Once back in school the girls studied hard and waited for it to be Valentine's Day and then spring. Sometimes it seemed to them that what broke up the school year was not semesters so much as national holidays. Fall was so much fun; the new school year was always exciting, then came one holiday after another with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But from January it seemed forever and by March they were good and sick of snow and cold weather and Loni Faye told Liara that the teachers always seemed to get meaner then, too. There was Valentine's Day, of course, and that was enjoyable, but they still had to go to school that day. Finally in late March or early April spring would appear and with it, Easter. What a welcome relief because then they knew it would be only a hop, skip and a jump to summer, Memorial Day and the 4th of July. In Pleasantview school went on all year long, except for a two week break in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of July for family vacations.
Lonnie still spent many hours at his restaurant, although occasionally he sometimes managed to get in a little painting. Jenny was an excellent seamstress and loved to sew clothing for the girls. It helped fill the hours when Lonnie was working and Loni Faye and Liara were in school. It seemed to her though that the heady excitement of her life when she and Lonnie first married and Loni Faye and Liara had come along had somehow evaporated. And she worried a lot about whether Lonnie was bored, too, whether another woman--a younger woman--might catch his eye. There was nothing to make her suspicious; when she dropped by the restaurant unannounced from time to time he was busy managing the kitchen and greeting his customers. He was surrounded by women, though, why couldn't he hire some male waiters? According to Lonnie women were more reliable but Jenny had never been sure if she bought that line of reason.
If only she had something more to do. She cleaned her house but the only one who made much mess was her youngest child, Liara. Lonnie and Loni Faye were compulsively neat and she, Jenny, was disciplined about housework. It didn't take that much time to tidy up each morning and do the laundry and so she ended up sewing all day long or painting. But she felt rather useless and quite lonesome. When the girls got off the school bus they were busy with studies and anxious for playtime. By the time Lonnie came home it was late, she always waited up but he was usually exhausted and fell into bed after a quick kiss and a hug.
At last a timid spring arrived and the trees had leaves on them once again while the spring flowers began to bloom. The change perked Jenny up for a while. Karen Burb's twin sister, Kirstie, came by one Saturday afternoon and, even though the air still had a little chill in it she and Liara played catch on the sidewalk. By the time Kirstie had to go home for supper Loni Faye got out the kite she'd received at Christmas to give it a trial run in the breeze. Liara had fun on the "Tilt and Spin" she'd got for Christmas, too, but eventually went in and got her own kite.
Jenny often gave her daughters advice and encouragement on various subjects. For Liara, who tended to be messy and often a bit withdrawn she promoted neatness and playfulness while commending her on her independence and reserve. Loni Faye, who was extremely neat and outgoing, did not need help on either of those first two subjects so Jenny counseled her on decorum and caution, but added the proviso that Loni Faye should always keep her natural love of fun and making friends.
Even though the girls were virtually opposites they remained very close friends as well as sisters.
Mondays and Tuesdays were Lonnie's days off and it happened that on one particular morning Jenny was exercising and Lonnie was outdoors doing yard work when she heard him call her name and ask her to come out and meet someone. She peeked out the window and saw him talking with a pretty brunette she'd never seen before.
"We live on a cul de sac yet every attractive woman who moves to Pleasantview finds her way to our house," she muttered. Then she plastered a smile on her face and went out to Lonnie.
The woman's name was Deanna Generica; she and her husband had bought the beautiful white-washed brick house a couple blocks away. They had three boys, two in high school and one in grade school and then Jenny remember that Loni Faye had entertained a young boy with the last name of Generica months ago. What was his name again? Oh, yes, Ty. She mentioned this to Deanna who said that yes, Ty was her youngest child. Jenny decided sometime during the conversation that she liked the woman well enough and would invite her over for coffee, but not today. They talked a bit longer and then Deanna went on her way.
"Lonnie, be sure to schedule some extra time home next month; remember Loni Faye's teen birthday is coming up and we'll be celebrating," Jenny said to him over lunch.
He looked stunned,
"She's just a little girl; how can it be time for that so soon?"
"That's just the way it is, you can't keep her a baby forever; haven't you noticed how she's getting a little bit of a figure on her?"
"No," he was irritated, "And I don't think you should push her to grow up so fast."
"I have nothing to do with how fast she grows physically, Lon. The birthday will come no matter what you or I do. You just don't want to face the fact that she's going to be moving toward friends more and more and needing us less--at least that's what she'll think. And boys will enter the picture and you hate the thought of that, don't you," Jenny pointed out somewhat callously, "She's always adored you and been your little buddy and soon some teenaged romeo with pimples will be who she thinks is wonderful."
"Maybe I do hate the thought of it, but you're not going to like it either," Lonnie countered and Jenny looked at him warily,
"Whatever do you mean?"
"You're used to always having men looking at you and flirting with you, you've never quit craving that, Jenny, and when Loni Faye becomes a young woman, you'll start to think of her as competition. You'll be jealous of her because you're getting older and she'll be young and pretty. As for you saying that stuff about how I want her to be my little buddy forever; you've always resented how close we are; I guess that's a real problem for you."
Lonnie stopped suddenly, shocked at his own words, which he already regretted. But it was too late; they were out there now.
Jenny looked stunned but then pulled herself together and said coldly,
"Thanks for treating me like the queen in Snow White."
"I'm sorry, baby--it's just that you made me mad when you goaded me. You're wrong about how I feel. I want Loni Faye to enjoy her life as a teen, I do. I just--didn't think it would happen so fast. Really, I'm so sorry and I didn't mean it. You're beautiful and you always will be."
"Save it," Jenny looked at him with disdain and then got up and went to her studio. Lonnie cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher in regretful silence. The rest of the day he spent in the yard, moving the lawn, weed-eating, trimming the shrubs and fishing. Jenny stayed in her studio, sewing.
After a tense night there were very few words spoken in the morning. Jenny was crushed. She did dread getting older because Lonnie was so much younger. She'd always been vain about her looks and ability to attract men, he was right about that. But for him to make such a remark to her was so cruel and careless. Maybe it was happening just the way she'd always feared; he was getting tired of her.