by Kathy De

The alarm sounded and in his usual manner, Vincent hopped from the bed and headed into the bathroom for a shower. Catherine groaned and rolled over, grateful for a few minutes more of sleep. Twenty minutes later, Vincent was getting dressed and looked amusedly at his sleeping wife.

“Catherine? You’ll be late.”

 She woke slowly and blinked in the soft light of morning. “Ugh!”

Vincent leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Sleepyhead, I’ll have breakfast ready when you come down.”  

“Okay,” she said quietly then groaned when she heard him in the hallway call out to their children. 

“Breakfast in forty five minutes.” 

Knowing, they wouldn’t dare ignore his wake up call, Catherine crawled from the bed and headed for the shower. When she got out, a steaming cup of coffee was waiting for her on the vanity.  

“Oh, I love him!” she gushed as she grabbed for the mug.  

She quickly dried her hair and applied her makeup then put on comfortable clothes for her long day. 

She entered the kitchen and saw Vincent frying bacon and scrambling eggs. The table was already set and favorite juice preferences were poured and sitting in glasses in front of each person’s place setting.  

Catherine kissed him on the cheek then poured herself another cup of coffee.

“Vincent, I’ve never been able to figure out where your energy comes from.”

“Today’s a busy day for the children. I want them to be ready for it.”

Catherine sighed as she sat down at the table. “I remember when this was my favorite day of the year. My dad would take the day off and we would go to breakfast and spend the whole day shopping for back to school clothes and then he would take me to dinner in the park.” 

“It’s a wonderful memory to have, one I could only dream of having…” 

His sadness carried over the bond and she looked at him curiously. “You want to take the kids back to school shopping?” 

“I want to share their excitement in the discovery of new things and then their dreams of all the possibilities of the coming days at school.” 

Catherine chuckled as she shook her head. “I wish it could be just like you described!” 

“It isn’t?” 

While they were talking, Jacob had walked in and sat down. “No!” he said as he continued to read his book. He unceremoniously grabbed his glass of juice and gulped it down.

Vincent looked proudly at their handsome, sandy blond haired, blue eyed eighteen year old. “How is it, Jacob?” 

Jacob looked up as he set his book down on the counter behind him. “Busy, kids are screaming and rolling in the aisles, people are grabbing for stuff…ugh!” 

Vincent looked at Catherine and cocked his head to the side. “You’ve always described it like a dream…”

Catherine grimaced. “That’s because my poor father was a saint! He would sit through eight hours of me trying on clothing and pretend the entire time that he was having the time of his life.” 

“Perhaps he was.” 

Jacob laughed aloud. “No, I think Mom’s right; he should’ve been Father of the Year.” 

Their seventeen year old twins walked into the room and sat down as well. Their hair was closer to the shade of their fathers but they had their mother’s green eyes. 

“Good morning, Devin and Charles.” Vincent greeted as he refilled Jacob’s glass. 

“Good morning,” they grumbled in unison. 

Catherine knew they were more like her in the mornings and smiled indulgently. “Are you guys are up for this today?” 

“Do we have a choice?” Devin asked hopefully. 


“Then I guess we’re up for it,” Charles answered. 

While Vincent began to set the food platters on the table, their youngest son, Joseph walked in. 

“Joseph,” Vincent greeted.

Joseph nodded at him then turned to his mother. “Why do we have to get up so early today?” 

Catherine looked at the rumpled mess of her fifteen year old son as he stood in front of her and knew he had just crawled out of bed then headed to the kitchen, she clamped down on her disapproval. 

“It’s back to school shopping day, Squirt.” Jacob explained. 

Joseph’s face fell. “Today? I wanted to play ball with the guys!” 

Vincent clasped him gently on the shoulder and pushed him towards his chair. “Well, your mother gave you this date two weeks ago.  Your game will have to be postponed until tomorrow, won’t it?” 

“Yes…” Joseph grumbled disappointedly. 

“After breakfast perhaps you can change your shirt to one without ketchup stains and do something with that hair?” Catherine suggested.

Joseph had started eating bacon and thoughtlessly patted his hair trying to pat it down. He ended up wiping his greasy hands on his hair and Catherine rolled her eyes.

“Probably after your shower.”

Devin and Charles grinned at their younger brother as they ate.

Breakfast was almost over as Carrie, their youngest, breezed into the room.

Vincent dropped his toast as he looked for the first time at his daughter’s beautiful new look. “Caroline!”

