Thursday after practice, Cindy drove Molly home. In the driveway, Molly sighed and reached for the door handle, but Cindy grabbed her arm.
“Tomorrow they’ll both be back at school. What are you going to do?”
Cindy had asked her this question ten times a day. Molly gave the same answer. “I don’t know.”
Each time she thought about Trevor and Hayden, she switched between giving Hayden a chance and getting back together with Trevor.
Cindy groaned. “You know what I think, girl. I don’t know why you even think there’s a choice. You know who you belong with.”
She glared at Cindy. “If I knew, this wouldn’t be so hard.”
Cindy rolled her eyes so hard they were white. “It’s a no brainer. Hayden. Pick Hayden. Trevor is an asshole and a liar and he’s playin’ with you.”
“You’ve never liked Trevor, Cindy. But you don’t know him.
He’s not playing with me, he’s just…” She searched for the right word. “Unsure, like me. He’s trying to figure out who he is.”
Cindy raised her eyebrows, her jaw open. Then she laughed.
“That boy knows who he is and what he’s doing. I’d bet he lies awake at night thinking of ways to mess with your emotions.”
Molly grunted and got out of the car. She leaned through the opening. “He’s not what you think. And he’s not playing with me.”
Cindy laughed again. “Molly, he’s Pat Sajak and you’re Vanna White. Trevor’s got you spinnin’ on the wheel. You need to jump off and let Hayden catch you.”
Slamming the door, Molly glared and ran into the house while Cindy backed out and drove away, still laughing. Sometimes Cindy was so mean. Molly loved her, but right now she didn’t like her very much.
She threw her backpack on the counter and went to the pantry to get something started for dinner. She slammed a few cabinets trying to forget Hayden, Trevor, and Cindy.
She grabbed the ingredients for spaghetti. Once the noodles were boiling and the sauce warming in pan, she pulled out her
homework. Cindy delivered Hayden’s—under protest—but avoiding Hayden herself made more sense.
She completed her math before dinner was ready. When her mom pulled in the driveway, she dished two plates and sat them on the table as her mom opened the door.
“Hey, Mom. How was your day?” She smiled, assessing her mom’s face. Even with rings around her eyes, grease covered work clothes, and blond hair escaping her loose ponytail, her mom’s beauty glowed.
Molly wished for the hundredth time her dad was still around to take care of them.
“Mine was great. How was yours?” She hung her coat on the back of one of the metal folding chairs they used at the kitchen table.
Molly shrugged. “You know, same old same old.” She took a bite of spaghetti. The sauce dripped on her chin.
Her mom handed her a napkin. “And practice?” She twisted her noodles on her fork and took a bite.
“It was good. I’m ready for Saturday.” She wished she could be sure of everything else, too.
“Good. I’m trying to get off work, so I can come watch.”
Her mom smiled. “I’d like to see you win sectionals.”
She groaned but smiled at her mom. “Don’t jinx me. I need to make the top five to go to state.” She sprinkled more parmesan onto her pasta. “That’s the goal.”
Her mom nodded. “Well, I hope I can be there.”
“If you can’t be there in person, you’ll be there with me inside. I take you every time.” She didn’t want her mom to feel guilty. But Molly having her mom there would ease her nerves about the scouts.
They ate in silence for a few minutes then her mom sighed.
“I have good news. I got a raise today.”
Molly clapped and giggled. “That’s great, Mom. How much?
Is it enough for you to quit waitressing at the truck stop?”
Her mom shook her head. “No, it’s only a ten-cent raise, but every little bit helps. I still have to waitress.”
“I’m proud of you, Mom.”
They finished eating and Molly stood to clean up the dishes.
Her mom touched her arm. “Let’s do something special to celebrate.
Want to get frozen yogurt?”
Molly loved nights like this. Her mom never got to relax. But she frowned. Wednesday nights her mom always went to the truck stop. She checked the clock.
“Don’t you have to work in an hour? Will we have time?”
“Well, I don’t have to go to the truck stop.” Her mom’s smile faded. “They let me go yesterday.”
The air left Molly’s chest. No waitressing meant more sacrifices. Her mom already sacrificed enough. “What happened?”
Her mom sighed. “They’ve been losing business since Denny’s opened across the highway and since I was last hired…”
“You’re the first fired.” She hugged her mom. “I’m sorry.
