Maggie's Turn

By: Deanna Lynn Sletten

Chapter One

It had not been a good morning at the Harrison household. At least not for Maggie. Her nineteen-year-old son, Kyle, had slept in late, which meant he was late showering and would be late to one of the four college courses he was intent upon failing. Because he was running behind, her fourteen-year-old daughter, Kaia, was late getting ready for school, which meant Maggie's husband, Andrew, had to rush to shower for work. And, of course, Maggie had to rush too since she was always the last person to use the bathroom.

Kaia was pouting and stomping around, because she'd wanted to get to school early to "hang" with her friends. Kyle rolled his eyes as he went out the door to his rusted pickup truck, mumbling that it really didn't matter if he made it to class or not. And Andrew ran through his schedule with Maggie as he rushed out the door to work.

"Remember, I have a seven o'clock meeting tonight, so make sure dinner is on time so I'm not late," he instructed Maggie and was gone a second later.

All Maggie had time for was one long sigh as she slipped a light sweater over her head, pulled on khaki pants, and grabbed her short, red wool jacket and purse, then ran out the door, hoping Kaia wouldn't be late for school.

Maggie stole a glance at her sulking daughter as she maneuvered her minivan through the morning traffic. Kaia was a pretty girl with long, thick auburn hair and brilliant blue eyes. Her clear skin was still lightly tanned from summer vacation. She'd be even prettier, Maggie thought, if she'd smile once in a while. Maggie couldn't remember the last time she'd seen Kaia smile. Or joke, or tease. It seemed, in one instant, she'd gone from a happy, young girl to a sulking teenager. But Maggie couldn't complain. Despite Kaia's constant irritation with her, she was a good student, had nice friends, and wasn't a troublemaker. Maggie knew she was fortunate for that. Both her children had turned out to be decent people, if not a little confused about life. But who wasn't confused at their ages? Fourteen and nineteen weren't easy. Maggie tried to understand and give them room to figure things out, but sometimes, it was so difficult. Kyle had gone from a high school honor graduate to a flunking college student, and he didn't seem to care one bit. All he seemed to enjoy was his part-time job at the local motorcycle shop. Seven-fifty an hour seemed fine to him. He had no financial obligations other than keeping gas in his pickup and going out with friends. Maggie sometimes wondered how he thought he'd make it on his own without a decent education, but she forced herself not to obsess over it. She had so many other things she could choose to worry about.

The traffic was heavy despite the fact that Woodroe was a small, northern Minnesota town of about twenty thousand people. Maggie couldn't help but sigh again as she followed the parade of parents in minivans and SUVs in a rush to drop their children off at school. It was only the third week of school, and she was already tired of the morning traffic in and out of the much-too-small middle school parking lot. There was no doubt at all in Maggie's mind, parents in minivans and SUVs were the worst drivers on the planet. She found herself in near-accidents at least three times daily upon entering or driving through the parking lot. Everyone had somewhere better to be and needed to get there faster than the next person. It was the same old story, year after year.

Maggie followed the other parents in the long line entering the parking lot, waiting her turn to drop Kaia off at the front entrance. Country music blared from the minivan's speakers—Kaia's choice. Maggie always let Kaia choose the music when they rode together. It was much easier than fighting over the radio. Soon enough, Maggie would be able to pop in the CD of her choice as she headed home.

"I'm sorry we couldn't get here earlier," Maggie offered, as they pulled up in front of the school and stopped.

"Whatever," Kaia said under her breath, as she gathered her book bag and tennis racket. "Remind Dad to pick me up after tennis practice tonight," were her last words before slamming the van's door and stalking off. She didn't give her mother time to say goodbye or even wish her a good day.

Maggie tried not to take it personally, but her heart felt heavy as she turned AM to CD on the stereo and listened to Bob Seger sing "Roll Me Away", a song about escaping down a western highway on his big two-wheeler. Maggie had bought the CD on a whim two weeks ago, remembering how much she'd loved listening to Seger years ago, before marriage, before kids, and before life took control of her instead of the other way around. His music had a freeing effect, and she'd been listening to it continuously ever since.

Maggie dutifully followed the line of cars out of the parking lot to go home. She was relieved she didn't have to work today. Three days a week, she worked at a group home with developmentally challenged adults. It was gratifying working with her challenged friends, and she enjoyed it, but sometimes, it was exhausting meeting their needs all day, then going home to care for the needs of her family. Lately, she'd felt overwhelmed by it all—home, work, Andrew, and the kids. There never seemed to be a break in everyone's needs and wants.

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