“Good morning, Daddy.” she gushed as she kissed his cheek.

At fourteen, she had blossomed over the summer and begged Catherine to take her to a salon. Being she was the only girl, Catherine allowed it and had taken her to a favorite salon that was owned by a helper. Carrie’s long hair was just like Vincent’s but the stylist had taught her how to tame it into beautiful shining curls and how to expertly apply her make-up.

Catherine looked on with disapproval. “I thought we agreed that make-up was only for special occasions!”

“But Mommy, it’s back to school shopping day! What could be more special than spending the day together? I only wish Daddy could come.”

Vincent smiled indulgently at her. “I wish I could come too, Angel.”

Devin gasped. “Tell me you’re not buying that drivel?”

Carrie tilted her head to the side and looked sweetly at her brother. “Being that you’re one of my favorite brothers, Devin, you already know it’s not drivel.”

Charles knew Carrie was using her charms the same as she had for all fourteen years of her life and grinned at her. “Leave her alone, Dev, Carrie loves us all equally and we’ve known since the day she was born who Dad’s favorite is…”

Vincent did love his daughter the best but had always assumed it was because she was the youngest and only girl; he frowned as he realized that he may not have hidden that fact from his boys and he quickly looked at his four sons. “I do love you all equally.”

“Sure ya do, pops.” Devin said as he carried his plate to the sink.

Jacob grabbed another piece of bacon and popped it into his mouth as he followed suit. “When are we leaving, Mom?”

“As soon as Carrie eats her breakfast…”

“I’m ready,” Carrie announced.

“You haven’t eaten anything yet, Carrie.” Vincent pointed out.

“I just had a piece of toast!”

“That’s not a proper breakfast!” Catherine reprimanded.

Carrie shot to her feet and turned around. “Look at my butt it’s huge!”

“Your butt is not huge, Carrie, eat.” Vincent demanded.

“My stomach’s upset and I think I’m getting my period.”

Devin coughed. “On that note, I’m outta here, I’ll be on the computer.”

Vincent had blushed and turned away as Charles groaned and got up from the table. “Four boys weren’t enough?? Who’s idea was it to have a girl?!”

Catherine ignored everyone’s comments and pointed at the eggs as she looked at Carrie. “Protein…choose…one or the other but you will eat something other than a piece of toast!”

“Can I have a yogurt?”

Catherine rolled her eyes and Carrie knew she had won. Vincent stood and grabbed her favorite kind from the door of the refrigerator and handed her a spoon. “Thanks, Daddy!”

“You’re welcome, Angel,” he said as he started to clean.

Catherine turned to Joseph and grimaced at the eggs clinging to the side of his face as watched as he gobbled up the last of the food. “Shower…quick!”

Joseph nodded and stood as he swallowed down the last of his milk, then wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

Jacob helped Vincent clear off the table. “Still wish you were going?”

“Yes, Jacob actually I do.”

“Hey, why don’t I take the video camera and tape the day, then you can watch it later tonight.”

Vincent visibly brightened. “I wouldn’t have to miss it then. Yes, Jacob, thank you!”

Jacob left to get the camera ready and Catherine came over and grabbed Vincent around the waist. “Now you can experience my day first hand.”

“It will be a wonderful memory to share. I wish we had thought of it sooner. This is Jacob’s last year to shop…it would have been nice to look back over the years and see them grow.”

Catherine kissed him sweetly. “I love how you’re still so naïve about some things.”

Ten minutes later, Catherine called out and the kids followed her out to the car. They went to their favorite department store where Catherine knew they would be able to get all of their shopping done.

When the kids were young, Catherine made a rule that you could find whatever you liked but you had to get two of them, one for yourself and one for someone Below. Catherine was also careful to make sure the sizes were spread out so that all children Below were able to enjoy new things as well and her kids learned about generosity. Father didn’t like it at first but when he saw how excited his grandchildren were about sharing their treasures he relented.

As was their usual fashion they headed to the men’s department first.

Charles offered to video while Jacob looked around first. Within ten minutes, Jacob was back and his items were in a basket.

Catherine’s eyes rose in surprise as she looked at the items. “You’re done?”

“Six pairs of jeans, three for me three of various sizes for someone Below. Eight t-shirts, four for me four for Below. Eight sweatshirts, four for me four for Below.”

“Are you sure they’ll fit?”

“I got various sizes, one of them will fit.”

“And these are truly what you like?”

