How It All Started

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 “No, Archer, for the thousandth time – you can’t have a dog!”

 “But Mom, come on, dogs are so cool and – “

“I thought we were done discussing this a long time ago, young man.”

“You’re just being really unreasonable, and I think…”

  I leaned back against the kitchen counter and sighed heavily, squeezing my eyes shut while I covered my face with my hands.

 Make no mistake; I loved my son more than anything else in this world. I’d be damned if he didn’t drive me up a wall 99% of the time, though.

   Whoever said single parenting wasn’t a walk in the park was most certainly not joking. I had no idea it would be this difficult. If it weren’t for my sisters and mom helping with Archer at every chance they got, I knew I’d be beyond lost. Most Italian families tended to be soldered as it is, but mine seemed to be a little more overbearing than most.

  Be that as it may, without them, I never would have been able to survive the divorce proceedings and restraining order fiasco on my own.

 “Mom!

At a firm yank to my blouse I dropped my hands to stare down into the indignant face of my nine-year-old son, Archer. His arms were crossed, his eyes narrowed, lips turned down in a pout – obviously not a happy camper.

 “Were you even listening to me, Mom?” Archer demanded, his scowl deepening. “I was trying to explain to you why I need a dog, and – “

 “When did you get so tall, moroso?” I reached out and brushed back the dark, wavy hair from his forehead. “You’re almost as tall as me.”

   Archer flushed and he stared determinedly down at his sneakers, his chin jutting out. “You’re not that tall, Mom. And besides, I’m going to be ten next year. Of course I’m growing.”

 I fight back a groan. “Oddio. Don’t remind me.”

  I couldn’t believe my baby boy was growing up so fast. Time had seemed to inch by like a snail when I’d been trapped in an abusive marriage with a bastard for a husband, but when I’d finally managed to escape with Archer, everything was thrown into fast forward and hadn’t stopped since then. And it had been two years already.

 Next, Archer would be asking for money to go out with his friends or begging to get his license or bringing home a girl, and –

Good grief. I needed to get a grip. My boy was only nine, for Christ’s sake.

   Stop it, Regina, I silently ordered myself. Thinking about this gets you nowhere and you know it.

“Mom! Please, listen to me!”

  By a stroke of pure luck, I was saved from answering Archer by the sound of the bells attached to the coffee house’s front door ringing, signaling that someone had just walked in.

 “Be with you in a moment!” I called, then looked down at Archer, pulling a stern mothering expression. “Finish putting these glasses in the dishwasher and then go upstairs and do your homework.”

  I left the kitchen for the front counter.

  Today had been a rather slow day, even for a Tuesday, so we needed the business. Mama Rosa’s had been around for more than a hundred years, and we had regulars from before I was even born, but every business had their dry patches.

 This would have to be our worst dry patch ever.

   “Sorry about that,” I said, rounding the corner. “What can I – “

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