I considered quite a few jobs before settling on what I wanted to do next. I even considered becoming a cop. I managed to stop a burglar from robbing our house. I was able to take her down and then contain her until the officers showed up to apprehend her.
Unfortunately, my cop dreams were quickly dashed by Officer Jones who scolded me for endangering myself and my family.
“Mr. Fields, you were very lucky. This time your robber was not armed. The next time you face the opportunity of taking the law into your own hands, you should avoid it.”
“But I managed to stop her,” I said.
“Yes. But only because she wasn’t armed. If your wife hadn’t called the police, you might have had a different outcome. Leave burglars to the police. Stay safe in your room until someone comes to investigate your alarm.”
Since Emilee was glaring at my and my children looked frightened, I didn’t argue with the officer. I agreed that I would stay safe if we were ever unfortunate enough to be robbed again.
I also considered becoming a professional trainer. I had always enjoyed helping people work out. I’d been doing that since I helped my sisters when I was a teenager. Unfortunately, my son was the one to point out that maybe I was too old to be an effective trainer.
“No offense dad,” he said one Saturday morning after doing cardio with me and Emilee. “But I think I’ll go to the gym next Saturday. I need to increase my pace if I plan to run track at school. Coach says I need to increase endurance.”
“I could go with you,” I said. Homer got a pained expression on his face and shook his head.
“You don’t need to. I have a training partner already lined up. He’s an older guy, a senior. Coach paired him with me so I can improve.”
“Oh,” I said, disappointed. I guess I wasn’t good enough to be a trainer.
Finally, I decided to become a professional fisherman. Emilee was the one who put the idea in my head. She’d mentioned teaching fishing at the school at some point and I had always kept the idea in my mind. I didn’t think I’d like teaching, but I loved fishing.
We were out one day and I mentioned that I could do this full time. “I don’t have to release what I catch,” I said to Emilee. “I could keep it and sell my fish to the grocery.”
“You own the grocery,” Emilee pointed out.
“That’s right. So, I suppose they have no excuse not to by fish from me. I might even offer a discount.”
“You’re ridiculous, but if you want to fish for a living, go right ahead.”
All I needed was Emilee’s permission to fish full time. Who knew that I could turn a hobby into a career? Let me tell you that nothing beats going out on the water, the sun beating down on you and the waves gently lapping at your hull. I could, and did, stay out for hours. Sometimes I even lost track of time while I was fishing.
Since all I really did all day was fish, I had a lot of energy once I got home. Emilee definitely noticed. One day I came home to find her in the kitchen having a sports drink after working out.
“Hello beautiful!” I said, grabbing her and pulling her in for an amorous kiss.
“Hello yourself,” Emilee said, laughing. But then her nose wrinkled up. “Ares! You smell like fish. You stink!”
“Kiss me anyway!” I said, planting one on her. Thankfully, the smell of fish was nothing new to her. She kissed me back with enthusiasm.
I loved my career as a fisherman. I got to spend a lot of time with my children. I’d take them out with me on the weekends. Admittedly, having kids swimming in your fishing hole doesn’t make the fish bite, but it is a lot of fun.
“Hey Dad!” Charlotte shouted to me. “Watch me snorkel!” She put the snorkeling tube into her mouth and started swimming around. Then she dove down under the water and swam some more, eventually coming up for air with the great spout of water blown from her tube.
“Did you see me Dad? I swam underwater!”
“Good job sweetie! Just like I taught you.” I gave her a thumbs up to show my approval.
“Told you I could do it,” Charlotte said to her brother William. She stuck her tongue out at him and I rolled my eyes.
“It’s not so hard,” William said back, returning the gesture. “I’ve been able to do it for weeks! Homer showed me how.”
Homer and William were close. I had worried that Homer wouldn’t make such a strong connection to his siblings as I had because of their age difference, but I was wrong.
Homer liked playing with the kids and he was always helping them both with their homework. But I think that Homer and William shared a closer bond because they were brothers. I had never had a brother, but I had always wanted one. Seeing my boys hang out together tossing a ball around or playing Frisbee, I was jealous that I had grown up with only sisters.
I felt a little bad for Charlotte because I knew what it was like to be the odd one out. She didn’t seem to mind much, though. She liked spending time on her own. At school, Charlotte didn’t have many friends. She’d been tested and found to be a genius. Because of this she often got put in special classes or moved up to take classes with older kids. Emilee attributed Charlotte’s time spent alone to her being shy, but I wasn’t so sure.
Emilee and I had been contacted by Smugglesworth Prep School and asked if we would be willing to send Charlotte there. They even offered to give her a scholarship. Emilee thought we should let Charlotte go to the school, but I was unsure. My sister Rhea’s son had gone to a private school away from home. I really didn’t approve of sending your kids away.
But I knew that Charlotte felt different than everyone else. I worried that she isolated herself too much, and that maybe being with kids who were just as smart as she was would help her make more friends.
I asked Emilee to accompany me while I fished so we could talk about the matter while I worked. It was her day off from the grocery.
“I know it’s raining,” I said, “But I have to fish today, and we have to talk about this before the opportunity gets taken away.”
