“Excuse me, young lady,” Jack turns on his heel to stare at me. “You do not talk to your mother in that tone. Now get upstairs and pack your belongings.” He points towards the stairs with force. “Go!”
I set my fork down on my plate, laughing at Jack before I stand up, placing my hands on the tabletop, “NO!”
Jack looks as if he is ready to strike me for talking back to him. I can hear my dad and mom stand up quickly, nearly knocking their chairs over, but I keep my eyes staring at Jack and Darlene. I don’t flinch or move away from them, just stare.
“You two may have made me and pushed me out, but that doesn’t make you my parents,” I say in a neutral voice. “My dad and my mom warned you two to stop messing with the whole time-travel dimension stuff, but you didn’t. Your work was obviously important than raising me. You kept on working and working on it until you finally opened a rift to another dimension. And instead of that being the end, you two walk into the rift and disappear, leaving me behind.”
Jack tries to say something, but my cool gaze stops him in his tracks. His opened mouth slams shut as if his jaw has a spring on the side that snaps, forcing his mouth closed.
“My parents wanted to stop the research because of me and because they wanted to start their own family. They begged you two to stop but you wouldn’t listen to them, even after you got pregnant with me,” I continue after taking a sip of my juice and looking pointedly at Darlene. “Mom and dad wanted nothing to do with the experiment after you got pregnant. But again, you two didn’t care. All you two wanted was for your names to be in the papers as the first-time travelers. Well, go tell the press that you all are back from wherever. Become all famous and stuff, but I am not going anywhere with you two.”
I walk over to my dad, grab his hand, and force him to his feet so that we can walk over to mom. I place my hand on her shoulder, staring deep into Darlene’s eyes and then into Jack’s eyes, my jaw clenched and my gaze dark.
“I am home, and John is my dad and Priscilla is my mom. I will continue to lick my food as it is a joke between me and my parents since I was a baby. I also have manners because my parents have raised me the right way, teaching me manners at an early age.” I narrow my eyes, “Today is my 16th birthday and you two will not ruin it for me so I suggest…” I pause for a moment then shake my head. “No, I demand that you leave our house and never come back.”
“We will fight you two on this matter and take our daughter back,” Darlene spits.
“Oh, no you won’t,” I smile and walk out of the kitchen, disappearing into the office for a moment, which sits across from the kitchen. I return with some papers in my hand and drop them on the table in front of Jack and Darlene before I walk back over to my parents.
Jack stares at me for a moment before picking up the stack of papers. “What is this?”
“I kind of figured that you two might try to take me from my parents, so I researched the laws of Tennessee and all that. According to the paperwork I printed out for you, the courts will ask me to choose and will listen to me on who I want to live with. So, I wouldn’t even waste your time or money. I am not going anywhere with you.”
Darlene covers her mouth, forcing tears to appear in her eyes, “I… but we…” She shakes her head, “How can you let her talk to us like this?”
“Because our daughter is right. We wanted to find a new project that was less dangerous, but you two wouldn’t listen to us,” Priscilla tells them. “We have raised a smart, independent, respectful young lady who speaks her mind when she knows that something is wrong.”
Jack and Darlene stand still, looking from the information I gave them to us as we wait for their next move. Jack looks at his wife defeated, though she urges him silently to fight us on the matter.
“Well then, I guess that is that,” Jack mutters, dropping the paper onto the table. “Happy Birthday, Charlene.”
“Charlie, my name is Charlie,” I tell him. “And thank you.”
Darlene says nothing as she turns on her heels and practically runs for the front door. Jack heads off after her once he says his quick goodbyes to me and my parents.
Once the door shuts behind them, I walk over to the window behind our kitchen table and watch as my biological parents step back through what looks like a tear in the space in front of them. It closes once Jack and Darlene have walked through it and closes behind them, leaving me staring at nothing but our yard. My mom and dad join me, staring outside as well for a few minutes, almost afraid that Jack and Darlene would return before my dad clears his throat.
“Let’s finish eating mom’s amazing breakfast and then get this house ready for your birthday party, kiddo,” he tells me, steering me away from the window.
We return to the table, sit down, and talk about the party while we finish eating our food. I grow more excited as we discuss how we plan on decorating the inside of the house and the yard outside. I tell them about the outfit I have picked out to wear and what shoes I think will go best with the outfit, both nodding their heads in approval.
After we finish breakfast, we clean up the kitchen, not talking about what my parents should wear to the party. The strange encounter with my biological parents already becoming a distant memory as we pull out the party decorations.