White sox, blue shorts, white tee-shirt…she was ready. She’d even taken the time to iron her white tee-shirt today so it didn’t look so shabby
They weren’t going to laugh at her today! No humiliation, no rude calls, no hiding in the bathroom in between classes in order to avoid the mean group of girls who routinely ridiculed her as she made her way from one class to the next.
Grabbing her book bag with a hopeful bounce to her step, she hurried into the kitchen. Her mother was already hot and sweaty as she hurriedly smoothed the frosting over the cake. “Bye Mom,” she said and kissed her mother’s weathered cheek.
“Bye dear,” her mother replied absently as she focused on making sure that every line was smoothed out of the frosting.
“It looks beautiful,” Gabriella assured her mother. “They’ll love it.”
Her mother smiled weakly. “I hope so,” she whispered. “I have to work tonight, so make sure you do your homework and grab a sandwich for dinner. I’ll try and bring something home from the diner for you.”
Gabriella cringed. She hated the nights her mother had to work at that awful, greasy diner. She always came home exhausted from running around and, Gabby hated to admit it, but her mother smelled weird after a night of being around all of that unhealthy food. Besides, her mother’s exhaustion wasn’t simply physical, but emotional as well. Taking orders from all of the local townspeople made her mother feel belittled. Unfortunately, Gabby knew that they needed the money.
Which was also why her mother was decorating the cake. Everyone in this tiny town knew that Gabriella’s mother made the best cakes. Her mother had a flair for designing beautiful cakes with delicious flavors. Gabby didn’t think her mother charged enough for her efforts though, and suspected that many of the townspeople took advantage of her kindness. This particular cake was destined for a bridge club meeting. All the lovely ladies in town would be dressing up in pretty dresses with immaculate hair and makeup, playing bridge and showing off how they didn’t work during the daytime. Their husbands supported them, so they could be “frivolous”.
Gabby never wanted to be frivolous, but she didn’t want to be like her mother either, abused by society, looked down upon because…well, because they were poor. No way! She would get out of this town and she’d be somebody. Someone important! People would respect her!
With one more glance at her mother’s rounded shoulders as she smoothed the frosting on the beautiful cake, Gabby walked out the door, determined to study hard so that she could get a good job. Once she had a job that paid well and earned respect, she would never, ever be poor!
“Think it’ll hold?” Zeke asked Teague as the two of them stood at the bottom of the tree. Luke and Logan were standing by as well, all four of them staring up at the wooden structure that was supported by the strong branches of the oak tree.
Teague contemplated broken bones versus the fun of being up high in their new treehouse. High away from the too-knowing eyes of their parents. It had been a monumental effort to keep their parents away from this area of the woods, but they’d done it and the structure up there was proof of their ingenuity and brilliance. It might not look great, but it was their secret fort.
Shrugging, Teague chuckled. “Dunno! I think so but…” He looked around, ensuring that his parents weren’t close by. When he knew the area was clear of parental disapproval, he clapped his hands together and moved over to the ladder that was really just boards nailed to the trunk of the tree, “Only one way to find out!”
He tossed his hammer into the tool box with all the rest of the items they’d pilfered from the garage.
Teague climbed up the ladder, testing the strength of their nails with each step. He was pretty nimble, so even if one wasn’t nailed in properly, he figured he could jump to the next one and save himself.
“It feels okay,” he called down to his older brother. Luke and Logan high fived each other and all four of them felt the glorious success of their plan.
Step by step, Teague climbed higher and, at the top, evaluated the strength of the platform. One foot was placed tentatively on the plywood that they’d used as the floor. All seemed pretty steady. Another foot stepped out…still good. Slowly, carefully, Teague released the “ladder” and put all of his weight on the treehouse platform. Nothing happened. The concerned look in his green eyes turned to one of triumph as he looked down at his brothers who were still standing on the ground. “It works! It’s great! Come on…”
The cracking sound was the first indication that something was wrong. Horribly wrong!
Teague’s enthusiastic smile vanished and he looked over at the top step of the wooden ladder. Making a dive for it, he threw all of his body weight over to the wood, catching himself just moments before the plywood platform tilted over, then split in two as the entire thing crashed to the ground.
Teague peered over his shoulder at the mess even while his feet dangled in the air. He saw Zeke’s expression change from awe to horror and Teague knew exactly what was about to happen. It wasn’t going to be good.
“Teague Steele!” his mother bellowed.
“Oh no!” he whispered to himself while his toes tried to find a hold on the tree ladder. Unfortunately, they were only finding air and his fingers were slipping.
“Teague! Don’t you dare fall!” his mother threatened.
Teague almost laughed, but he was too worried at the moment. It did occur to him to wonder what she would do if he disobeyed. But then again, there was no disobeying his mother. Nope, not an appropriate….
Something slithered over his fingers and he jerked away. A spider…too late, he remembered that spiders couldn’t kill him while the fall…thunk!
“Teague!” his mother screamed.
Uh oh, Teague thought. Now he was in trouble! The woman really hated it when he didn’t follow her instructions. There was a pretty severe pain in his arm and his mother was crying, but as he stared up at the remains of the treehouse, he figured out what they’d done wrong! Yeah, he could fix this. He just needed to put a cross beam under the platform.
His mom was making a phone call and he wanted to sit up, but his older brother was holding him down. The dire look in Zeke’s eyes, Luke and Logan’s shocked expressions as they peered over Zeke’s shoulders at him, then a glance at his mother’s frantic features told him to stay down.
Darn, his arm really hurt! “I know what we did wrong,” he whispered to Zeke.
His older brother just rolled his eyes while Luke cringed and Logan laughed, shaking their heads.