“I see your true-”
“I swear if you don’t stop…”
“Enough, already, Crystal. I’m warning you. Don’t -”
“You really just can’t help yourself, can you?” Derek let out a sigh of exasperation.
“Sorry, Der’,” Crystal laughed, “I’m performing ‘True Colors’ tomorrow, and I need to practice. You’ll just have to deal, bro.” She cleared her throat, preparing to begin again.
Her brother rose from the couch, “Fine. But you’re being selfish. I have to study for my chemistry test. That’s tomorrow, too, ya know.” He rolled his eyes, strolling across the room. “But, you’re right,” he quipped before walking out, “you do need practice.” He snickered and rushed off before the book she launched at him could meet its target.
“Stupid idiot,” she muttered under her breath. Taking a deep breath she began again, “You with the sad eyes…”
She sang the song another three times through, trying altering variations on the melody each time. Finally, she heard her mother’s familiar voice calling out, “Crystal! Derek! Time for dinner!”
Hannah Pennbroke was a single mother, working two jobs to support her children, yet she still managed to have a home-cooked meal on the table every night – even if she wasn’t always there to enjoy it, too. The trio happily dined over the baked chicken and greens. Derek and Crystal continued their sibling rivalry, poking fun at and bickering back and forth with each other.
When dinner was through Derek and Crystal went to their rooms, while Hannah got ready for her night shift at the gas station on the corner. ‘True Colors’ came on over the piped-in radio while she stocked the freezers, and Hannah stopped and smiled, still holding a bottle of V8 juice. She was excited for the next day. Derek was sure to pass his test with flying colors, and Crystal’s angelic voice would soon be echoing throughout the high school auditorium for all to hear. As a mother, she couldn’t be prouder of her kids.
Six A.M. finally came. Hannah clocked out and headed home to get Crystal and Derek up and ready for school. By nine A.M., they were among the throng of students wandering the halls of the large building. Hannah headed back home, determined to catch at least a few hours’ sleep before she was due to start her shift at her second job. As she arrived and entered her bedroom, the exhaustion hit her like a rocket. She crawled on top of her blankets and was out in seconds.
She felt she’d just closed her eyes when the shrill ringing of her phone’s alarm woke her. Time for round two. Again, she dressed for work – this time at the dollar store down the road. She stuck her name-tag pin into the yellow and red uniform shirt, threw her hair into a messy bun, and headed off. She was thankful to only be working a half-shift today. It’d been hard-won, but Hannah had refused to budge. There was no way she was going to miss Crystal’s performance after school.
Most of the day went by uneventfully; Hannah was a fast clerk, so her line never was very long, and the hours slipped by rather quickly. Just before four P.M., she approached her boss for confirmation to clock out.
“Hi, Janice. I just wanted to let you know I’ll be ready to clock out in about five minutes, okay?” She gave a smile.
“What? Why?” Janice looked mildly shocked.
“Um, I cleared this with you last week. My daughter’s performing at the high school tonight.”
“Oh, right, right. Well, I’m afraid I can’t spare you. Nedra called in sick again, so I don’t have anyone to cover the register.”
Hannah began to feel her blood boil, “I have to be there, Janice. Please. Can’t you call someone in?”
“Not on this short of notice.”
“I told you about this last week. And you agreed I could go. How is that short notice?!”
Janice’s brows jumped for the ceiling, “Lower your voice, please. There’s no need to yell.”
“Sorry,” Hannah mumbled, “but, really, Janice. I can’t miss this.”
“I’m sorry, too, Hannah. It’s out of my hands. You can clock out for your five-minute break, and then return to your station or find yourself another job.”
Hannah bit her lip, livid. Leaning forward, she placed her hands on Janice’s cluttered desk and whispered, “I quit.” She felt the blood drain from her face and fought against the inner turbulence she’d created in her mind. She really couldn’t afford to quit. But, her children needed her more.
“You can’t quit,” Janice sneered, exposing her true character. “You and I both know you need this job.”
Hannah began backing out of the room before her confidence betrayed her, “You’re a terrible person, Janice. Good luck working the register alone tonight.” Hannah spun on her heel and marched out of the office. Heading out to her car, she glanced over her shoulder and saw Janice watching her from the front doors. Sliding into her car, she rolled down the window just enough to stick out her hand and flip off her ex-boss.
The drive home was the most liberating she’d ever had. She knew she’d have to buckle down and find another job. But she was a tough, competent woman. She’d manage. Now, all her thoughts were centered on picking up Derek for their mother-son date at Crystal’s performance. Dashing to their house, Hannah cleaned up, applied a bit of makeup, and donned a stylish flared skirt and poncho blouse. She headed down the hall and tapped on her son’s door. He opened it and she gushed with pride at how handsome he looked in his tawny three-piece suit.
“Mom, come on…”
“What? I didn’t say anything.”
“You didn’t have to. You’re, like, beaming or whatever. Gross.”
“Well, I can’t help it if I love my kids.” She flipped a piece of dirty-blonde hair out of Derek’s eyes, “How’d your test go?”
“I dunno. Fine, I guess.”
“You aced it. I know you did.”
“Yeah, probably,” he chuckled, “we ready? It starts in twenty minutes.”
“Yeah, let’s go. I’m so excited!”
“Really,” came Derek’s sarcastic tones, “couldn’t tell.”
“Oh, you hush. Let a mother be proud.”
The two walked out to the car and quickly made the short drive over to the school. The auditorium was jam-packed. It seemed every student and their extended families were there. Crystal’s wasn’t the only performance, so the night was sure to be long and entertaining. Mother and son laughed along with the budding comedians, watched in awe as the computer club put on a breathtaking spectral display using CGI, and, finally, stood tall and cheering as Crystal took the stage.
Her velvety, lilting voice immediately captivated the crowd, “You with the sad eyes. Don’t be discouraged…”
Hannah held her breath, silent tears of joy streaming down her face. Derek looked over at his mother, shaking his head, but even he couldn’t hide his pride. Crystal was absolutely mesmerizing. Her silvery, sequined gown sent a thousand prisms dancing across the dome room, subtly moving with her as she sang.
“Your true colors are beautiful, like a rainbow~.”
As she sang the last line a heavy silence hung in the air before a raucous din exploded throughout the room. Thunderous applause, ear-piercing whistles, and calls for an encore met the end of her song. Hannah stood in the crowd, crying and screaming incoherently, “That’s my baby! That’s my girl!”
Even Derek had gotten caught up in the spirit of the moment and could be heard shouting, “Go, Crystal! That’s my sister!”
After all was said and done, the threesome united around their kitchen table one more time. They shared a pint of cookie dough ice cream, passing around a bottle of chocolate syrup. Hannah had decided not to tell her kids about losing her job. Nothing mattered in this moment except being together. All in all, it was a good day.
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