Fish Tacos

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“Fallon? Where do you want me to put these?”

“Over by the Azaleas, please.”

“Will do!”

No sooner had her assistant placed the newest flowers than the front door opened.

“Courtney! Hi! What brings you by today?”

“Hi, Mrs. Gregory. I need a boutonniere for Stone,” the pretty 18-year old high school senior told the mother of her boyfriend.

“Yeah, I kinda thought that’s why you stopped in,” the shop’s owner said with a smile. “Do you have something specific in mind or could I maybe you show some possible options?”

“No. Nothing specific. If you could help me that’d be fantastic,” Courtney told her.

“Well, this is your lucky day. I not only have time, I have quite a few beautiful choices. I still have a few amazing Tulips if that interests you! Come on. Let’s see if we can find something that catches your eye.”

In less than ten minutes, Courtney had not only made her choice, Fallon Gregory had her assistant quickly set out the filler greenery for the background that would showcase the gorgeous yellow tulip she’d selected.

“I wasn’t expecting preferential treatment, Mrs. Gregory,” her young customer told her.

“Nonsense! If you’re dating my handsome son, you’re like family, and families take care of each other. And call me Fallon, for goodness sakes!”

Courtney paid using her mom’s credit card and after another thank you and a brief hug, another satisfied customer left Fallon’s Floral Boutique with a beautiful boutonniere in hand and a smile on her face.

The smile faded from Fallon’s face, however, almost as soon as Courtney was outside. It was asking too much of her to pretend she was happy after saying what she’d just said. She knew firsthand that family didn’t always take care of family. Were that true, she wouldn’t be 51 years old and raising her only son by herself since right after his twelfth birthday. Her ex-husband, Jerome, had waited until two days after Stone’s birthday party that year to inform her, and then their son, that he was leaving them.

To say she was caught off guard was an understatement in the extreme. She’d been floored by the sudden revelation, and now, some six years later, she was still dealing with the aftermath of learning that her former business partner, and former co-owner of the shop which then was open under a different name, had been having an affair with her husband right under her nose.

Fallon wasn’t naive, but she’d been trusting to a fault. Never once did it occur to her that her two best friends, her husband, Jerome, and Alaina Maris, could be secretly meeting during long lunches and whenever else getting together was possible. Somehow they’d pulled it off flawlessly leaving Fallon and Stone as so much wreckage in their wake.

Alaina agreed to sell her half of the business to Fallon provided she didn’t contest the divorce. Custody was never an issue as her former partner had no interest in children let alone having one who would be a teenager not long after she and Jerome would be starting their new lives together.

To his credit, Jerome helped her fund the purchase of the shop, but that, too, came with a price. She could either have child support for another six years, or a no-interest loan worth quite a bit more than the amount she’d receive in monthly payments. Since Stone and the business were all she had left, it was an easy choice.

She waived her right to child support in court and took the loan. From then on, Fallon shouldered the rest of the financial load by herself. Jerome still occasionally contributed here and there, but only when Stone wanted to attend baseball camp or times like this week when he was doing something special like taking his girlfriend to the senior prom. Jerome would shell out a few hundred dollars here and there hoping that would somehow compensate for his near total lack of interest in his son’s life after virtually abandoning him six years ago.

In spite of her ex-husband’s neglect, their son had grown up to become a very polite, very well-mannered young man who had his father’s brains and his mother’s looks. That wasn’t to say Fallon wasn’t a smart woman as she’d done a superb job running her business. But Jerome was chemical engineer and Einstein smart while Fallon had been gorgeous and was still a very attractive woman.

Even at 51, Fallon Gregory looked closer to 40 and many said 35, and that had made the divorce even harder. At 45, when he’d left her, she was definitely as hot as any woman in her early 30s with a body that matched her beautiful face. Her skin was firm and tight and her long, very-dark hair was thick yet soft and silky.

Fallow was aware that much of it was genetics, something that was completely out of her control. Her mother, who was now 75, had only really started showing her age after turning 70. Even now, she also looked remarkably good for someone closing in on 80.

The rest of it was the result of a total abstinence from tobacco, a near total absence from alcohol, and a lifetime of healthy Gölbaşı Escort eating coupled with regular exercise which regularly included yoga, aerobics, and swimming.

