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"But dad," Kim whined as she was pushed out the kitchen by her father

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"But dad," Kim whined as she was pushed out the kitchen by her father.

"No buts, young lady. This is a man-only zone until dinner's ready. Go sit with the rest of the family," her dad said.

Grumbling, Kim wrestled herself free from his grasp. "I want to help—it's boring in the living room! Vanessa and Candice only talk about boys and mom and auntie Margaret are stuck on politics..." She pouted as she turned to face her father, hoping it would change his mind.

"Sorry sweetie, but it's tradition. Just ask if you can borrow mom's tablet and play some games, okay? Besides, it's dangerous in the kitchen for a young girl." Her father stood in the doorway, blocking his daughter from entering.

Kim frowned. "I'm almost nine! Besides, why does Jack get to go?"

He sighed. "Your brother is old enough to help this year. We're already keeping an eye on him; we don't want to keep an eye on both you and him." He turned around to enter the kitchen again. "Now go on. Go back to the living room and leave the cooking to us men for once. You can ask to help your mom any other day of the year."

Pouting, Kim looked down at the floor. "Fine..." The kitchen door closed and with a deep sigh, the girl returned to the living room. She looked at the people sitting on the sofa and suppressed the urge to run back to the kitchen. Her cousins Vanessa and Candice were giggling about nonsense, and her mother and aunt were chattering away about things she didn't understand. With her head low, she approached her mother. "Mom..."

The woman turned to her daughter and smiled. "Yes, dear?"

"Dad didn't want me in the kitchen..."

The two women giggled. "Well, I could have told you that. You know they do this male bonding thing every year."

"I know it's tradition, but I'm bored," Kim said softly. "Dad said I should ask you for the tablet... May I?"

Her mother thought it over and eventually nodded. "Alright. But stay here okay? Dylan has finally fallen asleep and I don't want you waking him."

Kim smiled broadly. "Thanks, Mom!" She hurriedly grabbed the tablet from underneath the coffee table and took it to the far corner of the living room. She nestled herself in a large bean bag and finally settled in for some fun.

Time went by much more quickly now that Kim was playing games. The voices of her family had faded from her attention until they were nothing but background noise. The baby monitor on the cabinet had been quiet the past two hours, but the sudden sound of her baby brother cooing made her glance up. She was planning to ignore it and continue her game, but then he began to cry. Sighing, she looked at her mother. Unfortunately, she was seemingly not bothered by it. She was too involved in her conversation.

When the crying intensified her mother finally reacted. "Kim, dear," she said. "Would you mind checking on your little brother?"

Grunting, Kim paused her game and stood up. Suddenly the baby monitor fell silent and Kim frowned. Her mother noticed it too and rose from her seat. The girl picked up the one-way radio and played with the volume button, but only static came through. "Eh, mom... I think it's broken..."

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