Jeremy rode his Trek bicycle up the street and stopped at his house, a one-story faded yellow ranch-style home. He stopped and dismounted, taking off his helmet and wheeling the bike into the garage, where he leaned it against a chipped washing machine. Behind him, a car was obscured under a large flowered bedsheet. Jeremy stopped by the car and pulled the sheet back, revealing the dusty grill of a classic Mustang, He took his sleeve and wiped the dirt away so the red paint showed through. He smiled faintly and gently pulled the sheet back down before he went inside.
Alicia Anton was humming as she checked something in the oven. Her long brown hair remained uncolored except for the grey and white coming in at the sides, framing her face. She wore black tennis shoes, khaki pants and a blue polo shirt with the Hangtown Bakery logon on the left. “Hi Jeremy, would you set the table, please?” she asked her son as he came in and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“Sure,” Jeremy said and pulled out the mismatched Corelle dishes, some with forest green trim and some with mustard colored wheat design. He set down the trivet as his mother put the dish on the table. They both served themselves and started eating.
“Would you get the iced tea out of the fridge, please?” asked Mrs. Anton. Jeremy got up and poured them both some tea.
“Here you go,” he said.
“Thanks, honey,” said Mrs. Anton. They ate in comfortable silence. “How’s the casserole?” she asked after they were both almost done.
“Oh, it’s good,” said Jeremy. “Spicy. Is there any meat in it?
“Very funny,” said his mother, trying to hide a smile.
“Really, it’s good. I like it,” said Jeremy. “Kind of a barbecue flavor?” he asked.
“Exactly,” said Mrs. Anton. “So…how is high school?” she asked.
Jeremy shrugged. “It’s fine,” he said noncommittally.
“Really?” responded his mother. “I’m not just making conversation. Are you adapting okay? Is it what you thought it would be? She put down her fork and looked at Jeremy.
“I don’t know,” said Jeremy. “What’s it supposed to be? Teachers, assemblies, one group tormenting another. It’s probably just like when you were in school, but with more electronics. Fewer sock hops.”
“Sock hops were in the 50’s, not the 70’s, smart-aleck,” said his mother, still looking at him and awaiting an answer.
Jeremy sighed. “Okay, then, fewer Partridge Family appreciation days. Really, it’s fine. I only have a year or two of it, anyway.”
Mrs. Anton put her hand on his arm. “Just hang in there, Jeremy. I only want the best for you, you know. Your Dad only wanted that too, but things don’t always work out the way we want.”
“I know, Mom. I’m fine, really,” said Jeremy. “Hey, do you think I could use the Mustang for the school float? I promise we wouldn’t damage it!” he pleaded.
Mrs. Anton shook her head impatiently. “We’ve been over this. Your father said you could have it when you were old enough to drive, which you aren’t.”
“But I wouldn’t be driving it,” argued Jeremy. “It would be parked up on the float just sitting there. Nobody will drive it.”
“It’s not insured and we don’t have the money to insure it now anyway. If it’s anywhere other than the garage, and something happens to it……well, we don’t have the money for anything to happen to it. Besides, it’s going against your father’s wishes. The answer is no.”