“It’s ok Ares,” Emilee assured me. “I don’t mind being out in the rain. We’ll just bundle up. And if we get too cold, I’m sure we can think of ways to warm up.”
I smiled. I was already thinking of ways to warm up! But I had to focus. Fishing. Charlotte. Boarding school. Decisions.
“Do you think we should send her away?” I asked.
“No. That’s the wrong way to look at it Ares,” Emilee said, exasperated with me. “If she goes to this special school, we would not be ‘sending her away’. We’d be giving her an opportunity to use her natural talents in an environment that would really encourage her to explore her options.”
“But she’d be away from home.”
“She’s so shy. She’d be lonely. She’d miss William and Homer. She might have trouble making friends.”
“Charlotte may be shy, but once she gets to know people, she is comfortable around them. If she goes to that school, it may take awhile, but she would make some friends. Maybe it will even be easier to make friends because she won’t be singled out all the time.”
“But what about William?”
Emilee sighed. “I don’t know. They’d miss each other. They’ve always been together.”
It was true. William and Charlotte had always done things together. Since we moved William into Homer’s room, things had changed a little. Charlotte did like to do things on her own more and William spent a lot of time with Homer, but still, the two were very close. It would really hurt them to take them away from each other.
“It’s too bad that this school won’t accept William, too,” I said.
“They won’t. William is a good student, but he’s no genius. Charlotte is exceptional. She’s held back at their school right now. All of her teachers say she’s bored and could be doing so much more.”
“I know. I just don’t know what to do. Couldn’t the school just let her work on her own? Sort of like an independent study kind of thing?”
“She’s 9,” Emilee said. “I don’t think they do that.”
“What about skipping a few grades?”
“Do you want our 9 year old daughter to be in high school classes?” I shook my head.
“Then we need to send her to that school. It’s the best thing to do so she gets the right sort of education.”
In the end, we decided to ask Charlotte what she wanted to do: go to Smugglesworth Prep School or stay at her current school with her brothers.
“You’d have a lot of opportunities at Smugglesworth,” I said to her, “but you wouldn’t be able to come home that often. Only on school holidays.”
“Would I be able to call you and Mom?” Charlotte asked me. “And maybe Homer and William, too?”
“Yes. I’m pretty sure you can call whenever you like. You can video chat, too, and use SimBook.”
“Do you think I should go?” Charlotte looked up at me. She seemed a bit hesitant, a little scared of what my answer would be.
“Oh honey. I don’t know. I want to keep you here with me and Mom. I hate the idea of you going so far away!”
I stood up and pulled Charlotte in for a hug. “If you decide to go to that school, I’m going to miss you every day. But, I don’t want to hold you back. This school will give you an education you just can’t get here. They call you a genius. Gifts like yours shouldn’t be wasted.”
“I don’t know what to do, Dad. I want to go to the school, but I’ll miss you and mom and Felix and Hattie. And what if the kids at the school aren’t nice?”
“I’m sure they are nice. You’ll meet kids who are a lot like you. I’m sure you’ll make lots of friends.”
Charlotte wiped at her face and hiccupped a little. “Can I think about it and tell you what I want to do later?”
“Of course, sweetie. You don’t have to decide now. It’s a lot to think about. I just want you to know that we want what’s best for you. Whatever you decide.”
I don’t know what made Charlotte decide to go to Smugglesworth. It might have been seeing her brothers both struggling with homework that she could have done in her sleep. It might have been the failed experiment she did with her chemistry set that made her want to learn more than what a regular school could offer her.
It may have been that she just longed for something more than she had at her school and thought that Smugglesworth would have it. All I know was that she told me that she thought she might try prep school.
“But if I don’t like it, I can come home, right?” I could only nod in response. I couldn’t speak for the lump in my throat.
Saying good bye to one of your kids is hard. It’s hard to let one of them go off and do something that you have no knowledge of. I just had to hope that we were doing the right thing.
Still, I couldn’t help but worry as I watched Charlotte hug William good bye. They were going to miss each other horribly. Was it harder for William to see her go than it was for me and Emilee? We hadn’t even asked him what he thought of his sister leaving. Were we being terrible parents? Had we made a bad decision?
That night Emilee and I had a hard time falling asleep. I couldn’t help but worry about Charlotte and wonder if she was doing ok.
“Ares, you have to let this go. William seems fine. Charlotte didn’t even cry when the car from Smugglesworth picked her up.”
“Well, it might take a few days for this to set in. Are you sure we have Skype installed properly? We promised Charlotte we’d talk to her tomorrow once she’s all settled in.”
“We tested it three times. It works.”
I sighed. I had known this was going to be hard. “I’m sorry. I know I’m being paranoid. I just hate not knowing what’s going on with one of our children.”
“I know. I feel the same way.” Emilee scooted closer to me and put her head on my shoulder. “If she were older, this probably wouldn’t be so bad. Like when Homer goes to college.”
I chuckled. “I think I’m going to be a wreck when Homer goes to college,” I admitted.
I laughed and drew Emilee closer. To take my mind off of my worries, I nuzzled her neck. “I think I know what will make us both feel better,” I whispered into her ear.
“I think so.”