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Complicated(8)
Author: Kristen Ashley

And he made them sit down at the dinner table because now he only had half the time he should have with them to know what was going on in their lives, so he felt the need to concentrate the time he had and make the most of it. This meant no more eating in front of the TV, like they’d done when their mother and father were together.

The only exception to that was Sunday, when they did nothing but hang in front of the TV or go out together to see a movie then come home and hang in front of the TV. It was about junk food and laziness and comfort in each other’s company.

Hope hated this new tradition and had confronted Hix repeatedly since she’d learned of it in order to share she wanted it stopped. She was not a big fan of laziness. Or junk food. Not even for a day.

It could just be said, Hope didn’t care if the kids tolerated whatever green she put on their plates. They ate it because she said so and that was that.

Hix had always hated watching her force their children to eat shit they didn’t like. Shaw had even once sat at the dining room table until ten at night, facing a cold bowl of homemade potato soup that until he finished it, she wouldn’t allow him to get up from the table.

In the end, he’d forced it down, retching after every bite.

That was when Hix had had enough.

But they’d had a deal that they didn’t argue about parenting in front of the children. And regardless of the fact he’d shared not only after the potato soup incident, but often, that he was not a big fan of this tactic to encourage their children to eat healthy, she pulled it when they were in front of the children.

So since his wife wasn’t big on playing fair with that, not long after Shaw and the soup, no matter it drove Hope up the wall, if one of the kids put up serious resistance, Hix would take up their plates himself, scrape whatever shit was on it that they didn’t want to eat onto his plate, and then he’d eat the stuff.

At that point, Hope had shared repeatedly she wanted him to quit doing it.

When he didn’t, she’d started to cook things they all tolerated.

According to Shaw, she’d slid back to her former ways after their dad left.

That was up to her.

At his place, such as it was, they had Sunday junk day.

His mind heavy with memories of how Hope could be, much of it not all that great but at the time he’d accepted it and now he was wondering why, as well as filled with a lot of other crap that had been coming at him for a little over a year, it was Shaw who broke the silence after they started eating.

“Can I go on a date on Wednesday night?”

Dating on a school night?

He looked to his son. “No.”

“It’s a study date,” Shaw informed him quickly.

“It’s a pretend-to-study-and-instead-make-out-because-Wendy’s-parents-let-you-study-in-her-room date,” Corinne teased.

Oh Jesus.

“Then hell no,” Hix stated.

Shaw quit glaring at his sister and looked to his father. “Don’t listen to her, Dad. Wendy’s cool.”

“I’ve met Wendy. I know she’s cool. I’ve met Wendy’s parents. They’re cool too. Apparently too cool,” Hix replied. “But just pointing out, you do know we’re the same gender, right?”

Corinne giggled.

Mamie giggled with her and Hix hoped like hell his youngest didn’t catch his drift because he was already having trouble with his older girl catching it.

Shaw, unfortunately, didn’t catch it.

“Of course I know,” he gritted.

“And I also figure you know I wasn’t born your father.”

Light dawned and Shaw looked to his Tuna Helper.

Corinne giggled again until Hix shot her a look and she swallowed it back, barely.

“You want, you can have her over here. Study at this table,” Hix allowed.

“Fabulous,” Shaw mumbled, but what he didn’t do was decline that invitation.

This meant Hix best take another look at Wendy.

And her parents.

“I can’t wait to date,” Mamie declared, and Hix lost all interest in Tuna Helper.

Even though he’d wanted to make his oldest girl wait until she was sixteen, Hope didn’t mind she started at fifteen, and Corinne really didn’t want to wait.

So she’d had her first five dates over that past summer, with three different guys.

Hix was counting in a way he knew he always would.

So now that he’d passed the time where he had to endure her having her first date, as well as the ones after it, he was looking forward to the time someone he approved of slid a ring on her finger so he could stop enduring the dating portion of her life.

“It isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Corinne informed her little sister authoritatively.

At that, Hix’s stomach almost lost the little Tuna Helper he’d fed it.

“Why would you say that?” he asked.

“Because boys are stupid, Dad,” she answered casually.

“How are they stupid?” Hix pressed.

“Because they talk about themselves all the time,” she replied. “What movies they like. What music they like. How sick some skateboard is. Blah, blah, blah.” She scooped up Tuna Helper, muttering, “Ask a girl a question about herself once in a while, why don’t you?”

That made Hix grin.

But he saw now that Shaw was looking sick.

“You could just talk yourself without him asking you questions, you know,” his son began to defend his half of the juvenile gender, or more likely, the fact he hadn’t asked a girl a question about herself.

“And sound like an up-myself douchebag?” Corinne asked.

“Not a big fan of that word, honey,” Hix noted quietly.

Without skipping a beat, Corinne altered her statement. “And sound like an up-myself idiot?”

“It’s called conversation, Cor,” Shaw educated her.

“No, Shaw, conversation is, ‘I really liked that Avengers movie. I thought it was rad. I seriously liked the fight scene in the city. The Hulk is da bomb. Hey, Cor, how did you feel about that Avengers movie?’” Corinne returned. “Instead of forgetting the last part and going on to say, ‘But whatever, I think Mr. Galveston is a jerk. That pop quiz was uncool. I totally tanked it. My dad’s gonna be so pissed.’”

“Mr. Galveston is a jerk and that pop quiz sucked,” Shaw retorted.

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