Even so, her husband had left her for a woman who was fifteen years her junior, and admittedly, a very attractive woman herself. Alaina wasn’t any better looking than Fallon, she was just someone new. Someone…different.

Coming back to the comment she’d made to Courtney, Fallon had to admit the hurt was still there no matter how she looked or what she’d done to keep herself in superb shape. In the end, it was all for naught, and she’d been abandoned in spite of all those years of hard work and self sacrifice.

She was also well aware she’d more than done her part where marital intimacy was involved. Jerome had never wanted where making love was concerned, and Fallon was as open-minded as a woman could be about doing the kinds of things her husband liked. The truth was, she’d enjoyed them as much as him, and that kind of intimacy was one of the things she missed the most about being married.

She’d tried dating starting a year or so after Jerome moved out, but after giving it a full two-year ‘go’ without meeting anyone she found interesting enough to pursue, she made a conscious decision to stop dating and threw herself into her work and her fitness routine, and a new online blog she’d started and very much enjoyed.

The shop had been doing okay, but after that it began making some real money for her, and she’d recently expanded the shop to sell other items besides flowers, vases, and cards. They were now bringing in almost as much as the flowers themselves.

She also fully got involved in Stone’s life trying her best to become mother, father, and best friend to the boy who soon realized his father’s ‘love’ consisted of empty promises, the occasional phone call, and a check each year on his birthday.

Fallon threw out all the rules and gave Stone the kind of freedom kids in college had and yet he’d never abused it and had turned out quite well. Fallon prided herself for being a ‘hands-off’ parent who believed in being a best friend to her son rather a rigid, rule-setting tyrant—like Jerome.

That hadn’t been a huge problem area between her and her ex-husband, but once he moved out, she felt, looking back, that it was just so…unnecessary.

On those rare occasions when he did spend time with their son, Fallon bristled every time Jerome imposed some kind of punishment for the slightest violation of any of the seemingly-endless rules he made their son live under.

She now took great delight in his having become such a fine young man in spite of her very lax style of parenting. Stone had nonetheless become a very pleasant, universally-liked young man.

What never crossed her mind was that the nearly twelve years of consistent discipline, which was never harsh, but always administered with love, had served to shape her son’s personality. As a result, he was still very much rule-oriented, a fact lost on his doting mother who wasn’t about to give her ex-husband an ounce of credit.

Her new issue with rules-oriented parenting was a common topic in her locally-popular online blog published under the screen name “The Stone-Cold Truth”. Other than her son, and her assistant, Beth, who’d just done a bang-up job on Courtney’s boutonniere, no one knew who the author of the blog was. But they did know she lived in their hometown of Auburn, Washington, located about 25 miles nearly due south of Seattle, and that she claimed to be a loving, caring mother of a ‘wonderful high-school senior on his way to college’ in the Fall.

The blog had a fairly large local following and had even picked up quite a few followers from around the country, and Fallon did her best to post something each night of the week sharing her thoughts on love, life, and parenting with the occasional rant about men.

She loved the quiet time where she could sit and compose her thoughts then share them with her readers. It was also another way to fill the void of spending nights alone in the beautiful home she was getting close to paying off—just like the loan her ex-husband had given her six years ago. She was ‘cash poor’ but wanted to be out of debt more than she wanted a large bank account. She’d saved many thousands in interest charges by paying off the mortgage early while interest rates (and returns) were too low to tempt her to ‘invest the rest’. So she lived frugally now hoping to have more later on.

That evening, when the store was ready to close, Beth went through the security checklist making sure the doors were locked, the deadbolts turned, and the alarm system was on even though her boss was staying.

“Okay, Fallon. I’ll see you in the morning,” she told her boss.

“Thanks, Beth. And thanks for doing that boutonniere on the spot today.”

“My pleasure!” the pleasant, attractive, 25-year old told her. “Any idea what you’ll be blogging about tonight?”

“I’ve got a couple Gölbaşı Escort Bayan of ideas rattling around upstairs,” Fallon told her with a smile.

“I can’t wait to read it,” Beth told her.

That was true as Beth even though she didn’t really share Fallon’s views on parenting styles. What kept her interested was seeing the way Stone turned out, and that made her question her own belief that children should have rules and structure.