“Mom! This isn’t my first time doing this! I wouldn’t have picked them up if I didn’t like them.”

Catherine sighed as she eyed his choices and decided he made good ones.  “All right, your turn Charles, Devin’s already looking.”

Charles and Devin took marginally longer but they were each back within twenty minutes as well. Catherine approved their choices and all of their stuff was dumped into the basket as well.

She turned to look for Joseph who was sitting on a mannequins feet as he was texting one of his friends. “Joseph, what did you find?”


Catherine took a deep breath as she tried to control her frustration. “Let’s go to your department. Charles, could you please go with Carrie and let her get a start on her shopping?”

“Sure Mom, let’s go Car.”

“Yes!” Carrie said excitedly as she ran ahead of him.

Joseph lagged behind while Catherine wove through the racks of clothes. She finally stopped and held up a pair of jeans. “So do you like these?”

“I guess.”

“Well, go try them on.”

“They’ll fit.”

“Try them on, Joseph!”

Joseph rolled his eyes and went into the changing room. Catherine heard him grunting as she leaned forward. “Are they too small?”

“No!” he gasped as Devin walked up to stand by Catherine.

Catherine turned to him. “I don’t want to embarrass him, can you please take this next size to him?”

“Sure!” Devin nodded and walked in. “Dude, which room you in?”

Joseph stuck his foot out as Devin walked up to his room. “Here’s the next size up.”

“These fit!”

“Yeah, can you sit down in them?”


“Open the door, I want to see you sit down.”

Joseph did as he was told and tried to sit down when the jeans pinched him and he shot to his feet.

“Hurts when it cuts into the package doesn’t it?” Devin grinned wickedly. “Mom was trying to save you the pain of that but since you decided to give her so much trouble I thought I’d let you learn the hard way.”

Joseph looked embarrassed and took the next size up and quickly threw them on. He sat again but much slower this time and was satisfied with the fit.

He came out and sheepishly looked at Catherine. “These fit good Mom, thanks!”

Catherine smiled at him. “You’re welcome, honey.” She held up several shirts for him to choose from. “What do you think of these?”

Joseph sighed and looked at her. “Do I have to try them on?”


“Then I like them.”

Catherine rolled her eyes. “You haven’t even looked at them!”

Joseph rolled his eyes as well and gasped when he viewed her choices. “I can’t wear a shirt with a cartoon character on it!”

“You did last year!”

“That was last year!”

Another sigh escaped her lips at Catherine pointed at the racks. “Then choose something or you’ll wear what I buy.”

Joseph shot into the racks of clothes and took about ten minutes before he came back. He held up his choices and Catherine nodded before he added them to his basket.

Knowing he was the one son that would regret his choices later, she questioned one particular choice as he held it up. “I’m not sure about that one…” 

“Mom, it’s cool! Look at the pattern on the back and then how it’s over the pocket on the front!”

He seemed adamant about it so she nodded her approval. “All right, if you’re sure.”

Joseph dumped his choices in the basket then turned from her and grumbled. “Now to the dungeon.”

“What?” Catherine asked.

“Carrie! Watching her is going to be like sitting in a torture chamber.”

He left and Devin smiled at her. “Maybe it won’t be that bad.”

Jacob laughed. “Ha! Joseph was just the beginning, wait until you see Carrie’s choices!”

Knowing she would be directly addressing Vincent, Catherine sighed and looked pointedly at the camera. “He’s right; this is where the fun begins!”

Catherine frowned as she saw Charles leaning against the racks across from Carrie’s department. “Where’s your sister?”

“In there!”

“Charles, you were supposed to watch what she chose!”

“Mom! The first thing she did was hold up a bra!”

Catherine rolled here eyes. “That’s because she knew if you saw that you’d leave her alone!”

“I’ve been watching her! She had about seventy shirts when she went into the changing rooms.”

Devin and Joseph groaned as Catherine sighed. “Why don’t you three go look for shoes while I save your father from having a heart attack!”

Devin, Charles and Joseph almost ran from her, grateful to be away from what was soon going to be like the front line of a war zone.

Jacob grinned as he looked at Catherine and gave her a mock salute. “Ready for battle, sir!”

Catherine gave him a withering look then turned to go to the changing rooms. “Carrie?”

Hoping she would have more time alone to make her choices, Carrie asked disgustedly, “Mom! Is Joseph done already!”

“And Devin and Charles are done?”

