“Elijah! Pass the ball!” called Christian Wellington to his older brother. Elijah tossed the basketball to Christian, laughing. Christian jumped up and shot the ball into the hoop.
“Good job, dude!” Elijah said, grabbing the ball and dribbling it on the pavement. “I’m gonna try a 3-pointer!” He aimed and shot, but the ball bounced across the road, Ockerby Drive, to the yard of the old man across the road.
“You missed!” laughed Christian, wrapping an arm around his brother. He ran to go get the ball. Amelia, their mother, was watching from inside the house. She wiped away a tear as she watched her sons play so well together. Her heart ached as she thought about how it used to be.
“Daddy! Throw the ball to me! Daddy!” called 5-year-old Christian. Kyle Wellington tossed the ball gently to his son. Christian caught it and laughed proudly. “Watch me shoot, Daddy!” he giggled. Elijah, who was 7, ran up to his father and hugged him tight.
“Do you want me to teach you a game?” asked Kyle. The boys nodded excitedly. Amelia hurried outside with a platter of lemonade and cookies.
“You boys must be thirsty!” she laughed, wrapping an arm around her husband.
“Did you make lemonade for us, Mommy? Look, Daddy! Mommy made lemonade!” Christian asked, giggling happily. He looked up at Kyle, his eyes full of admiration for his dad.
“Mom! Mom!” Amelia shook herself out of the daydream and turned to her oldest son.
“What is it, Elijah?” she asked, trying to hide the shake in her voice.
“Your phone’s ringing,” he said.
“Thanks, hon,” Amelia said, swallowing the lump in her throat. Elijah’s soft, husky voice sounded just like Kyle’s. Amelia reached for her phone and answered the call.
“Hello?” Amelia listened to the person on the other end for a few moments, then sighed.
“Well, thanks for letting me know. Yes…bye.”
“What was that about?” Christian asked, coming over to his mom.
“You know that job interview I took a few weeks ago? For the travel agent company? Well, I didn’t get the job.” Amelia’s voice was soft. Christian put an arm around her.
“It’s okay. There are other opportunities, right?” he said.
“I guess. We’ll be fine, boys,” Amelia said, but she wasn’t so sure. How will I provide for my sons if I don’t have a job? she thought, If only Kyle was here…
“Pass the relish, will you, Shannon?” Tim Wellington said curtly. His wife, Shannon, handed him the jar.
“There’s no need to be so rude, Tim,” she snapped, tossing her curly black hair over her shoulder. Flame Wellington looked up carefully at her parents.
“Me? Rude? I don’t think you should be talking!” Tim cried, slamming down his glass and spilling water all over the white tablecloth.
“Watch where you put that! This tablecloth is new!” Shannon yelled, throwing back her chair as she stood. Flame swallowed. Why were her parents fighting again? She slid back in her chair, hoping they wouldn’t include her in the argument.
“Stop telling me what to do! I’m the man of the household, and I call the shots around here!” Tim roared.
“You wish!” Shannon screamed, her usually calm face filled with rage.
“M-may I be excused?” Flame whimpered.
“GO!’ Tim bellowed, pushing his daughter out of the dining room. “Leave your mother and I in peace!” Flame scurried out of the room. Whenever she was at school, or with her friends, she always felt confident and happy, but whenever her parents fought, she felt insecure and small, like she didn’t belong. And Flame wondered if she would ever feel like she belonged with her family again.