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Chapter Seven

"Well... you're going to be working with a program called 'Fresh Face, Brighter Tomorrows'," Shel explained. "You'll go into Lexington with Mason three times a week and work an eight hour shift."

"What is it?" I asked in confusion. I had expected her to tell me she had gotten me a job at the diner, or Walmart, or--

"It's a group that deals with cosmetology and hair," Shel explained. "They visit hospitals, nursing homes, and other care centers to give makeovers and support."

I grinned. "You're kidding. That's...that's awesome."

Shel laughed. "I thought you'd be interested. Next week you'll get trained. You're basically going to be an assistant."

"I can't wait."

"It would look great on a college app. Now, the only down side is it doesn't pay peanuts."

My smile flickered. "It doesn't?"

"Their profit margin is almost nonexistant," Shel admitted. "But, like I said, you'll be going three time a week - Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I have something else lined up on Wednesdays and Fridays that pays extremely well."


"Helping Addy out with the kids horse camp," Shel said with a smile. My eyes widened.

"I don't know anything about horses!"

Shel looked like she was trying not to laugh. "Trust me, you know enough about horses to do what you need to do."

I made a face. "You mean--"

"I've got you a pair of boots. The smell's not that bad."

I groaned and put my head on the table. Shel patted my head.

"It's only four hours a day and Addy pays ridiculously well. Plus, you can spy on Joe for us."

I looked up. "How ridiculous are we talking about?"

Shel laughed. "You'll see." Her fingers wrapped around her glass of lemonade. "Speaking of Joe, tell me what's been going on."

"He's smoking pot, he got a tattoo, he's drinking..." I said tensely. "He's got a really skanky girlfriend. He argues with mom and dad constantly."

"Do you think that's why dad's using again?" Shel mused.

"I don't know," I said softly. "Shel, I'm scared."

Her chocolate brown eyes softened. Her hand dropped from the cold glass in front of her and wrapped around my arm.

"Dad is stubborn, but he's also tough. He just worries about image too much."


"What people think of him. I bet touring again started this whole thing back up. You know how stressed dad gets."

I nodded. She had a point.

"Well, I--"


Shel and I both jumped up at the muffled cry. Shel got to Brenna's room first. The moment I saw what was going on, I started to giggle.

Brenna had crawled under her dresser. Her little legs were kicking the ground. Her butt was wedged and she couldn't get out.

"Oh, dear. Winnie the Pooh what did you do?" Shelby asked. She walked over to the dresser.

"My bawl felled and I went to get it and I gots stucked!" Brenna wailed. "IT HURRRRTSSS!!"

Shel glanced at me. "Team lift?"

I nodded. I went over to the other side of the dresser. The thing weighed a ton; Shel bore the brunt of it. We heard a little squeal and then a mop of red hair started to bounce around holding one of those little rubber balls that bounced to the ceiling.

"LOOK AWWEY! Lookit my bawl!"

"That's super cool!" I said. Brenna beamed. She held it close to her chest and giggled.

"I don't want you climbing under there again," Shel said. "Promise?"

"PROMEESE!" Brenna said. She slapped the ball down on the ground. The three of us watched it sail through the air. It knocked over a lamp in the process. Shel scooped it up.

"Ball's tired," she declared. "Why don't you color Aunt Ally a picture?"

Brenna's mouth formed a perfect O. She whirled around and yanked open a drawer stuffed to the brim with junk. After dumping half the drawer, Bren pulled out some half eaten crayons and a mangled coloring book.

"And she's occupied," Shel whispered. I followed her out of the room.

"She is the cutest thing ever," I gushed. I glanced over at my sister.

"Am I going to be an aunt again any time soon?"

Shel paused in the doorway of the kitchen and looked at me increduously. "Are you kidding?"


"Al, like I said, Mason's never home. I want him to have a stable schedule first. He's going to miss so many of Brenna's school things before he's a full-fledged doctor. Besides, there's nothing wrong with being an only child. I was until you two came into the picture."

She gave me a teasing smile.

"I know," I said. "She's just so cute--"

"Trust me. You'll be here long enough to see her non-cute days. They're not pretty."

I laughed. Shel looked serious, but I couldn't imagine Brenna not being totally adorbs.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Brenna's frantic protests stung at my ears. I held my palm up against the side of my head and winced.

Mason still wasn't home. Brenna was standing in the hall outside the bathroom with pajama bottoms on and no shirt. Shel was holding the shirt and Bren was having a nuclear meltdown.

"It's bedtime," Shel said calmly. "Lift your arms."

"NO! I'm not gonna wear a shiwt ever EVER EVER!"

"Your boobies are gonna get cold," Shel said. She reached towards Brenna's chest. Bren folded her arms and whirled around.

"I don't GOT boobies!" Brenna said. "I don't want em! I don't want a shiwt!"

Her face turned lava red. She sucked in a huge mouthful of air. A second later her head tipped back and she howled.


"Brenna, for the love of God, every one in town is going to hear you," Shelby said impatiently. Bren responded by falling on the floor and pounding her fists on the carpet.

I thought back to our conversation from earlier. Shel had a point. There was nothing wrong with just have one child.

Or any for that matter.

"BREN!" I shouted. My hand went to my wrist. I yanked off a rubber bracelet. "If you wear your shirt, I'll give you my bracelet to wear to bed!"

The wailing stopped. Bren's red-rimmed eyes studied the bracelet I dangled between my fingers.

"I wike that," she said with a sniffle.

"Then you've gotta wear your shirt," Shel said, jumping on the opportunity I had opened.

Bren wiped her dripping nose on her arm. "O--Otay."

Her little arms went above her head; Shel had the shirt on in under a second. I handed over the bracelet. Bren slipped it on; it went all the way up above her elbow. She smiled.

"Can Awwey tuck me in?" Brenna asked hopefully. Shel looked at me. I smiled.


I took Brenna's hand and we walked into her bedroom. Twenty minutes later, Bren was surrounded by thirty stuffed animals. I tucked the covers up around her and received a loud smacking kiss in return. Shel came in and kissed Bren's forehead.

"Night goober," Shel said. Bren giggled and wiggled down.


Shel flipped off the light; a small night light sent a glow across the room. We walked out together. Shel left the door open a crack.

"Let's go in the living room and we'll talk about the gameplan for tomorrow morning," Shel said. I happily obliged.

I wasn't excited about shoveling horse manure, but eyeshadow and lipstick?

That was my life.