“Yes!” Jacob called back.

“You too?”


“Aww, come on! I need more time!”

“No one is rushing you, sweetheart,” Catherine soothed.


“I do have to leave for college next August,” Jacob teased.

“Real funny!”

“Have you found anything yet?”

“Yeah, a few things, can you come get the ones I don’t want?”


Catherine walked in and Carrie opened her door and handed her about ten shirts for one hand and another ten for the other. Catherine’s eyebrows rose in surprise but she took them out and hung them on the reject rack outside the door. She gasped when Carrie came out with another armful.

Jacob groaned and sat down on a chair outside the rooms.

A few minutes, later Carrie called out again. “Mom, I really love this shirt can you see if you can get me a smaller size. They’re to the left on the back wall.”

“Sure, honey.”

Catherine grabbed the shirt and started to walk through the store. She glanced down and frowned then looked at the size. Assuming she had misunderstood, she walked back. “Carrie, did you say to get a bigger size?”

“No, I said smaller.”


“Mom, it’s huge!”

Catherine held up the shirt to the camera, while Jacob’s eyes rose in disbelief.

“Huge!” Catherine said into the camera.

“Mom, she can’t wear that!”

Catherine shot him another withering look. “You think?!”

“Carrie, take this shirt and put it on, I want to see it.”

Catherine threw the shirt over the top of the door. “It’s too big!” Carrie complained.

“I want to see!”

“All right, I’m almost done anyway…”

“Why don’t you give me the items that you’ve chosen and I’ll throw them in the basket.”

Carrie handed her the ones that she chose and as Catherine walked towards the basket and viewed her choices, she felt her anger rise.

Jacob groaned as he prepared for the battle.

Catherine marched back and knocked loudly on the door. “I want to see ALL of these on you!”


“I see them first or I don’t buy them.”


Carrie’s disgust was evident as she grabbed the clothes and slammed the door to her changing room.

Jacob turned the camera towards himself and grinned. “And so it begins…” He glanced at his brothers making their way through the department. “Just in time,” he announced.

He quickly stood and went off to the side so he could encompass everyone’s reactions.

Catherine chewed her lip and her arms were folded in front of her as she waited for the inevitable.

Carrie came out wearing her favorite pair of shorts and what was actually a really cute top.

“I like the top, honey, but the shorts look a little snug…”

“They fit good, Mom!”

She lifted the waist band of her shirt and showed her how well the shorts fit in the waist.

“Turn around,” Jacob chuckled.

Carrie shot him a look dripping with hatred.

“Billboard!” Charles sighed.

Catherine looked at him with a question in her eyes then turned curiously towards Carrie. “Turn around.”

Knowing the shirt would cover it, Carrie smiled as she dropped her shirt back down and turned around. “See??”

Catherine cocked her head to the side and frowned. “They look okay…”

“Lift the shirt, Carrie,” Devin demanded.

Catherine looked at him with an identical look that she just gave Charles then turned and waited.

With a sigh, Carrie lifted her shirt to reveal words written across the upper part of the shorts.

“No!” Jacob called out.

“Billboard.” Charles pointed out to Catherine.

Catherine gasped as she read the word but she had a bigger problem with the shape of Carrie’s body. Wearing tunnel clothes all the time had definitely hidden how much her daughter’s body had changed and how beautifully it was formed. It was the type of body every woman dreamed of but few had and Catherine realized her daughter was no longer her little girl.

“I don’t see anything wrong, Mom! Every girl at school wears them.” Joseph defended his sister’s choice.

“Thanks, Joseph.” Carrie smiled.

Devin grabbed Joseph’s shoulder. “How do you know that buddy?”

Joseph frowned. “Because I see them all day!”

“So you read the girl’s butts all day?” Devin asked.

Jacob looked down at him with his best big brother stare. “And you know how you feel when you look at them all day…”

“Yeah, so!”

“Do you really want guys to look at your sister’s butt all day?”

Joseph frowned and looked down as Devin pushed his shoulders back and leveled Carrie with a brotherly gaze. “You’re not wearing shorts with a billboard across your ass!”

“Devin!” Catherine reprimanded lightly before she turned to Carrie. “He’s right, your butt is not a book!”

Carrie looked to her brothers to see if any one of them was going to be on her side, finding no allies she scowled and went back to the changing room.

Five minutes later, she came out with a pair of cute jeans paired with a pastel top covered by a hooded jacket which she had zipped up halfway.

