In Ten O’Clock Scholar, Peggy, a mother of two young boys, decides to go back to college for her Interior Design degree. The only problem with her plan is a reluctant husband. In this snippet, we jump ahead in the story to Peggy’s first day of class.
This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘life.’
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An early morning August sun blazed across southern California in celebration of Peggy’s return to school. The memories of a childhood mid-September first day of school, with an early fall chill to the morning air, were something from the past. Life had changed in the twenty-five years since Peggy was a student, ecstatic with a new dress to wear to a new grade. Now, the academic year began earlier – right in the middle of the dog days of summer.
Knowing that the air conditioner in the car wasn’t working right then, Peggy dreaded the drive home, knowing it would be over a hundred degrees by the time her last class ended. But the afternoon heat was the least of her worries. Her nerves had kicked into high gear earlier in the week, and the lack of sleep the night before as she tossed and turned in an insomniac daze was reflected in the dark shadows lining her eyes.
She’d planned on leaving the house early, leaving her plenty of time to try to find a parking spot and get to the classroom long before the scheduled start time. She’d even packed her satchel the night before, relishing the new supplies that filled it. Notebooks, legal pads for notes, new pens and highlighters – she had everything she thought she’d need, plus a little more.
And then…the morning happened.
“Clifford Anthony Taylor! Why aren’t you dressed yet? We’re leaving in ten minutes!”
Five minutes later, Cliff still sat in the middle of the bedroom floor surrounded by regurgitation of a giant Lego monster – minute multi-colored plastic blocks in various piles and an oddly constructed contraption in the midst of being built.
She bit the inside of her check and counted to ten, knowing that what was headed out of her mouth at the moment wasn’t language meant for a child to hear. Even if it was a hardheaded, obstinate, noncompliant boy.
“Two minutes! Get it in gear…now! Or your Lego’s are gone for a week!”
Cliff looked up when he heard the calm iciness of her statement. Realizing that now mom meant business, he reluctantly left his building behind and moved towards the clean clothes his mom had laid out on the bed earlier that morning.
Peggy grabbed the pile of clothes on Jonathan’s bed and headed to go change him. She knew she’d find him parked in front of the television, enraptured by his favorite children’s video. Seeing only one shoe on the floor, she began looking for its mate. Nothing under the bed. No shoe around the toy box. She didn’t find it in the closet either. Feeling more frazzled by the moment, she frantically set out on a search mission throughout the house.
“Jonathan, where’s your other shoe?”
No response. Deep in a musical wonderland, the two year old hadn’t even heard her.
Ten minutes later, she finally found the canvas mate tucked between cushions in the sofa. Finally, the toddler was dressed and ready and she almost dragged both boys out of the house a full twenty minutes later than she’d planned on leaving.
The boys bickered in the back seat the entire way to Mary’s house.
Mary threw open the front door as soon as they pulled into the driveway and headed out to greet them. “There you are! I was starting to worry.”
Peggy grimaced as she pulled a bulging diaper bag from the front seat. “Oh my lord, you have no idea what a disaster this morning was.” She handed the diaper bag to her friend and leaned in the back to unfasten car seat buckles.
As she followed Mary inside, directions and cautions spewed out of Peggy’s lips.
An impish grin flashed across Mary’s face. “I think I’ve got this. I have had children, you know. Grandchildren too.”
When Cliff realized that he and his brother were staying with Mary and mom was leaving, he started crying.
Peggy gathered the sobbing boy in a giant hug. “It’s okay. I’ll only be gone a few hours.”
Her words didn’t reassure. Cliff just clung to her tighter.
“I don’t know what’s up with this. I know he loves you and he always enjoys when we come visit you.”
The gentleness of a grandmother’s understanding shone from Mary’s eyes. “Yes, dear. But we’re usually just visiting here. Or going to lunch. Mom’s never gone off and left him with me before.” She bent down to the golden head tucked into his mother’s side. “There are some fresh chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen. I was going to save them for after lunch…but I bet your mother wouldn’t mind if we go have one now.”
The mention of cookies – especially at breakfast time – caught his attention and Cliff stopped his crying. A few remaining sniffles later, he loosened his grip on his mother and followed Mary to the kitchen. Jonathan had heard the ‘cookie’ part and had already wandered in there, in search of a treat.
Peggy took advantage of the break and dashed outside, in a mad rush to the campus.
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