhaps even have faith in them at least, that was the least she could’ve done. What a headache.

Realizing her mistake she cleared her throat, “That makes this easier. Let’s get into Old-Timer and blow this popsicle stand.” 

“No.”

“No, what?”

“We can’t leave yet.”

“Why not?”

You aren’t ready.”

“What do you mean I’m not—” she looked down at herself and realized she hadn’t changed from her robe and pajamas. She had a minute to laugh at herself, and did, feeling good without the weight of being late on her shoulders, easing her anxiety.  If it wasn’t for the rush this morning she could have managed to freshen herself up. Now, thanks to her hilarious mistake, she can do just that. 

“I will tell them,” he walked past her, “don’t worry.”

“You do that, honey, I will be back before you all know it.”

As she turned he called after her, “Hurry up, mom, or we’re going to be late!”

July 10, 2021 02:58

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