She immediately turned and showed Catherine her butt. “No advertising!”

Catherine frowned that the jeans fit her daughter as closely as the shorts had but she realized Carrie just had that type of body. Short of making her wear sweatpants there would have to be some compromise.

“I like the jeans they fit well and the jacket is adorable and very versatile!”

“Yep, I can wear it with anything!”

Charles had been glancing around the store and saw the top she was wearing underneath her jacket displayed on a nearby mannequin. “Ugh! Is that your top?”

Carrie followed his gaze. “Yeah, why? You can see it’s awesome!”

Devin scowled. “Take the jacket off!”

“Mom!” Carrie begged.

Catherine was beginning to realize her sons were going to be the bad guys and she smiled coyly. “Better listen to him.”

Carrie unzipped the jacket and let it fall to the floor.

Catherine gasped as Joseph blushed and turned away and Charles groaned.

Devin grabbed the jacket from the floor and threw it around her shoulders. “For Pete’s sake! Cover those puppies up!”

“Devin!” Carrie cried as her brother pushed her towards the changing room.

The image of her daughter’s cleavage on display burned in her mind and Catherine was torn between pride and horror. Poor Carrie had no idea how beautiful she was and Catherine dreaded the coming years.

“Geez, Mom when did she get them?” Jacob asked.

Devin grinned. “She’s always had them you idiot, they’ve been hiding for fourteen years!”

“She could’ve hid them for about ten more!” Charles added.

Catherine hid her grin as she walked towards the changing room door. “Carrie, show me the shirt that you said you loved.”

“Why? One of those goons is bound to find fault with it!”

“Your brothers aren’t goons, put on the shirt! I want to see it, I really do like the colors.”

Carrie came out a few minutes later. “Go ahead rip it apart!” she said as she made a slow circle and pointed out the features. “No cleavage, straps are wide, waistband hits at my hips…what did I miss?”

Catherine chewed her lip thoughtfully, the shirt did have all those features and fit perfectly. Too perfectly! It hugged the curves of her breasts thus accentuating her small waist. “Why is it huge?”

“I guess it’s not as tight now that I’ve seen it on again.”


“Is that a yes?” Carrie asked excitedly.

“Yes…” Catherine sighed.

“How much longer Mom?” Joseph begged.

Carrie had two piles of clothes in the changing room. One pile contained the clothes she was going to try to get away with and the other pile was Mom approved clothes. She grabbed the pile of rejects and carried them out to the rack then ran back and showed on the hangars to her mom all her other choices.

Catherine smiled as she looked at her daughter, knowing what she had just done. She shook her head in amusement as she approved the other choices.

Carrie quickly grabbed equal amounts of clothing for the others Below. She headed to the lingerie department and called out.

“Mom can I get thongs this year?”

“For you feet yes, for your butt NO!” Devin called back while the others groaned.

Carrie scowled at him while she looked for Catherine for an answer.

“You heard your brother…” Catherine said as she turned away.

Carrie sighed as she quickly grabbed packages of underwear and socks for herself and the others Below.

“What is all that?” Jacob asked.

“What does it look like?” Carried answered disgustedly. When she could see he had no idea and was reading the package she grabbed it from him. “It’s underwear!”

“It has the days of the week on it!” Charles gasped.


“Who hell sees it but you?!” Devin asked.

“Mom!” Carrie begged.

Catherine relented. “Sorry guys, she wins on this one. For some odd reason women have a fetish with lingerie.”

Joseph walked into a mannequin and almost knocked it over. The doll was dressed in a skimpy bra and thong underwear and he gasped when he set it

back against the wall. “I ripped the pants on it!

“No you didn’t,” Jacob laughed.

“You’re sure?” he asked with embarrassment as he pointed at the thong.

“That’s a thong, you idiot.” Devin answered.

“Looks uncomfortable!” Joseph lamented.

Devin laughed. “I’ll never understand why a woman would walk around all day with something in her butt crack.”

“Mom, can we please come back alone some other day and look for bras!” Carrie begged.

Knowing the boys would never last through it, she smiled. “Yes, we’ll run over here tomorrow.”

Carrie looked at her brothers. “Did you guys get shoes?”

“Yep,” a chorus answered her.

Catherine looked at the additional cart they had piled their shoes in. “Did you try them on?”

Devin grabbed her shoulders and guided her towards the check out. “Yep, and Charles bent over and pushed in front of our toes with his thumb to make sure we had enough room…can we go?”

