At least the secret seems to be something that makes both of my parents happy, so they can’t be telling us they’re getting a divorce or anything awful like that. I’ve heard kids talk about stuff like that happening.
When we get to Jack’s, Rose wants pepperoni pizza and I want veggie. Usually we end up with a large half and half, except the grease from the pepperoni leeches over onto the veggie side, too. It’s cheaper to order one extra large than two mediums. Dad usually has us drink water, too. He says drinks are overpriced when you eat out.
Tonight, however, is different.
“Two mediums,” he says. “And a glass of soda for each of the girls, and a pitcher of beer for us.”
My parents don’t drink a lot, usually at parties or a couple beers on hot days at home, so his ordering a pitcher is really strange. We get our drinks and sit down to wait for the pizza. Dad clears his throat.
“I know you’ve been wondering about our trip,” he says.
Then he stops and takes Mom’s hand. They give each other a look like newlyweds or something.
“So, what is it?” I demand. “What’s going on?”
“Several things,” says Mom.
“First of all,” says Dad. “The reason we went to Chicago is that I had a job interview. The company is bumping me up.”
“That’s why we’re getting two pizzas?” I ask. “You’re going to make more money?”
“A lot more,” he says.
“Cool,” says Rose. “Can I get a new bike then? The one that was Tina’s is too small for me now.”
“We can do that,” says Dad. “When we get back from California.”
“California?” I’m suspicious. “When, why are we going to California?”
“Well,” he says. “My new position is going to be very demanding. I won’t have much time with you while I’m learning all the ropes. But they’re giving me a couple weeks to make the transition, and your mother and I decided we’d take one week of that for a family vacation to Disneyland.”
I can’t believe this is the big surprise. I’m fifteen. I’ve been learning to drive for six months. So my parents have decided it’s time to go to Disneyland? Rose is the perfect age for that, and she’s bouncing all over asking them a million questions, but I quit wanting to go there a long time ago. Mom picks up on this.
“We’ll spend some time at the beach, too,” she says. “You’ve never been to the ocean. And Mary and Laurie are going to come with us.”
“When?” asks Rose.
“We’re leaving tomorrow morning,” says Mom.
“You’re flying all of us there?” I ask.
“Yup,” says Dad.
This new position must really make some bucks. But something is bothering me.
“Why are they giving you two weeks off to transition into a new job?” I ask. “That doesn’t make any sense. Shouldn’t they want you to start right away?”
They look at each other again. This time it’s not that newlywed thing, this is my parents worried about delivering bad news.
“The transition time is so we can make moving arrangements,” Mom says.
“When we get back from California, I have to go on ahead and start in my new job,” says Dad. “Last week was the first of my two weeks and your mom and I found a house. The closing date’s the week before school starts, so that gives you and your mom the rest of the summer to pack up and get our old house ready to sell.”
“We’re moving?” Rose finally catches onto that. She doesn’t sound so excited anymore.
I’m speechless. Sell our house? I’ve never lived anywhere else. Even when I was a baby, we lived there with Dad’s mom, until she passed away when I was four and left the house to Dad. Mom’s parents live in Arizona. I haven’t seen them since I was ten, except for Skype. All of our friends live here, too. Mine, Rose’s, our parents’ friends all live here. But they’re still acting happy about this.
“Aren’t you going to miss your friends?” asks Rose.
Good question. Why are they so happy to move?
“Where are we going to live?” I finally find my voice to ask.
“Jackson, Illinois. It’s a small town, about the same size as ours, but a reasonable commute from Rockford. That’s where I’ll be working. It’s about an hour west of Chicago.”
“There aren’t any mountains in Illinois,” I say.
Dad looks sad for a moment. “True. But it’s really green and pretty out there, and there’s a lake not far from the house we’re buying where you’ll be able to swim and kayak.”
“On a lake?” I ask.
Besides climbing mountains, my parents have always done whitewater kayaking. They’ve always taken us rafting once the spring melt is done and the rivers are milder, but last summer I got my own kayak and practiced enough that they let me do a few runs this spring while there was still some Class Three whitewater. I’m not interested in being a fourteener, but kayaking those rapids was a rush.
“What about skiing?” asks Rose.
She’ll be in fourth grade next year. In sixth grade, Colorado kids get free passes to world-class ski areas.
“I can’t kid you on that one,” says Dad. “There are some ski areas close enough to go to, but they measure vertical drop in feet, not meters.”
“That’s because Illinois has no mountains,” I say.
Dad’s not looking nearly as happy as he was, and that obviously bothers Mom, so she starts talking it up.
“It’s going to be an adventure,” she says. “We’ll have to try out cross-country skiing. I’ve only done it a few times, but it’s a real workout. And I’m sure with all that water we can find some rivers for the kayaks. It doesn’t have to be Class Four to be fun. And we’ll be meeting new people, making new friends. And while your father may not be able to get away much, I’ll bring you girls back here to visit in the summers.”
“Are you going to work?” I ask.
Mom’s had a part time job at the elementary school since Rose started kindergarten.
“I’m going to look for something once we’ve settled in,” she says. “We have two kids to put through college, you know.”
“We’re leaving for Disneyland tomorrow?” asks Rose.
“Yup,” says Dad. “Your friends will be ready for us first thing in the morning.”
It’s dawning on me that the main reason for Dad to take this job is money for college for me and Rose, so I need to stop whining and get with the program.
“With internet and Skype, it’ll be easy to keep our friends here,” I say. “It’ll be cool, trying out a new place and making new friends.”
Mom looks relieved. Dad gives me a big grin.
“Yup,” he says. “This way you won’t be so lost when you go off to college, either. I was miserable my freshman year, because I’d never had to make new friends before and I’d never lived anywhere but here. There’s a whole world out there and lots of different kinds of places.”
There are a lot of things I think, but do not say, like he chose to come back to his home town. So did Mom. Neither of them has ever shown interest in travel outside Colorado. That’s part of why their trip seemed so strange. They don’t even go into Denver much. We go to Grand Junction for school clothes and special stuff like my dress for the dance, and Grand Junction may be a city, but it’s not a big one.
Of course, they say we’re moving into a town not much bigger than ours, which means about seven thousand people, so it shouldn’t be that crazy. My school should be about the same size. Maybe it won’t be that bad. And meantime, we’re going to California!
The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.