Vivian moved the pillows over as she sat down in the oversized recliner. The fine leather chair was positioned in the corner of the room, a perfect spot for Vivian to see the reaction on each child’s face as they discussed what was to come. The room was decorated in earth tones and emanated comfort; that’s exactly what Vivian had wanted when she hired an Interior Designer. “Make it feel homey,” she’d told the lanky well-dressed lady who came to take measurements of the space. “I want people to feel like they can fully relax in here.” The lady seemed more than willing to comply. There was no dollar amount too high, after all, she could spend whatever she wanted as long as Vivian liked it when the project was complete. Vivian was thinking about that experience as she sat in the overpriced piece of furniture. The thought suddenly occurred to her, had she made Thomas feel like she needed more? Did she seem unsatisfied with what they had? Is that why he felt the need to steal from honest people? She’d barely been able to complete the thought when Tatum walked into the room. She sat down on the love seat next to the chair and began to scroll through her phone. She didn’t scroll long before she set the phone on her lap and looked at her Mother, “do you think we’re going to be alright? I’m not talking about our reputation, I mean do you think our family is going to make it through this?” Vivian had no answer. She hadn’t been to visit Thomas in jail since the arrest and he hadn’t used any of his phone calls to talk to her. Who was he talking to? She’d asked herself many times in the last weeks. To be honest, she’d started to suspect something was going on just before he was arrested. But, she had too much on her mind to entertain those thoughts now, she and the kids had to figure out a way to survive.
Within minutes Trevor and Trace walked in; Trace teasing his older brother and Trevor rolling his eyes. “I could take you down! Let’s wrestle and I’ll show you I can!” Trace said in a half teasing, half serious voice. Trevor, being the older wiser sibling, gave him a shove and headed for the love seat next to Tatum. “I know I’d win, you’re just scared of the truth,” Trace taunted. Trevor looked at Vivian and she smiled faintly, knowing Trevor could make easy work of Trace. Trevor was the reason the family had a home gym in the garage, he loved lifting weights. Vivian understood that it was more than a pastime for her son, it was a way he dealt with stress. He’d put in his earbuds and lift for hours. It never failed, when he emerged from the garage he felt lighter, like he was carrying less of a load than when he went in. Vivian guessed the physical exertion somehow lightened his load emotionally, so she never complained about the hours he spent out there. It was more than vanity for him and she understood that. Trace, on the other hand, was spotty at best in the gym. But what he lacked in muscle he made up for in spirit. Vivian couldn’t help but be amused by their banter.
As Trace was making himself the center of attention, as he so often did, Timothy slipped in and sat quietly on the floor. He sat with legs crossed and his arms folded across his thin frame. Timothy didn’t like to be noticed and sometimes Vivian could easily forget he was in the room. But, not this evening, she made a point to make eye contact and smile. He smiled and then lowered his head, clearly uncomfortable with the attention. Thatcher burst into the room while Trace was still talking and ran straight to the chair to sit with his mother. Vivian slid over and made room and then hugged him close. Oh how she loved her children.
“Alright everybody, thanks for being here,” Vivian started the informal meeting. “Where else would we be? We don’t seem to have any more friends.” Of course Trace said that. Vivian ignored the comment and started the conversation with summer plans that were already set; things like camps that were already paid for or a job commitment. One by one the kids began to speak. Tatum had a running camp in June, Trevor mentioned football practice that would likely go on all summer and Timothy had agreed to volunteer at the library. They discussed Thomas’s pending court date and how they would survive with little income. They vented some but often they sat in silence. Vivian had to keep pushing the conversation along; this was very unlike her normally rambunctious group. It was toward the end of their shared conversation when Vivian tentatively brought up the suggestion from her mother. “Okay, guys, Grandma Mae called today.” The kids loved Grandma Mae and Grandpa Sonny. Any stranger could easily see their affection by the looks on their faces. She’d always meant to take the kids to Iowa more often but one year led to another and pretty soon it had been ten years since they’d seen a corn field in person. Grandma and Grandpa always came to Palm Beach, Vivian would console herself by saying how much easier it was for them; it was just the two of them, after all. But, deep in her heart she knew she could’ve done better. Lately she’d been realizing a lot of things she could’ve done better. There’s nothing like a crisis to crystalize your priorities in life.