Beth reminded Fallon of herself many years ago when she, too, wanted nothing more than to find the right guy, get married, and start a family. Not many young, single, attractive men came to the shop, and Beth was too professional to flirt when they did, but Fallon knew she was always looking for Mr. Right.

She also did her best to find him for her boss, who, no matter how many times she told Beth she wasn’t interested, knew she was. No, Fallon would never admit it, but Beth knew she was lonely, so anytime she met or even heard of someone she thought might fit the bill, she’d start dropping hints; tactfully, of course, but drop them she did.

For the most part, those who followed Fallon’s blog felt the same way she did about her views on life and love, but disagreed on giving children ‘free reign’. In that area, they were more in line with Beth’s views; views never mentioned on Fallon’s blog.

There was the occasional criticism or even more rarely, a caustic remark, but those exceptions aside, Fallon’s blog was generally a safe haven of mutual support where likeminded people reinforced one another’s beliefs with the vast majority of her followers being women.

Lately, one of those rare exceptions had surfaced, and this particular reader had not only been critical of her ‘overly permissive’ parenting style, he’d gone out of his way to try and persuade her to see the ‘fallacy’ of being little more than a best friend to your children when, he claimed, it was a parent’s job to teach them respect for authority and that came from learning to follow rules.

Just thinking about this person, this…man…who ironically called himself ‘Good Cop-Bad Cop’ made her furious. Even the name got under her skin. It was meant to imply that he could not only be a rule setter and enforcer, but also a best friend. Fallon found those things mutually exclusive whereas this…man…insisted parents not only could be but must be both!

“I really like what you told ‘Good Cop-Bad Cop’ yesterday,” Beth said just before she walked out. She didn’t really like everything her boss had written, but she wanted to be supportive and well, it was only a little white lie.

“I’m sure none of it will sink into that thick head of his.”

“I wonder what a guy like that does for a living?” Beth mused.

“His poor wife. That’s what I think about!” Fallon quipped.

“Do you think he really is a police officer?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe even ex-military. Or both! He’s clearly not a deep thinker. Just someone who can only see rules and punishment.”

Fallon shook her head then shivered as she loudly said, “Ugh!”

Beth laughed politely then said, “Well, goodnight, Fallon. And good luck!”

She smiled, shook her head indicating she’d need it where ‘Cop’ was concerned then started running credit card receipts as she began thinking how to best respond to his latest diatribe.

It was just after 8pm when she was finally finished, and as Fallon got into her car she saw she had a text from Stone.

She smiled even before reading it knowing her son, free from the shackles of arbitrary rules, still always let her know what he was doing and when he’d be home.

“Hey, Mom. Hope you had a great day. Courtney and I are gonna go see a movie. I’ll be home by midnight. Love you! Oh, don’t forget tomorrow night is prom and I’ll be out late.”

She quickly tapped out her reply.

“Honey, you’ve never had a curfew. Just go and have fun and I’ll see you when you get home. I totally trust you, remember? Love you, too!”

At her house, Courtney heard the ‘ding’ and knew his mom had replied to his text.

“What’d she say?”

“She doesn’t care,” Stone told her in an empty-sounding voice.

“I’m sure she cares. She just trusts you.”

“I guess. I just wish she’d set some boundaries, you know? I mean, isn’t that what a parent’s supposed to do?”

Courtney shook her head and told him, “Most kids our age would give their right arm to have a mom like yours. I know I would.”

He put his phone away, smiled at his girlfriend then told her, “Yeah. I suppose you’re right. So…what do you wanna see tonight? Scary or romantic?”

“Let’s try something scary. Your mom is always watching the romantic stuff so I’ll give a break,” she told him sweetly before giving him a quick kiss. “Not that you watch it with her, but I know she’s into the Hallmark Channel and sappy romances big time.”

Stone smiled and said, “Yeah, she comes across all strong and self-sufficient, but I know she’s lonely.”

“Do Escort Gölbaşı you think she’ll ever get remarried?” Courtney asked.

“I don’t know, but I hope so. I’d even be okay with her living with someone. I just hate to think about her being totally alone when I leave, you know?”

