A World of Speculation

Melody called this morning. I saw her number on the caller ID and just didn’t want to answer it.

It was breakfast time. Rick was having problems with his tie. Chloe had put off getting a permission slip signed until the last minute, and Sam was trying to slide his Gameboy into his backpack without our noticing it.

The phone rang in the middle of all that chaos, and I ran to catch it. I’m still jumpy from the anonymous text, even though it came on my cell phone. I didn’t want Chloe to catch the phone, because I didn’t want her exposed to that.

Truthfully, I didn’t want Rick to catch it either, but it was because he had lost his sympathy for Melody, although he would express it that she had worn it out.

Anyway, before I picked up the phone, I glanced at the caller ID and saw Melody’s number, looked around the room, and flicked off the ringer. I thought I would call her back when everybody was gone.

I didn’t want to lie to them that it was a wrong number, although I was prepared to. But they didn’t seem to have noticed. Rick was reading Chloe’s permission permission slip, and Sam was sitting with his backpack in his lap, looking pleased with himself.

Rick looked up from the paper and stared at Chloe with amazement. “Your high school is putting on Sweeney Todd?”

“Dad,” she said, in that roller-coaster intonation that is a teen-ager’s cross between wheedling and disdain, “it’s a classic.”

“Whatever happened to Much Ado about Nothing?” he asked.

Chloe roller her eyes. “That’s so old.”

“What are these people thinking?” he said, more to me than to Chloe, who couldn’t see anything except how stubborn we were.

I stood by Sam’s chair with my hand outstretched.

“Mom!” he said. “That’s not fair. I only play it at lunch and recess.”

“Hand it over, Sam,” I said, “and go catch the bus.”

He was still muttering about the unfairness of it all as he slammed the door behind him. I put the Gameboy in the hall closet and came back to find Rick and Chloe still in intense negotiations.

“Mrs. Lovett?” he said.

“It’s the second biggest role in the show.” She turned to me. “Mom, tell him I’m not going to go out and kill anybody.”

“She’s not going to go out and kill anybody,” I said. “I’d rather see her in Bye Bye Birdie myself, but this is –”

“This is my big chance,” she said, cutting me off. “To get into the spring musical as a junior.”

“We need to think about it,” Rick said.

“Mom,” she wailed. “If I don’t turn the permission slip in today, Ms. Casey will give the part to Emma Hardwood.”

“How do we know Emma Hardwood’s parents aren’t asking why Chloe Davidson shouldn’t get the part?” he said with a logic as icy as a January wind down the Columbia Gorge.

“It’s just a play,” I said, “and she’s a good girl. That’s got to be worth something.”

He stared at me in surprise and then back at Chloe, suddenly making puppy-dog eyes. “I can’t believe this,” he said, softening. “Well, you sign it,” he said. “I’m going along under protest.”

“Oh, thanks, Daddy,” she said, throwing her arms around his neck. “You won’t be sorry.” She grabbed her bag and ran out the door.

“What was that all about?” he asked when she was gone.

“Thinking about Melody,” I said. “How hard it was to get her involved in things, how happy I would have been if she had really tried for anything.”

He shrugged. “We’ll see how it works out, I guess.” He shook his head and left.

By the time I got the breakfast dishes done, it was time to leave for my work at the Women’s Life Center, and I forgot all about Melody’s call.

Or maybe, if I’m honest, I really didn’t want to talk to her this morning.

Yes, love and anger can occupy the same space. Maybe I should remember that the next time I talk to Melody.