“Carrie, do you need shoes?”

“Nope!” Carrie said as she walked alongside her. “We just bought those pairs at the sale last month and I’ll wear yours if I need another pair.”

Charles started walking backwards as he looked at Catherine. “There was a buy one get one free sale so we grabbed four pairs of sneakers two pink, a yellow and an orange from the girls department.” 

Catherine turned to Jacob. “Can you give Devin the camera? You and Carrie run upstairs and look for shoes for yourself then grab a few more pairs for the kids Below.”

“Okay,” they said in unison as they took off.

Catherine waited in line for a certain cashier. “Hi Kathy!” she said as she walked up to Lena’s grown daughter.

“Hi, everyone! Back to school shopping already?”

“Yep!” Joseph exclaimed.

Catherine smiled at her normally quiet son. She knew he had a crush on Kathy since she had started babysitting for them so many years ago and she was surprised he still felt that way.

“Wow, Joseph, I barely recognized you! You’re almost a man!” Kathy exclaimed as Joseph stood proudly. 

Devin grabbed him around the neck and ruffled his hair with the knuckles of his fist. “Yeah, but he hasn’t caught up to us yet!”

Joseph looked at him angrily until Kathy leaned forward and whispered loudly. “I bet by next year you’ll be close…you’re certainly the most handsome one!” Joseph blushed as she turned to Catherine. “Do you still separate Above and Below?” she whispered quietly.

“Yes,” Catherine answered.

Kathy looked at the basket then Charles. “Will you help as I start to ring these up?”

“No problem.”

Catherine started with the basket filled with shoes and Kathy rang each one up then handed them to Charles who separated them into the appropriate bags. Joseph grabbed the filled bags and lined them up in two separate groups.

Catherine grouped the clothes by child and since Carrie was last to shop, hers was first to be paid for.

Kathy smiled at her choices. “I can’t believe what she’s chosen. She has your eye for fashion!”

“Unfortunately she also has the body of a supermodel and everything looks too good on her.”

Kathy nodded as she made quick work of Carrie and Joseph’s piles. “Great choices, Joseph, this shirt will really bring out those blue eyes of yours!”

“Thanks,” Joseph blushed.

Jacob and Carrie walked up while Kathy was ringing out Charles and Devin’s choices. After she finished Jacob’s choices, she rang up the additional shoes they found and gasped at the total.

She showed it to Catherine who shrugged and handed her the credit card. “It’s only once a year!”

Devin zoomed in on the price on the register so Vincent could see.

Catherine frowned when she realized what the camera had concentrated on. “You could have skipped that part!”

“Dad wants to be a part of it!”

“Mom, I’m hungry!” Joseph stated as he rubbed his stomach.

“Of course you are, it’s been three hours since breakfast!” she said dryly.

“I’m hungry too,” Carrie added.

“Then maybe you should have had more to eat than a cup of yogurt.” Jacob answered.

Devin shrugged. “I could eat something too!”

Charles nodded. “I wouldn’t turn anything down.”

Catherine really just wanted to get home and she knew how she could get them to agree with her. “I really want to get this stuff home. Can we run to Stan’s and get the back to school supplies then order pizzas for home?”

Knowing Stan’s would take less than twenty minutes the boys agreed while Carrie made a face. “I can’t eat pizza! Mom, can I get a spinach salad?”

“I’d have some salad too,” Jacob offered.

“So would I,” Catherine added. “Sure honey.”

The boys were loaded down with bags and Carrie and Catherine divided up what was left. Everything for Below was packed into the back of the van and everything they were keeping for home went into the area they sat. They were crammed in but there was still a place in front for whatever they purchased from Stan’s.

Catherine rattled off items as she drove and each of the kids volunteered to look for the different items.

Carrie grabbed her mother’s phone and placed their pizza order and told Paul, the owner who was a helper, that Vincent was home alone. She said they would probably be home within the half hour but if not could he take their order inside.   

Within ten minutes of entering the store, the boys were once again loaded down with packages that held notebook paper, spiral notebooks, pens and pencils, various colored folders. They put it all on the floor between the two front seats and headed for home.

Ten minutes later, they pulled up and lugged all of their purchases to the house. The living room was filled from one end to the other.

Vincent gasped when he saw everything that they brought in. “Did you clean out the store?”

“Almost,” Catherine said as she hugged him.

