Hope you are having a good day! Here is part five of “The Trees.”
Jan woke up before Dan. Seeing him lay there, sleeping soundly, almost made it seem like the previous day had just been a bad dream. Then she noticed Annie sleeping on her reading lounge which was kitty corner to their bed, and it all came back.
When Annie was younger, she looked for any excuse to crawl into bed with them. A storm, a barking dog, a scary movie … you name it. Most days, Annie just liked snuggling up to her dad, Jan always thought, but she would snuggle with her, too. Jan replayed Annie’s reaction to Dan’s news as she stared at her sleeping daughter.
Annie’s reaction was what Jan thought it would be.
“She’s the fighter in the family,” Jan told Dan while Annie was in the bathroom washing her face and doing her best to calm down.
“Annie will push you the hardest of all of us. You know that, right?”
Jan had searched Dan’s face to see how he was going to react to that. Did he have fight in him? Jan would have never let him know that she had her doubts, but she did. She was scared.
When it came to work or hell, even playing basketball with the boys in the driveway, Dan was a competitor. He was steady and would outlast anybody, but when it came to things at home, he often let Jan bear the heavy load. He was going to have to fight for his life because she couldn’t do it for him.
Annie, though. Jan was afraid Annie was going to try to take Dan’s fight on all by herself. While Cole was steady and stoic, like his dad, and J.R. was all heart and quick to jump in without thinking, Annie was a spitfire. She should have been a redhead, Jan often thought, but she had Dan’s dark brown hair and blue eyes.
In seventh grade she had taken on the campus bully at her school after going through a bullying prevention workshop put on by a local non-profit. Annie had taken on other bullies before, but now she had the right language and strategy behind her. It was no wonder when she was class President in 8th grade. Everybody loved Annie and she loved to lead.
Jan thought about keeping Annie home today from school. She was a freshman at Camelback High School. The first few months had been tough, going from being a big fish in a small pond to a guppy in an ocean, but she had emerged, as usual, on top.
Over the summer, Annie’s friend, Margot, had convinced Annie to go to a weeklong summer camp called Anytown Junior. It was all about celebrating diversity and understanding different perspectives. When Annie got home, she was invigorated to go out and fight for racial equality and social justice.
During the first few weeks of school, Annie often came home and complained about how little the other students listened to each other.
“How can you learn about anyone if you won’t even listen to them?” she would say, over and over.
Jan thought about one particular exchange between Annie and Dan about this a few months earlier as she looked from her sleeping daughter to her sleeping husband in their darkened room.
“Dad! This is serious.”
“Promise me you will never hire someone because of the color their skin.”
“What? Why would I do that? I hire people based on the size of their breasts, honey.” Dan winked at Jan as he said this.
Dan loved teasing Annie about things like that. It was probably inappropriate, but it would get her so exasperated.
“You’re a jerk, Dad. You know what I mean. Promise me.”
“Okay, my love. I will never hire someone based on the color of their skin.”
“You didn’t promise.”
“I promise. I would never do that. I hire the best person for the job, no matter what. I don’t care what color a person is or how old they are or where they live. If they can do the job, come to work every day, and work hard for our clients, that’s what I am worried about.
I hired Nel to run HR because she was the best candidate, not because of anything to do with how she looked or what color she was. She knows what Uncle John and I are looking for and we trust her to always make the right decision for ES and our clients … “
“But what? Did I do something you don’t agree with, Annie?”
Annie was exasperated at this point.
“You hired Cole!! He doesn’t neeeeed a job.”
Jan remembered that Dan just laughed and laughed for a minute. Annie pretended to storm out of the kitchen but came back quickly.
“When I turn 16, can I get a job, too?”
“Only if you’re the best candidate. No one cleans a bathroom like your brother.”
“Good answer, Dad. Can Cole clean my bathroom?”
Jan’s smile was barely noticeable in the dark. She shifted to the side of the bed and slipped out of the bedroom and into the bathroom as quietly as possible. Annie and Dan didn’t have to get up for over an hour. This would be a tough enough day for each of them without a lack of sleep getting in the way.
She knew Dan had a tough go of it after talking to Cole. She wondered how it would go with J.R. this weekend and thought she should probably call him in a few hours to set something up for them. It would be good to drive down to Tucson, but it was also a holiday weekend, and he might have plans.
Jan crept out of the bathroom and walked down the hall to her office. If she buried herself in work for the next hour, she would be able to face everyone for a quick breakfast, she hoped. Dan was so much better than she was in the mornings. Could he teach her how to wake up like he did before it was too late?
Another tear perched on her eyelid as she turned her computer on.
See you tomorrow.
I love how the smoke looks like a smudge and if you look closely, you can see an ape's face.