Once Vivian told them what she could remember about Grandma Mae’s “opportunity,” there was silence. Vivian made sure to present the temporary move in a positive light so she could honestly tell her mother she tried. She looked from one child to another, still silence. Timothy was looking down, Trace was looking around to the others for a reaction; it was Tatum who finally spoke. “What do you think, Mom?” Wow. Vivian thought. She hadn’t expected for it to be a discussion. She genuinely thought they would overrule the idea immediately. She paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts before she responded. “Well, they aren’t asking for rent, so that would be a stress off of us.” Tatum nodded and blinked, her big, clear blue eyes sparkling as if holding back tears. “Umm, you could work on the farm or in town and make some money. You’d get to watch the corn grow, the seed hasn’t been in the ground long.” Trace cut in, “Well, that sounds fun, watching corn grow.” He laughed, but no one joined him. Tatum shot him a dirty look, “what?” he shot back. Vivian continued, “you’d get to spend more time with Grandma Mae and Grandpa Sonny.” She knew the kids would love that. Honestly, this conversation was getting more traction than Vivian thought possible. “The house is old and in need of repair, but you guys know we’re going to have to sell this one anyway. We could do the work ourselves.” Vivian ended the pitch with an upbeat tone and a half smile. Finally, after a long pause, Trevor spoke, “Mom, what do YOU think we should DO?” This coming from her oldest and deeply thoughtful son, it nearly brought tears to Vivian’s eyes. She fought them back hard, that last thing they all needed was to sit around and cry. Now was a time for action, decisions had to be made and quickly. Vivian spoke softly, “I don’t know how we’re going to make it here.” She stroked Thatcher’s hair as she spoke. “There’s little money and soon the house will be sold, if not already in foreclosure. Everyone would have to work and even then I don’t know if it would be enough. I guess if I was making the decision, I would go to Iowa. Not because I really want to, but because I think it would be the best for all of us. Plus, it would get us away from this media circus.” The name Thomas Lancaster had been in the news constantly lately. Proof that people love a good scandal. She’d been guilty of such herself, but never again. From now on if a rumor came her way, she’d remember there’s a family behind that headline, real people who feel things, just like her.
There wasn’t much more to say after that. Each person in the room had a vote. That’s how they’d always done things in their family. Of course, big decisions in the past were things like where to go for summer vacation. Something this serious deserved more time to think about, more time to contemplate what it would mean. But, in their current situation, time was a luxury, a luxury they couldn’t afford. Literally.
“Okay, we all get a vote.” Vivian still couldn’t believe it had come to this. How could they be voting on moving away and giving up so much of their life? So much had gone wrong lately and to ask her kids to pack up and leave seemed almost cruel. All of these thoughts were swirling around her head as she spoke clearly, “All in favor of Iowa, raise your hand.” At first no one moved. But, then it happened. Trevor slowly raised his hand. Her heart nearly burst and despite her best effort tears slid down her cheeks. She understood what this act of unselfishness meant in his young life. He was giving up football for his senior year. A sport he’d played since middle school and loved since he could pull himself up by the coffee table and watch with his Dad. He lived and breathed it and, honestly, had a pretty good chance at a scholarship somewhere if his senior year went well. But, the coach had been clear, you don’t come to summer camp, you don’t play. She knew how much that team meant to him, and yet, with maturity beyond his seventeen years, he’d agreed to give it up for the good of the family. One at a time the kids raised their hands. Vivian was a mess now, tears staining her cheeks and dripping off her chin. Then she realized, all had raised their hands except Timothy. “All opposed.” Timothy raised his hand immediately. Vivian ached for her shy, book loving, socially awkward son. Taking him from the library seemed inhumane. But, the vote had been cast and the majority had won, they were moving to Iowa for the summer. “They yes’s have it,” Vivian spoke in disbelief. “It’s Iowa or bust.” But, no one cheered. They exited the room the same way they’d entered, somber and unsure of what the future would hold. Well, they knew the immediate future, a summer of watching the corn grow. When the room was empty, Vivian let out a deep breath. What on earth? Iowa? She would’ve laughed if it hadn’t been all too real. “Guess I better call Mom and tell her to air out the house,” she spoke to herself. The Lancaster’s were headed north.