Authors: Barbie Bohrman
ALSO BY BARBIE BOHRMAN
Playing It Safe
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2016 Barbie Bohrman
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
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Cover design by Eileen Carey
Thank God for you and for
And nope, no scenes with a hot dog cart in this one either.
Love you, always, B.
y daughter, Josie, is a force to be reckoned with.
I love that about her on most days. Right about now, not so much.
She’s currently doing God knows what in her bedroom, completely ignoring me after I’ve called her twice already.
I was her age once upon a time. That glorious time in a little girl’s life when you’re at the precipice of puberty and really, really cranky. Ah, yes, the good ol’ days of being twelve years old and not having a care in the world. They have a name for it nowadays: tween.
Back when I was a tween, I didn’t want to have to answer my parents, do my homework, chores, or anything for that matter other than gab to my girlfriends and obsess over which Taylor was the hottest from Duran Duran.
For the record, it was and will always be John Taylor.
Somehow, One Direction doesn’t quite cut it. But according to Josie, they are the be-all and end-all. And if I even attempt to voice any opinion to the contrary, she begins to spout off how they are the greatest band that ever lived. I don’t have the heart to tell her how wrong she is. Then again, I bet that’s how my mom probably felt about my obsession with Duran Duran. So I leave Josie alone about it for the most part. Some days though, I can’t help but poke fun at her musical tastes.
“Josie!” I yell out one more time in the hopes she’ll answer and I won’t have to go investigate.
“I’m coming, Mom!”
“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” I mumble under my breath.
Josie arrives like a bat out of hell in front of me. One chunk of her usually long and beautiful dirty-blonde hair is hanging limply in a very sad looking ponytail in a shocking fuchsia color. The rest of her hair is haphazardly pulled up into a hair clip. She’s holding a comb in one hand and some kind of hair product bottle in the other. Her bright blue eyes are wide as if she’s not sure of what’s about to happen next.
Ever so calmly, I ask, “That washes out, right?”
“Oh, this?” Her eyes dart up until I mostly see the whites of her eyes. “Yeah, it washes out. I just wanted to see if I could rock the pink.”
“Rock the pink?”
, my gosh! Yes, you know, rock the pink look in my hair.”
I bite my lip to keep from laughing. One, because I used to say “mom” just like that to my own mother. Two, because her hair looks ridiculous and I hope she didn’t intend to walk out of this house looking like that. And three, because she’s so exasperated about having to explain what “rock the pink” means to me, because she thinks
I’m so out of touch with what’s cool and hip.
“Are you planning on washing it out before or after dinner?” I ask.
“How much time do I have?”
I glance over to the taco meat bubbling nicely on the stovetop. “I’d say you have about ten minutes, tops.”
“After dinner then.”
She turns on her heel to head back toward her bedroom, but then she stops and asks, “Do you need any help?”
Now there is the baby girl I know and love. I smile brightly and say, “I would love it if you helped.”
Josie puts down the comb and hair-color spray bottle on the kitchen island and proceeds to get all the serving dishes ready for our Tuesday Taco Night, which has been a tradition of ours since she was five years old. Back when she was the pickiest eater on the face of the earth. Back when her whole life consisted of Elmo, learning her ABCs, and snuggling up with me so I could read her a chapter from one of the Harry Potter books. Back when she would jump into my bed on a Sunday morning and we would lazily goof around until it was time for lunch, bypassing breakfast altogether.
As Josie gets older, each year goes by faster and faster. It’s as if the time that was once so precious is disappearing right from under my nose if I blink for even a second too long. As she sets the table, I’m reminded of how she changes with each passing day. I see it in every little thing she does. Like the way her face scrunches up lately when she takes a bite of food that she doesn’t like. The way her legs get longer and longer until the day will inevitably come that she’ll be as tall or even taller than me. The way her cheeks that I so loved to give big, wet kisses to for no reason in particular have lost all of their baby fat.
It’s official. I don’t want my baby to grow up.
Josie’s been my partner in crime since the day she came into this world. It’s always been us against the world. And I will always put her first before anything or anybody, including myself. Which is how every parent should be, really, when you think about it.
“Is it almost ready?” Josie asks.
She bounces over to me and rests her chin on my shoulder. Well, almost at my shoulder. She’s on her tippy-toes and trying to sneak a peek at how the food is coming along.
“Yup.” I switch off the stove and move the pan off of the heat. “Just need the serving dish. Can you get it for me, please?”
I nod over to the cabinet out of habit, and she follows the direction while I keep stirring. Once all the food is on the table a minute or so later, we both dig in as if it were the last meal of our lives. We really love our tacos.
“So, are you nervous about starting eighth grade tomorrow?” I ask in between bites.
She shrugs. “No, not really. Should be interesting though, to see if I was able to get the two electives I signed up for.”
“Which ones were those? Did you tell me about them?”
“Geez, Mom,” she says with a giggle. “Getting old, huh?”
“Ha-ha. Very funny.” I stick my tongue out at her. “Watch it, kid. Because the day will come when you’ll barely remember what you had for breakfast.”
“Mom, I don’t eat breakfast.”
I cock my head to the side. “You don’t?”
She levels me with a stare that says that I damn well know she’s not a big breakfast eater. I just love to bust her chops, which must be a rite of passage for a parent. Plus, it’s kind of funny to make her think I’m losing my memory every so often.
“Mom, you’re not
old . . . yet.”
I cup my ear and lean in toward her. “What’s that you say? Speak up. I can’t hear you.”
Josie starts to laugh, which gets me laughing, and then I’m all of a sudden choking on my food. She leans over and starts patting me on the back really hard with a look of concern on her face.
I take a quick sip of water before saying, “I’m fine. Just went down the wrong pipe.”
“That’s what she said.”
