“Charge!” twelve year old Dylan yelled out. He prodded his horse with his heels and pointed his makeshift spear towards the other rider. Dylan jiggled his head slightly, trying to get his “helmet” to shift back so he could see through the holes. By the time he got his sight back, his best friend, Joe, was almost upon him. He adjusted his spear once more and….bam! Direct hit! He heard his six year old brother Davis on the sidelines, cheering him on with his helmet, ready to ride his own horse.
Unfortunately, Joe deflected the hit with his shield. Both boys turned their horses and faced each other, laughing hysterically.
An unexpected shriek of horror scared both the boys and their horses. “Dylan, get down off of that horse right this instant!” a female voice shouted.
All three boys turned to see Jemma Alfieri, Dylan and Davis’ mother, bearing down on them. And she was not happy.
“Uh oh,” Davis said as he moved next to Dylan. “She looks really angry.”
Dylan just nodded his head. “Come on. Let’s pull a ‘Dad’ on her.” Joe pulled back. “I think I’d better head home. Your mom looks pretty angry for some reason.”
Dylan didn’t spare a moment to glare at his friend’s deserting back. He took off his “helmet” and dismounted smoothly before walking over to his mother, Davis right behind him with his own “helmet” under his arm. “Now, Mom, we’re fine. Everyone is fine,” Dylan told her, trying to mimic the soothing tone of voice his father used whenever she got angry with him.
“Don’t you dare tell me that everything is fine when you are jousting!” She closed her eyes and held up her hand when they opened their mouths to defend their “brilliant” idea. “Jousting! Really? You’re ready to kill your brother?” she looked up at Dylan – already taller than her by several inches. “You’re the older one. You’re supposed to know that spears can puncture major organs.”
Dylan tried not to laugh but the idea of his spear actually piercing anything was a bit silly in his mind. “Mom, we’re just out having fun. No one was going to get hurt.”
Jemma took in a deep breath and tried very hard for patience. “Put the horses away and go wash up for dinner. I don’t know what I’m going to do about this but I guarantee that you’re not going to like it.”
Dylan looked at his younger brother Davis, hesitating. “Well, see, the thing is, we really need to practice. We’re holding a tournament…”
“Go!” Jemma interrupted, pointing to the stables. “And I don’t want to hear another word defending your actions today. It was reckless and stupid and both of you should know better!”
The boys sighed and walked their horses over to the stables. “Didn’t work,” Davis said to his older brother. “You really need to work on your ‘dad tone’ because you got it all wrong.”
“I know,” Dylan said, chuckling and shaking his head because he really didn’t understand why she was so angry. They were just having fun. “I’ll listen to him tonight to see if I can figure out what he does differently.”
The boys unsaddled their horses, brushed them down and gave each of them treats for doing well. They both spent a great deal of time with the task, trying to give their mother time to cool down. When they were done, they let the horses out into the pasture with an affectionate pat.
“Time to face the music,” Dylan said to his younger brother, both of them bracing for a lecture.
Davis grunted. “She’s always saying our scrapes and bruises mean that we’re not sitting in front of a television or playing video games. Why is she so angry?”
Dylan shrugged. “You know mom. She thinks we’re too wild.”
“Dad understands,” Davis grumbled. “He wouldn’t have stopped us.”
They toted their “helmets” into the house only to be confronted by their mother again who was standing by the door, tapping her foot impatiently with her hands fisted on her hips. “Took a bit of time, eh? Trying to let me calm down?”
The boys looked at each other, trying to hide their smiles. They loved it when they couldn’t outsmart their mom. She was a tough cookie!
“Yeah well, the thing is…” Dylan started to speak again but the front door opened up, indicating that their dad was finally home.
Jemma turned to see the man who had rocked her world walk into the great room. “I think I’m going to need your help on this issue.”
Damien Alfieri looked at the scene. His two oldest boys were trying to appear contrite but not quite pulling it off and his wife, the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his life, was practically vibrating with tension. He supposed it wasn’t the best time to notice how awesome she looked in those jeans.
Focusing on his boys, he walked over to where she was standing, pulling his tie loose at the same time. “What’s going on?” he asked, taking the metal bowl out from under Dylan’s arm. “And why are there holes in your mother’s mixing bowl?”
Dylan looked at the bowl with two new holes in the bottom. “It was our helmet Dad. We couldn’t have a joust without a helmet. That’s just silly.”
