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The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 28
A Few Reminders
“Ready or not, here I come!” Tami rose up from her crouched position near the wall. She turned and secured a few stray strands of her blond hair behind her ear. “Hmm…” She looked around the living room. There was a tan leather couch with a matching arm chair, a glass coffee table in the centre of the room and a large entertainment centre against the wall in front of the furniture.
The house was relatively silent. Tami began walking toward the couch. She heard a quiet scuffle and someone’s hushed giggling. “I wonder where Hailey is,” she said aloud. She began slowly walking around the couch.
Hailey was kneeling behind the couch, trying to constrain her giggles. She began crawling around to the side of the couch as she heard her aunt approaching her. Tami walked faster, catching Hailey in the act. She scooped the toddler into her arms and began tickling her. Hailey squealed with laughter.
“No fair!” she exclaimed when Tami finally put her down. “You always find me first!” She put her hands on her hips and pouted.
Tami smiled. “I’m just a good seeker,” she said. She lowered her voice to a whisper, “Now I have to find Danny,” she said. She put her index finger to her lips.
Hailey cupped her small hands around her mouth and said rather loudly for a whisper, “He’s in the laundry room.” She winked exaggeratedly, making Tami laugh.
Tami put her finger over her lips again and began walking across the living room. Just outside of the living room was a small closet-like room. The hum of the dryer became louder as Tami approached the room. “Danny,” Tami sang as she entered the room.
The hum of the dryer continued. Tami walked towards the back of the small room and peeked to the side of the washing machine. Daniel sat on the floor, curled up, his arms wrapped around his knees. He looked up at Tori and asked, “Hailey told you, didn’t she?”
“Did not!” Hailey objected.
Tami fondly ruffled her niece’s hair as she looked at the digital clock against the wall: 10:00am. “Go tell your sister and Hazel that it’s time to go,” she told Hailey.
“Aww, okay,” Hailey reluctantly said. She ran off to do as Tami told her.
Daniel stood and dusted his clothes off. “Can you teach me some more card tricks before we leave?” he asked Tami.
Tami grinned and patted Daniel’s back. “Sure,” she said with a smile. “Why don’t you go set the cards up in the living room?”
“Awesome!” Daniel exclaimed as he ran off.
Obnoxious rock music abruptly filled the room, causing Tami to jump. She settled and dug into her khaki Capri pants for her cell phone. “Wow, that’s loud,” she said, hitting the send button to answer the phone and stop the loud ringing. “Hey, sis,” she said answering the phone.
“Hey,” Tori replied with a sigh.
“Uh-oh, I guess Kristel’s not feeling any better?”
“Worse,” Tori replied.
“You need the kids to stay here a while longer. I don’t mind.” She walked out of the laundry room and back into the living room.
Daniel was kneeling in front of the coffee table, shuffling cards. He looked back at Tami and held them up proudly. Tami gave him thumbs up and walked into the dining room. She settled into a chair as Tori said, “I’m coming by to get Kezia.”
“Kezia is with Steph and Hazel. Neither of them has complained, so everyone’s fine. What’s going on with Kristel?”
“She’s been puking a lot since yesterday,” Tori replied. “She thinks it’s a side effect of her new blood pressure meds. I just don’t want to leave her alone.”
“You shouldn’t,” said Tami.
Meanwhile, Stephanie and Hazel were in the basement, sitting on the floor in front of the widescreen. Stephanie flipped through the channels while Hazel pounded on a small musical keyboard to keep Kezia entertained. Though she continued poking at the keys, she stared off blankly into midair.
Stephanie finally decided on the Disney Channel and set the remote on. As Kezia prepared to grab for the remote, Stephanie took and placed it farther away. “Haze,” Stephanie called. Hazel continued perfunctorily hitting keys and staring absentmindedly. “Haze,” Stephanie called louder.
Hazel didn’t react until Stephanie grabbed her wrist, forcing her to look in her direction. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Hazel twisted her mouth and looked down at the keyboard. “Nothing,” she muttered. She turned and looked at a photo mounted on the wall. It was of Stephanie’s family standing on the artificial ice of a hockey ring. Hank and Tori shared in holding Hailey, who was dressed in a pink tutu and sparkly leotard. Stephanie was dressed similarly, wearing a figure skating outfit with a wrap skirt around her waist. Her arms were around her father and she looked up happily at her sister and mother.
“Your family is so perfect,” said Hazel.
Stephanie raised one eyebrow. “In what world?” she asked.
“Better than my family.”
“Oh come on,” said Stephanie, playfully poking Hazel’s arm.
Hazel leaned away from Stephanie and looked almost angrily at Kezia. “When we’re home, Kezia’s screaming most of the time. Daniel just stays in his room watching television, and Mom just seems mad all the time.” She wrapped her arms around her torso, hugging herself.
Stephanie began drawing small circles on the carpet with her index finger. Kezia crawled into Hazel’s lap and put her arms around her neck. She gently kissed her on the cheek and laid her head on her shoulder. Hazel couldn’t resist smiling. “I do love my family but it’s just a mess.” Stephanie looked up again. “I’m just so mad at my parents for separating. And I’m even madder at Dad because he doesn’t even call.
Well he called once but he only talked to me for, like, two seconds. I wish I’d never gone on that stupid camping trip! It’s like my whole life changed and I wasn’t even around to know.”
Swiping tears from her face, she continued, “I just want things to be normal again. I want to see my dad, I want my mom to be happy, I want Daniel to spend all his time trying to make us laugh with his corny jokes again, and I want Kezia to be the fun little baby she used to be. Is that too much to ask?”
With wide eyes, Stephanie shook her head. More tears dripped down Hazel’s cheeks as she wiped them away. Stephanie slid closer to her and put her arm around her. Kezia, who was still hugging her sister, looked back at the television exclaimed, “Mickey!”
Hazel and Stephanie both looked at the television. Indeed, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was showing. Kezia sat on the floor and bounced up and down happily. Hazel and Stephanie looked at each other and then burst into laughter.