“Josie, first of all, you don’t even know what that means. Secondly, don’t go around saying that.”
“Aunt Julia says it all the time.”
That woman and her mouth. I swear I’m going to kill her. I love her to pieces and she’s the best sister-in-law I could have ever hoped to get from my baby brother, Alex, but some of the things that come flying out of her mouth in the presence of children are beyond comprehension.
“I’m not a little girl anymore, Mom. I wish you would stop treating me like one. In case you forgot, you know, because your memory is going already, I’m going to be thirteen in a couple of months.”
“Have you gotten your menses yet?” I ask.
“Oh my God! You did not just ask me that in the middle of Taco Tuesday!” she yells while her face turns a shade of red. “And who goes around calling it ‘menses’ anyway?”
“If you haven’t gotten your menses yet, which I know you haven’t, then guess what? You’re still a little girl and I can tell you what to do. As a matter of fact, I’ll be telling you what to do for the rest of your life, so just get used to it. It’s my job as your mother.”
“Please don’t ever say ‘menses’ again.”
“Menses, menses, menses.”
Josie’s tough act starts to crack, but she tries to keep her laughter from bubbling over too much by going for seconds and ignoring my teasing.
After a moment of Josie building up another taco, I ask, “So you have everything ready for tomorrow? Nothing you can think of that you’ll be asking for at the last minute, right?”
“I think so,” she says with her mouth full of food. “I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m all set. Although you know how the first day usually goes. Some teacher might have very specific things that weren’t on the supply list that I’ll end up needing and don’t have yet.”
“That’s fine. I’ll take you to the store tomorrow after school if that’s the case.” I reach across the table for the shredded cheese and then ask, “What are you going to wear?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” she says. “It’s between that powder blue top and the cornflower blue top. I’ll decide in the morning.”
This has been a point of contention between us. I mean, how difficult is it to find one outfit? The answer to that is that it’s nearly impossible. I’ve been to the mall too many times over the last couple of weeks for it to be anywhere near normal. I’ve even gone on website after website for her, looking for that just-right outfit that will make some sort of statement on the first day of school. I get it. I really do. I’ve been there myself when I was her age. But for God’s sake, there is absolutely no difference between one blue top versus another top in a slightly lighter shade of blue. Just pick one and stick with it.
“So long as you decide in enough time that I’m not waiting around for you, Your Royal Highness.”
Josie wipes her mouth with a napkin, then says, “Of course. I can’t be late on the first day of school, Mom.”
“You can go ahead and get moving on your shower if you like instead of helping me with the dishes.”
“Really? Are you sure, Mom?”
“Yup. But I’m only letting you off the hook with the dishes because I know you have a big day tomorrow . . . and you really need to wash that stuff out of your hair.”
Before long, I’m drying off my hands and ready to call it a night. As I walk upstairs to my bedroom, I hear the shower turning on in the hallway bathroom. In my head, I’m already projecting the time for Josie’s shower to be in the ballpark of twenty minutes. Which means at the ten-minute mark, I’ll have to give the obligatory knock on the door to let her know she’s taking too long.
It’s like a dance routine every night. And every night I find myself more tired and yearning for my bed earlier and earlier.
Sometimes, when I get too wound up in my own head, I’ll get out of bed and pad over to Josie’s room, quietly open her bedroom door, and peek in at her for a few seconds while she’s sleeping. Just long enough so that all the madness and stress disappears at the sight of her sleeping peacefully in her bed.
I smile to myself as the image flashes in my mind while I fall back onto my bed. The goose-down comforter conforms to my body, and the smell of the lavender scented candle on my nightstand instantly relaxes me. I stretch my arms over my head and glance at my wristwatch. Yup, ten minutes and Josie’s still in the shower. Trying to muster up the energy to will myself out of bed and give her the usual warning to wrap things up in there, I hear the shower turn off.
Thank God for tiny miracles.
I get more settled in my bed and turn on the television. I have this thing, it’s a sickness really, where I must have the television on all night long. It’s practically on mute by the time I fall asleep, but it has to be on. After I had Josie, the random programming in the middle of the night became my company while I changed, fed, cooed, and rocked her back to sleep. Now it’s a habit. And there’s nobody in here with me to complain about it anyway, so . . .
While channel surfing, I hear a soft knock on my bedroom door. It’s Josie. Her hair is still wet, but thankfully all back to its normal color. I would have felt sorry for her if she had to go to school tomorrow with that awful fuchsia in her hair.
“Mom,” she says hesitantly.
“Yeah, sweetie, what’s wrong?”
She looks worried. And now I’m worried that I’ve overlooked something that I shouldn’t have.
“Nothing’s wrong. It’s just . . .”
She stops and shyly scans the room before bringing her gaze back to me. My heart starts to race in anxious parent mode.
“Josie, are you sure everything is okay?”
“Yeah. I was just wondering if you wouldn’t mind if I slept with you tonight. I mean, it’s a big day tomorrow and I might be just a tiny bit nervous about it. And—”
I throw back the comforter and pat the bed with a big smile on my face. “Get in here.”
Once she’s safely underneath the blanket, I switch off the light and then reach over to kiss her on the forehead.
“You’re welcome, kid. Now get some sleep. Big day tomorrow and all.”
She rolls over, and she’s so small that I barely see the movement underneath all the fluff of the comforter covering her body. But then she stops moving and calls out to me, “Hey, Mom?”
“I love you.”
It melts my heart every time. Doesn’t matter if I’m having the worst day or the best day, when she says those three little words, it brings a smile to my face and a peace to my mind that is indescribable. “I love you more, sweetie. Good night.”
With that, she’s asleep with a soft snore in less than ten minutes, and it doesn’t take me too long to join her. Tomorrow we’ll start this craziness all over again . . . just another day in the life where it’s us against the world.