Cross-country is almost over. I can get a job and help out.”
Her mom shook her head. “No. Before your father died, he made me promise to take care of you. He wanted the same thing I do, Molly, for you to be happy and successful. You need to focus on your future. You can’t do that if you have to worry about work instead of homework.”
Molly sighed, looking away. Her mom didn’t mention her dad often. When she did, her mom’s face would tighten, and her shoulders would sink lower. She didn’t share the pain, her dad died
when she was two and she never knew him. But she hurt for her mom and hated to argue with her.
“Molly, no.” She smiled. “Come on. I want to get frozen yogurt. TCBY is calling my name.”
Molly bit her lip. Maybe her mom needed this to cheer her up. “Fine, but I get to drive.”
“Deal.” Her mom reached into her purse and handed Molly the keys.
Their ten-year-old Pontiac took a few tries to start, but once it did, Molly pulled out of the driveway. She loved driving, but she rarely got to do it. She parked in the lot and they went inside.
The warm smell of fresh baked waffles drifted through the store, making Molly’s mouth water. She smiled at her mom. “I want two scoops of chocolate.”
Her mom laughed. “Me, too. Let’s hurry, this smell is driving my taste buds crazy.”
They ordered and paid the perky cashier. Waffle cones in hand, they found a booth. The rich chocolate taste exploded on Molly’s tongue. She bit into the side of her cone and moaned.
“Thanks, Mom. This is great. Though we should be saving money now that you don’t have the waitressing job.”
Her mom waved a hand. “I’ll get another one. Those jobs are easy to find.”
Molly knew why, too. Waitressing was hard, and few people wanted to do it.
“You know, I have to save money for college. If I get the scholarship, they won’t give me spending money. I’d like to have fun.” She winked at her mom. “College isn’t supposed to be all work. I should—”
Her mom laughed. “Don’t worry, I thought of that and I have a nest egg for you.”
Molly gaped at her mom. “Mom, I meant I needed to get a job and save it, not you.”
“Well, now you don’t.” She licked her cone. “I don’t want to talk about money. I think you have something else we need to discuss.”
She cleared her throat. “Oh, what’s that?”
“I got a phone call from your principal.”
Molly fumbled her cone but caught it before it hit the table.
Her mom nodded. She touched Molly’s hand. “Tell me what’s going on.”
She never hid things from her mom, but she hadn’t even seen her since the fight, until tonight. She told her about Trevor breaking up with her, Hayden saying he loved her, and even how she’d gotten drunk at the party and that Hayden had to bring her home.
Her mom listened, eyebrows furrowed. She nodded, frowned, and shook her head. When Molly finished, her mom sighed and patted her hand.
“I know I’m not around enough to help you, and I’m glad you can tell me these things. I’m disappointed you drank at the party.
That was dangerous. If Hayden hadn’t been there, someone with less morals might have found you instead. You’re lucky, he sounds like a nice boy.”
Hot tears prickled Molly’s eyes. “He is, Mom.” Guilt welled up in her stomach for the way she’d treated Hayden.
Her mom sighed. “And Trevor? Do you still like him?”
“I don’t know.” She laid her head on the table. “I don’t know what to do.”
Her mom reached over and rubbed Molly’s hair, just like she used to do when Molly was little and had skinned her knee or lost a doll.
“Maybe you need to tell them both to give you space. If they both mean what they say, they’ll wait, and you can decide when you’re ready. If not, then they don’t deserve you, anyway.”
She considered her mom’s words. Maybe it was time to focus on herself. Who was she? And what did she want? Those two questions ballooned in her mind until they pushed out everything else. Her doubt, her uncertainty, her desire to belong, none of it mattered. Her mom was right. She needed to do this alone before she could think about sharing herself.
Molly raised her head and smiled through the tears. “Thanks, Mom. That’s the best advice I’ve had yet.” She took a deep breath, and the pressure lifted from Molly’s chest.
Her mom grinned. “Glad I could help. But promise me you won’t drink again.”
Molly laughed. “Don’t worry, one hangover was enough to last a lifetime.” She hugged her mom and laughed. “Besides, Cindy would whoop my ass.”
Her mom laughed, too, and licked her cone. “I’ve always liked that girl.”
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