Damien looked at the holes and then again at his son. Dylan instantly knew that this wasn’t going to be smooth. “You cut holes in a mixing bowl for a helmet? How did you keep it on?”
Davis piped up at this point. “They sort of just balanced, Dad.” He said it as if that were obvious, but Dylan realized that the words were only making his father angry. And when Damien Alfieri got angry…boy! Things were really bad then.
Dylan gulped and looked to his mother. Unfortunately, her hands were covering her face so he didn’t think she would be a help now.
“Go to your rooms, boys,” their father said.
Dylan looked up to his father, then back at his mom. But both of them walked away.
He turned to his brother. “It wasn’t like we were trying to kill each other,” Dylan said, shaking his head at how both his parents were making such a big deal about jousting. “I mean, we only whittled down the spear heads to a little point.”
Davis nodded his head, agreeing with his older brother.
As Dylan laid on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, his mind started working again. There were so many possibilities, he thought. So what if they couldn’t hold a joust! What about a circus? Yeah! That could be pretty awesome! He could build a trapeze over by the tree line. They could string rope across to the other side of the pasture.
He got up off of his bed, pulling a piece of paper out of his printer and started calculating. His mind was going a mile a minute as he worked through the math of building a dare devil tent – complete with swinging trapeze, ramps they could jump off with their bikes and obstacle courses that the whole neighborhood could go through.
As he looked at his plans, he smiled, thinking this could be a really fun place to hang out. In his mind, he built up several types of ramps using the old boards from the tables or unused fencing, the ropes from the old lead reins and bits of materials from around the barn. As a concession to his mother’s tender worries, he would even put some hay down below the trapeze to soften any falls. That should make her feel better about the whole idea.
He was so excited about the possibilities, he snuck out of his room and pushed his way into Davis’ room. The two of them worked on the idea, adding and shifting areas, both of them using their strong math skills to calculate ramps and angles.
Yep, this was going to be awesome. Surely their mom couldn’t worry about this when they’d done all of the calculations, right?
“Is this one okay?” eight year old Georgette asked, looking in her mirror. She was worried because this was going to be the day! Her father would surely show up today. It was her birthday.
Ellen looked down at her beautiful daughter with an aching heart. “Dear, I don’t think your father is going to come by. It is a special day, so why don’t we go out and have fun, just the two of us? Or we could get your grandparents together and do something.”
Georgette shook her head. “Grandpapa and grandmamma just fight with each other. But I’m sure he’s going to come today,” she said, trying to smooth down her curls. Her mother had soft, auburn hair; why had Georgette been cursed with a brighter red? It seemed so garish.
“Stop worrying about your hair,” Ellen advised. “I know you hate the color but it will soften as you get older, just like mine.”
Georgette spun around, her eyes hopeful. “Promise?” she asked with excitement. “Because Bobby Handleman teased me yesterday and pulled my hair. He said it was a witch’s color.”
Ellen laughed, but she knew all the insults, having experienced them herself. “I promise. My hair was the exact same color and I would wear yellow, which only made it worse.”
Georgette’s nose squinched up. “Yellow? Really Mother?”
Ellen laughed because her little Georgette was very fashion conscious. “Really. I didn’t have your sense of style when I was your age.”
Georgette flopped onto her bed next to her mother. “Can you tell me about him?”
Ellen knew exactly what her daughter was asking. “Well, he had dark hair and a scruffy beard. And tattoos,” she looked down at her daughter, “which was a very bad sign.”
“Oh, but you loved him so much, didn’t you? Did he sweep you off of your feet just like Cinderella?”
Ellen cringed. In truth, Georgette’s father had been her last rebellion. The only good thing to come of that weekend fling was this beautiful girl. “He was very sweet,” she lied. The man had been a disgusting pig. He’d gotten what he wanted and, as soon as Ellen told him that she was pregnant, he’d dashed out of town, never to be heard from again.
Georgette looked up at her mother. “He was sweet? That’s it? That’s all you’re going to tell me?”
Ellen’s eyes teared up and she sighed, wondering how she could admit to her daughter that she’d gotten pregnant accidentally. “Well, your grandpapa really didn’t like him. Not one little bit.”
Georgette grinned cheekily. “I guess that means that grandmamma loved him, right?”
Ellen laughed and gently chucked her daughter under her chin. “You’re right.”