He kissed the top if her head. “You’re tired…” he cocked his head to the side and smiled widely as he whispered in her ear. “And your sons are all hungry again.”

“My sons? Hmmm….you’re daughter is exhausting to shop with!”

Vincent chuckled. “Should I cook hamburgers…”

“Nope, I promised the kids pizza if they’d let me come home. It should be here…” The doorbell interrupted her and she smiled. “Now…”

Vincent walked into the kitchen and quickly got out plates and silverware then drinks for everyone while Catherine paid the delivery boy.

The boys were coming in with the last of the purchases and each of them grabbed a pizza from the man’s arms and took it into the kitchen. Carrie grabbed the other two boxes which she was certain contained her salad.

Catherine frowned when she walked away and the boy looked at her daughters butt before he turned and left.

“I shouldn’t have tipped him!” she grumbled half heartedly as she walked into the kitchen.

The boys had all washed their hands then piled pizza onto their plates.

“I’ll set up the camera so Dad can watch our shopping spree while he eats,” Devin grinned.

Carrie had washed up as well then opened the salads and filled two plates for her and Catherine.

“Good idea, Dev, I’ll bring your plate,” Charles offered.

The family gathered around and sat in various spots around the living room leaving the best seat in the middle of the sofa for Vincent.

He sat back and watched with amusement the conversation that took place in the car on the way over then grew excited when it was time to enter the store.

“Here we go…” he smiled when he saw the racks of clothes. “All those choices and possibilities!”

Jacob laughed. “Dad, honestly, it’s just not that exciting!”

“To be able to choose anything you want out of hundreds of choices? I’ve never had that experience…”

Jacob cocked his head to the side. “Yes, I guess when you think of it that way I can see what you’re saying…”

Vincent commented on each of the choices as the boys presented their finds to Catherine. “Does it always go this smoothly?”

Catherine rolled her eyes the pointed towards the TV. “Keep watching!”

Joseph came on and Vincent frowned at the scene that played out in front of him. He grunted a few times but didn’t make any further comment. He could feel Catherine’s frustration level rise again as she viewed the video.

“Now I understand the feelings that were conveyed earlier through the bond,” he whispered to her. “I don’t know how you do it!”

He felt the break in the tension when Joseph did what he was supposed to and made all the right choices. “You did well, Joseph,” Vincent praised.

“Thanks, Dad.”

The kids had slowly left them to watch it alone and Vincent had turned in his seat so Catherine could lie back against him fully.

He glanced at the clock on the wall. “That took about forty-five minutes and the boys were done.”

Catherine was almost asleep and sighed as she answered quietly. “Yep, they’re the easy ones.”

Over the course of the next ten minutes, Vincent became slowly horrified as Carrie displayed her clothing choices.

When it came to the part where she took off her jacket and showed the controversial shirt, Vincent growled and leapt to his feet. “No!”

Catherine blinked rapidly as she was pulled from her sleep.

He growled again. “I won’t allow it!”

Catherine looked at the tv then smiled as she looked back at him. “Rewind it and watch your son’s reactions.”

Vincent rewound it and watched as Devin quickly took control and his sons expressed their disbelief as well.

“I agree with Charles, she could have waited ten more years to grow up,” Vincent grumbled.

Catherine leaned in and kissed him. “In ten more years you would have had a heart attack instead of a panic attack!”

“When did this happen?”

Catherine chuckled. “She almost fifteen, Vincent!”

“In five months! She looks older than Jacob!”

“She’s a girl…” Catherine said like that explained it all.

“I don’t like it!” He stood up and began to pace the room. “I worried about the boys, always, but I knew that they’d be able to handle themselves in any situation! How do I protect Caroline from the predators that are out there?”

Catherine frowned. “I can call Isaac and get her signed up in the same classes I took. It certainly wouldn’t hurt her to have ideas on how to protect herself when she’s walking home!”

“I mean the ones in her class!”

“Are you referring to high school boys as predators?”

“I am referring to any male under the age of twenty who wants to speak with her!”

Catherine chuckled. “Did you see how her brothers reacted? Do you honestly believe that anyone under the age of twenty has a chance against her four older brothers?”

Vincent sat down on the couch with a sigh. “I may not live through these next four years!”

Catherine snuggled up next to him then kissed his lower neck. “I’ll help you through this!”

Vincent turned and kissed her. “One good thing came out of this…”


“I’m no longer jealous of you being able to take the kids back to school shopping!”


The End