August 29, 2016: The Day Reality Took Off the Gloves (Part 2)

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I drove the twins to Annie's Bookstore & Cafe in Dad's car. On the way I asked, "When are you guys going back to school?"

Kitty said, "In three weeks."

Lydia said, "I'm not."

I rose my eyebrows at Lydia in the rear-view mirror. "Why not?"

"College is a waste of time. The professors are all clueless, and they don't teach me anything worth knowing. I've learned more in a month working at the store than I did in six years taking classes about stupid stuff."

I was tempted to ask Lydia why she registered for those expensive "classes about stupid stuff," then, but she would certainly win that squabble because she has a much greater talent for being childish than I do. I tried to speak like a wise older sister instead. "You need only a few more classes to graduate, don't you? Why don't you stick it out for another term or two and get your diploma?"

Lydia snorted. "What's the point? A fat lot of good a diploma did for you, and Jane and Mary. You're all dirt poor anyway. I'm not gonna be like you guys and go into a ton of debt for some piece of paper with a pretentious stamp on it."

We arrived at the bookstore then, so I didn't have time to respond. I silently hoped Lydia was just mouthing off, but she would go back to OSU with Kitty in a few weeks to finish her degree. She might think a bachelor's is useless because she sees her older sisters underemployed, but at least we're not unemployed, and we have options. That piece of paper with a pretentious stamp on it opens many doors that are locked tight against people without one.

I parallel parked in front of the store. The twins hopped out of the car to race each other inside. Kitty yelled, "Thanks, Lizzie!" Lydia shouldered Kitty out of the way to unlock the front door.

I sat in the car for a moment, plucking up the courage to go inside. I disparaged Charles for shying away from confrontation, but it's difficult for me, too. I can speak my mind easily in the heat of an argument, but starting one is frightening.

I inhaled deeply and exhaled sharply, grabbed my purse, and headed inside.

George knelt by the shelves with a barcode reader in his hand. His big blue eyes flicked towards me at the sound of the bell. He exclaimed my name in surprise. "What brings a lady like you to a place like this?"

He looked so delighted to see me, I instinctively felt a surge of maternal affection for him. My brain couldn't reconcile the sight of the curly-haired boy in front of me with the facts Will had told me about him. It's like, even though nature documentaries tell you polar bears are capable of gutting a grown man in seconds, they look so pure and cuddly you can't help but to feel they must be harmless.

I asked, "Do you have a few minutes to talk?"

"Oh, sure!"

George said to Lydia, "Just do it like I showed you last time, okay?" Lydia winked at him coquettishly.

While George made me a coffee, I sat on a high stool at the counter. How should I begin? Ease into the conversation, or attack right out of the gate?

George handed me a frothy concoction on a saucer. He asked, "Have you had a chance to read my book, or are you still crazy busy?"

I answered his question with one of my own. "Have you always wanted to go to Yale, George?"

George leaned on the counter and gushed, "Absolutely! It's been my dream since I was a kid. I was so stoked when I got in. I'd have a BA in Creative Writing right now if Will hadn't...you know."

His expression of wistful longing was so convincing, I almost believed the emotion was genuine. This boy would make a great addition to Jane's acting troupe.

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