Short Story Prompt: Write a story incorporating the first day of school, a love note, and a recipe with a significant mistake. Thanks, Laur!

 

The Firefighter

 

The morning was stressful. The kids were all starting their respective first days of school, which meant varying degrees of mania. Alexandra was a brand new 7th grader and, naturally, obsessed with the “coolness” of her outfit and hair; Will was in 4th grade and currently in the “I don’t want to bathe” phase; and the baby, Rose, was no longer a baby and almost hyperactively excited about the first day of kindergarten. Nevertheless, Rebecca Morris was good at putting out fires. She was a pro. With ease and deep breaths, she was able to calm them down, get her son in the bathtub (not without a few bribes), and put each child on the bus before collapsing on the couch when it was all over.

Normally, post-collapse, she would get herself ready for the second part of the day, which involved getting the house in some sort of working order and other housework. However, with a smile on her face, she reminded herself that it was her first day of school, as well. Dragging herself off the couch, she ran up the stairs to get herself ready.

 

Perhaps, like Alexandra, she, too, was needlessly obsessed with the “coolness” of her outfit and hair. Having changed her clothes for the fifth time, she pulled them off and sat cross-legged on the ground, her head in her hands. She was an adult, for heaven’s sake. What was wrong with her? Or, did it have anything to do with the clothes?

Did she really believe this, going to school, would work? She was 38 years old, a mother of three, a wife—could years of putting out fires compare to what she was about to embark upon? When would she have time to help with homework and do her own? With shaky fingers, she reached for the cell phone on her dresser and dialed his office. “I don’t think I can do this,” she said when he picked up.

“Don’t psych yourself out,” Nathan replied, his warm voice instantly blanketing her senses. This is what it typically did, that voice. It was a salve.

“Too late,” she muttered, peering at herself in the mirror adjacent to her. “I’m currently sitting on the carpet, half-naked, and my hair looks like I fried it with the curling iron. This is ridiculous.”

“Babe, the interns in my office can barely spell their first names. I heard one of them ask whether Canada is considered a U.S. state since it’s close to Alaska.”

“Stop it,” she said, bubbling over with laughter.

“I’m serious. These are Harvard sophomores. You, by far, are the most intelligent person I know and you can do this.”

Rebecca sighed. “You’re sure?”

“100 percent sure. And I’m sorry I couldn’t help with the kids this morning.”

“Don’t apologize. You had to be at work at, what, dawn? You’ll get to be with them tomorrow morning.” She continued to gaze at herself in the mirror. Fried hair and half-naked, yes, but this was also the woman who introduced three human beings into the world. That counted for something. It counted for a lot, she reasoned. In that moment, a Master’s degree in Education seemed to pale in comparison.

“Up, up, up,” Nathan said gently.

She smiled and rose from the carpet. Moments later, she pulled out a pair of slacks and a blouse from her closet.

“Have a great day, love. And I left you something in the oven.”

“An apple pie for my professor? Actually, I have four classes today, so four apple pies?”

Nathan laughed. “No pies. I’ll grab Rose at 12 and bring her to the office. And we’ll be home before Alex and Will come in.”

“All right, dear. Thank you. I’ll call you later.”

“Please do.”

After ending the call, she finished getting dressed and pulled her hair into a loose ponytail. With a final glance in the mirror, she went downstairs and entered the kitchen.

Rebecca shook her head and chuckled as she pulled out a plastic bowl of fudge brownies from the oven. She deduced that he made them last night after she had fallen asleep; she had a vague memory of opening her eyes and wondering where he was. A note was taped to the cover of the bowl. Her stomach fluttering with anticipation, she opened it.

 

Remember last year when Alex ran out of glue for her school project? And you poured some flour in a pan, turned on the stove, and made her some homemade glue? I’ll never forget the look on her face when she came to me, her eyes wide and her mouth open, and said, “Daddy, Mom made glue. She can do everything.” So, Rebecca Ann Morris, you can do everything. Anything and everything. From glue to a Master’s degree to everything in between, I have no doubt that you can accomplish this goal of eventually becoming a teacher. Happy First Day of School, my love. I made these all by myself. Aren’t you proud?

 

            P.S. – I may have confused a teaspoon of salt with a tablespoon. It was 4AM. Eat with caution. I love you.

 

Despite her attempts to keep them at bay, tears budded in Rebecca’s eyes as she opened the plastic cover and pulled out a brownie. The sharp burst of salt that permeated her taste buds at first bite didn’t matter; she ate the brownie and licked a few vestiges of fudge from her finger when she was finished. After wrapping the rest of the brownies in foil and placing them in her bag, she turned and headed for the door.

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