Home > Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(9)

Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks)(9)
Author: Miranda Kenneally

I say hi to the receptionist and continue back to where Mom sits, passing by the offices of the junior event coordinators. Mom has a staff of six event designers, a director of marketing, an executive chef who we all call Chef, and a ton of kitchen staff. They cater two to three events every night of the week. Mom’s the brains and the logistics behind the operation, while Dad is the creative arm.

He loves coming up with party themes and weird names for foods. For instance, he just planned a Broadway themed wedding. The programs looked like Playbills, and the wedding cake featured a red and gold marquee with the bride and groom’s names. He even set up a photo area where guests could pretend they were walking the red carpet.

I’m glad my parents are able to do what they love, even if it is stressful at times, like when one of our ovens broke the day of a wedding with two hundred guests. My parents’ hard work has allowed me to do what I love—to pay for expensive pool time and my coach so I could become the swimmer I am today.

I walk into Mom’s office and plop down in a chair. She’s typing on her computer and talking on her headset at the same time. “It’s not too late to change the place settings,” she says cheerfully, but I can see the horror in her eyes.

Clients are always making last-minute switches. One time a bride switched menus three days before her wedding, and somehow Mom and Dad made it work.

“Thank you,” Mom tells the person on the phone. “We can’t wait to see you on Saturday.” As soon as she hangs up the phone, she drops her headset on the desk and rubs her eyes.

“Gina!” she calls, and her assistant comes running with an iPad. “Can you call Southern Rentals and switch the ivory silk linens to the blue damask?”

Gina nods and rushes off.

“Ivory to blue damask?” I say. That’s a pretty significant change.

“It turns out the bride recently attended another wedding that was in ivory, so naturally she needs something different.” Mom rolls her eyes, even though the client is always right. She stands up, smoothing her bushy brown hair back into a ponytail like mine. “Let’s eat.”

Most days I join Mom and Dad for an early dinner here before I walk home to do my homework and they leave for whatever event they’re doing that night. I sit down with them in the dining room where they do tastings for potential clients. They often test their new creations on me.

“What do you think of the King’s cashew chicken?” Dad asks me.

“It’s good,” I say, biting into it and chewing angrily. I’m still pissed at Levi for telling Coach about Roxy. I’m still angry about Roxy in general.

Mom keeps shooting Dad looks. Dad, meanwhile, is jotting notes about the food. I peek over at his notebook. Needs more flavor. Cook it in garlic butter?

“Pass the bread, please,” I say.

Dad gives me the basket of rolls. “I’m calling them ‘perfect pumpernickel’ rolls.”

“Hmph.”

“Maggie, Coach Josh called,” Mom says.

Coach Josh is such a busybody.

“Do you want to talk?” Mom goes on.

“I’m fine.”

“What’s going on?” Dad cuts in.

“Nothing!”

“Why didn’t you tell us Roxy is going to Cal?” Mom asks, and Dad pauses with a forkful of chicken halfway to his mouth.

“It’s no big deal.”

My parents glance at each other. “Are you sure you still want to go there?” Mom asks, concerned.

I don’t want to let my parents down or cause them any extra stress. They’ve sacrificed so much for my swimming career. Until Levi and I could drive, my parents were often catering events until one or two in the morning, and then they’d wake up at four to drive me to practice. And don’t even get me started on all the times they would rush straight from a Saturday meet to finish setting up a lavish wedding. Take tonight for example. They’re catering the mayor’s cocktail party in honor of his eighth year in office.

“I’m not giving up Cal,” I say. “I’ve worked my whole life for this.”

“Damn right,” Dad says with a smile, giving me a fist bump. “Now tell me what you really think of this chicken.”

I return the smile. Everyone else is freaking out about Roxy, which is the last thing I need. What I need is normal. Lucky for me, Dad gets that.

I change the subject. “Any news on whether you won the bid to cater the pajama party?”

“Not yet,” Mom says.

The city of Franklin holds an event every year in April to celebrate industry in our town. The pajama factory used to be the biggest business around here, and a lot of people credit our economy to it. Therefore, we celebrate all the pajamas. Sometimes Mom and Dad win the contract to cater the party, and other times they don’t. We’re the best, but the town doesn’t want to be seen as playing favorites by only awarding it to one company over and over.

“If we lose to Musgrave again,” Dad says, “I am moving to Canada.”

Maybe having rivals runs in our family. I have Roxy. Dad has Diane Musgrave, who always tries to outdo his ideas. When he designed a vintage Barbie-themed party for a little girl’s fifth birthday, Diane Musgrave retaliated by turning a client’s home into Barbie Dreamhouse.

After dinner, I’m so exhausted I trudge home and barely have the strength to make it through my homework. Once I’m done, I check texts on my phone as I get ready for bed. No matter what, even if we’re pissed at each other, Levi and I always text good night before going to sleep.

I click on the message from him: Forgive me?

I write back: Yes, you big idiot. Good night.

Good night, M.

A Proposal

The Thursday morning after I saw Roxy at Cal, Jason carries his cell phone out onto the pool deck.

Coach Josh’s three rules are (1) shower before swimming, (2) don’t swim alone, and (3) try to improve each day, but I’m pretty sure “don’t bring your phone to the pool” will become his fourth rule. The second we’re out of the water, we rush for our phones like a zombie mob.

But it’s weird that Jason’s on his phone before practice. I mean, it’s five o’clock in the morning. Everyone who could possibly be texting him at this hour is here at the pool.

He comes over as Levi and I are stretching our arms before we get in the water. Jason stares down at his screen. “Uh, Maggie, there’s a picture of you going around.”

I peer over his arm at the photo. It’s an unattractive shot of me staring at the Cal pool with my hands on my hips and a confused look on my face. The caption reads: Need swimming lessons?

I groan.

Levi grabs the phone, looks at the screen, and shoves it back at Jason. “Don’t show Mags that shit.”

“Levi, I can handle it myself. Jason, don’t show me that shit.”

“Sorry,” Jason snaps. “I figured you’d want to know. I would.”

Jason tucks his phone under his towel on a bench, then does a running 360 spin jump into the pool. Susannah turns rap music on the sound system and dances her way over to splash into the water.

After seeing that picture, I sigh, not ready to dive yet.

“Can’t Roxy find anything better to do?” I say loudly over the beats coming from the speakers.

“We don’t know that it was her,” Levi replies.

I raise an eyebrow. “That picture was taken last week at the Cal pool, Leaves.”

“Okay, she probably did it.” He squeezes my shoulder. “But it makes her look bad, not you.”

“I know. But I still don’t feel good.”

“She’s trying to rile you up so she’ll have an advantage. Don’t let her win.”

Then Levi pushes me playfully into the pool and cannonballs in next to me. After splashing my best friend to get him back for pushing me, I channel my tension into owning this practice.

Out of the pool, however, the tension races back.

By Friday I can’t wait to meet my friends for dinner at Jiffy Burger. I need to relax.

Levi drives us to the diner, where Hunter and Georgia already have our usual booth staked out. They are carrying on as usual when we sit down. The waitress takes our order, and then we start talking about our lives.

   
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