“Yeah, I’ve thought about that, too. But I’m sure she knows what’s best for herself, right?”

Stone smiled at her, put his arms around her and said, “Did you know you’re awesome?”

“Yeah. Pretty much,” Courtney replied with a smile. “Come on. We don’t want to be late or we might miss a succubus doing whatever it is they do, and we can’t have that!”

******

“Don’t you like it, Daddy?”

“I…I love it, honey,” he told her.

“Then why are you crying?” she asked.

“I’m not crying, sweetie. I just like what you wrote on my card so much it kind of choked me up.”

“Well, you are my best friend in the whole world!” she told him echoing what she’d written in her best attempt at cursive writing.

Like many others, her school wasn’t teaching it anymore so her father was showing her how to write in longhand. It wasn’t pretty, but it was legible, and it had made him tear up. She’d waited all day to give him his card hoping it would cheer him up, and here he was getting emotional—again.

Before the death of his wife two years ago, the last time he ever cried was when he’d gotten beat up in the third grade. By a girl, no less. But since Sarah’s passing, he teared up often and easily. And when it came to his best friend, his daughter, Sophia, anything she said or did that was sweet or kind put a ‘hitch in his giddy up’.

“And you’re my best friend in the whoooole world!” he told her before grabbing her and hugging her and kissing her neck over and over as fast as he could.

Having just turned eight, she was on the verge of being ‘too old’ for that sort of thing, but as long as it was just the two of them, she still loved getting ‘all the kisses’ or whatever game they’d played when she was a ‘little’ girl—and her mother was still alive.

He knew that as much as he missed her, Sophia, or mostly just Sophie, missed her just as much or even more, if that was even possible. Now, all they had was each other, and they were as close as any father and daughter could be.

He waited for the giggling to stop then said, “Okay. You need to go do your reading now. Fifteen minutes tonight.”

She stopped smiling but wasn’t upset. She knew the rule. Fifteen minutes of reading every night except for Sunday. That was her ‘day of rest’. Even then she usually read anyway just because she loved reading so much.

“Okay, Daddy. Will you come tuck me in?”

He smiled knowing he’d tucked her in every night of her life since her mother passed away. But rather than remind her of that he said, “I sure will, sweetie.”

Twenty minutes later, he did tuck her in and said goodnight, and she wished him happy birthday again.

He thanked her before she said, “Daddy? Is 30 old?”

He tried not to laugh as he said, “No. It’s not old, honey. Why?”

“So does that mean you won’t die, too?” she asked in all seriousness.

He fought off another bout of misty eyes and assured her wasn’t going anywhere.

“Promise?” she asked, her eyes full of need.

“Promise,” he told her knowing he had no way of knowing what life might bring.

“I love you, Daddy,” she told him as she opened her little arms to hug him.

“I love you, more, Punkin’. Now go to sleep, okay?”

She grabbed her favorite stuffed animal, clutched it to her chest, then rolled over on her side and closed her eyes, and within two minutes she was sound asleep.

He went back downstairs then opened his laptop and went to his favorite new site. It wasn’t actually his favorite, it was just the one he seemed to spend most of his time on lately trying to convince some ditzy woman that being your child’s best friend was a recipe for disaster without some amount of rules. But was there any chance his sound advice would seep into her thick skull? Judging by what she’d written in response to his last reply, the answer was a resounding ‘no’!

He found their email exchange and settled in for another round of battle.

“Dear Cop,

I don’t know whether to feel more sorry for your children or your wife. My experience has been that rigid, inflexible people (like you) push their rigid, inflexible rules on everyone around them. Their worlds are nothing but black and white where everything is magically crystal clear. Something is either right or it’s wrong. Period. But that is not how the world works. It’s full of grays and uncertainty, but I wouldn’t expect someone like you to understand that.

Trying to have a thoughtful, intelligent discussion with someone that closed-minded (like you) is impossible. Gee, maybe that’s why I’m done trying to have one!

Signed,

Flower Girl”

“Flower Girl. How appropriate is that?” he snorted as he pictured a free-loving hippy type from the Woodstock era whose only mission in life was to break every rule and ‘take down the establishment’ as she took another toke on the bong then handed it to her child.

He sat there for a while mulling over what to say then began typing.

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