Charles hung his head down as he pushed through the doorway. He didn’t know how he could face his wife and kids after losing his job. He was greeted by warm smiles and shouts of excitement he didn’t feel like he deserved. Mary had fried up some chicken and the delicious smell wafted to Charles’s nose immediately after he opened the front door. Even though it was his favorite dish, his stomach turned with the knowledge of the conversation he would have to have with her. And with little Stevie’s fifth birthday coming up, Charles almost teared up realizing he wouldn’t be able to afford that nice art set Stevie had been asking for.
“Daddy look what I drew for you!” Stevie shoved a finger painting of a blue and purple dog right under Charles’s nose.
“Wow that is so creative Stevie,” Charles mumbled, trying to fake enthusiasm. But Stevie saw right through it.
“Daddy what’s wrong? I thought my painting would make you happy. You’re never laughing anymore,” Stevie’s frown broke Charles’s heart. How could he be such a disappointment to such a loving family? All he wanted to do was raise happy kids and give them all the things he didn’t have growing up. Now it was looking less possible.
Mary gave Charles a kiss on the cheek and handed Annie to him. “She said her first word today! Can you guess what it was?” Mary was so joyous with her news. Charles wished he could feel that joy too, but all he felt was a heavy rock of guilt in his gut. Annie was going to need new clothes soon - she was growing everyday and all Charles did was miss her.
“She said ‘dada?’ Can you believe that! She hardly sees you and knows your name before mine!” Mary said with a laugh, which quickly ended when she saw the tear fall from Charles’s eye. “Honey what’s wrong? Did something happen at work?”
Charles finally lifted his head to look his wife in her big brown eyes. She instantly knew, without him having to say a word, and pulled out a chair for him to sit down. “Oh honey, I was so excited to tell you some great news I got today. I don’t know if this is the right time now,” she admitted. Charles put his face in his hand. He wanted to hide his tears and shame from his wife, but nothing escaped her.
“You hated that job so much. And I know how much you miss the children,” Mary lifted Charles’s chin up with her finger and smiled a sly smile. She was hiding something too. “So! I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure, but I got a job with that law firm! The kids are old enough to not need their mom around, and you know this was always my dream, but I figured I could finally pursue it!” Charles couldn’t believe it. The knots of disappointment in his stomach started to loosen.
“I fried up some chicken to celebrate this win, but I think we can also celebrate something else,” Mary always had a way to surprise Charles, but he didn’t know what else could be better news than her getting her dream job. “I think we can celebrate YOU getting your dream job too!” Mary stood up and put a big basket of steaming chicken in the center of the table.
Charles tried to muster up the courage to finally admit to his wife: “But Mary...I lost my--” She interrupted him with a finger to his lips.
“You can have your dream job of staying home with the kids and painting!” she exclaimed. “We were able to survive just fine off of your salary from the bank, but I’ll be making more than that - enough to provide you with all the art supplies you want!”
Charles started to tear up again. “Oh no now what’s wrong? I thought you would love that idea,” Mary frowned.
“So we can buy Stevie that art set for his birthday?” Charles asked. “And you’re not mad that I---” Mary shushed him once again.
“How can I be mad about us both getting our dream jobs?” Mary’s smile was so contagious Charles couldn’t help but start smiling too. “I get it. You’re crying tears of joy, right?” That made Charles laugh, which made Stevie come running into the kitchen.
“Daddy! You’re laughing again! I knew everything would be okay when Mommy made fried chicken!” Stevie exclaimed. Everyone laughed. Even little baby Annie let out a gurgle, which made everyone laugh even harder.