I remained quiet after the incident at the restaurant. Palin was convinced of her innocence and because of her intense passion so was Robert. Like the rest of the family, I assured Palin I believed that the waitress had stolen the necklace. The restaurant had given Palin two hundred dollars to replace the necklace, and assured us Amy, the waitress, would never set foot in the Old Stone Church again. She would also never get a good recommendation from the restaurant which would probably mean she would never work in the restaurant industry again. I started to see the true nature of Palin. She was self-centered. She was manipulative. She was a teenager. I walked around her very lightly the next couple of weeks so her wrath would not fall on me. I had other things to worry about, first.
Dr. Nancy Ann Blur was going to be at my house in less than two weeks and I had to make sure my children and Palin were presentable. I believed it was important for me to maintain the same high standards I had over the last three years. I was really worried about my excellent rating. After every day with Palin, I worried more and more about how Palin would behave while Dr. Blur was at my house. I thought of everything I could do to try and make sure she was on her best behavior that day. I even thought of bribing her with clothes, electronics, or hairspray, anything that would get her to behave. I quickly dismissed these options because I knew there were many laws against it. The Department of Motherhood considered bribery to be cheating and would imprison individuals who attempted to get high marks by using this tactic. There were newspaper reports every year about mothers who had tried to do this and had been caught.
Begging her would not be a good idea either because that would make me look weak in her eyes. It would just open the door so she would be able to walk all over me in the future.
The only thing I could do was try to reason with Palin and hope she would act her best when Dr. Blur showed up at my house.
The next couple of weeks proved to be an exercise in futility. Palin would never get up in the morning. Nine o’clock in the morning was considered early for her. She never made it to school on time and there were a couple of times she woke up so late that it was even pointless to try to get her there at all. Her boyfriend, Dustin, showed up at the house almost every night. I caught him sneaking out of the house one morning, a day after the incident at the restaurant and I didn’t say anything. Because I didn’t react properly to the situation, he started becoming more brash. He would walk into the house anytime he pleased. He would stroll in the front door while we were having dinner, or watching television. He would wave to Robert and then Palin and he would run up to Robert’s office, shut the door, and not come out unless they had to use the restroom or wanted to grab something to eat. I walked by the room once and there were awful grunting noises coming from the room. I decided to avoid the room at all costs because I really didn’t want to know what was going on inside of there. I told Palin I didn’t mind Dustin coming over, but to please make sure he wasn’t there during the morning of the assessment. She assured me he wouldn’t be.
The bigger problem was the influence Palin was having on Lindsey. My daughter looked up to her half-sister, and she wanted to start acting like her. Instead of Lindsey wanting to be mommy’s little girl, she would do anything to act like Palin. She would try to dress like her. She pretended she didn’t care about anything anymore. She even went as far as using a black Sharpie marker under her eyes in order to imitate the raccoon look Palin had. While I was trying to scrub it off, she started to quote the standards but couldn’t explain how that meant I wasn’t living up to them. This was hard to take from a three year old girl who believed she had more privileges than an adult.
As Lindsey tried to imitate Palin’s behavior, Zach started to do the same with Dustin. He started to believe it was important for him to have a girlfriend. He talked about all of the girls in his class as his hoes and bitches. I got a call from his teacher once, explaining how she had to discipline Zach for trapping a girl in the corner of the class’s closet and kissing her. When the teacher found him, he had his hand up her shirt and was cupping her chest as if she had a breast. I know I never had taught Zach how to do this and I am sure Robert had never taught him either. It didn’t change the fact that Robert seemed pretty proud of his son after I retold him the story. Zach could have only been learning this from one place and it was from the deviant coming over to our house every evening.
Things were getting pretty stressful around the house. I knew I only needed to make it through the assessment and then I would be able to regain control over my life, my house, and my family. Until then, I would have to try to make the best of the situation and create an atmosphere portraying the perfect American family.
I had gotten back into my routine, well, at least the best I could, considering the circumstances. Palin was doing everything possible in order to disrupt my schedule. Even with these disruptions, I don’t think Robert was able to notice anything different. Breakfast, the sports page, and a hot cup of coffee were always sitting ready for him when he made his way downstairs every morning. Dinner was served on time and every once in awhile Lindsey and Zach would join us for the meal. Palin actually made it to one dinner, but otherwise she would take her dinner up to her room, alone with Dustin. The house was always clean and presented a wonderful and nurturing environment. I was even able to sneak into Palin’s room one day while she was at school and clean it for her. She got really mad at me because I threw away something she said she really needed. I couldn’t decide what it was. All I threw away were scraps of paper, bottles of hair products, and moldy food in baggies underneath her bed mattress. It was those baggies that really stunk up Robert’s office. They smelled like a skunk had sprayed in the baggie. I couldn’t understand why anybody would be saving them. After that she promised me she would keep her own room clean and for the most part she did. It was never up to my standard of clean but it was a small victory on my part.
The only concern I had left was the children themselves. I knew how important it was to make a good first impression with the assessor. If Dr. Blur could come into the house and see all of the children lined up nicely in a row with clean, fresh and respectable clothes on, then the assessor would be more likely to overlook smaller indiscretions during the assessment. A first impression is always important.
I took the kids out of school one day right before the assessment so we would be able to spend it on the perfect outfits for the day of the assessment. We went to Maydee’s Department Store, and I made sure all of the children understood the importance of our mission that day. I told them if we could get the perfect outfits before lunchtime than I would take them to their favorite restaurant, Crave. After lunch I would take them out to a movie and afterwards we would go get some ice cream. Lindsey and Zach seemed excited about the day, and even Palin showed some interest because it meant she would miss school. All she had to do was get a free meal, a new outfit, and a little bit of entertainment. When we got to the department store, I told Palin to go select some clothes while I helped the two younger kids find something appropriate. I told her to keep in mind that what she was looking for was to be up to my standards and not the typical clothes she wore. She rolled her eyes at me as she wandered over to the young miss section of the store. I watched, and worried about what she would find in the store.
I took Lindsey and Zach over the kids section. For Zach, I found a lovely polo shirt with a nice clip-on tie, some khaki slacks and a navy blue sweater vest. While he was in the changing room trying on the clothes, I went over to the girls section to try and find a cute dress for Lindsey. I was able to find a nice yellow sun dress with pleats. I knew with Lindsey’s light complexion the color would just make her glow. It would be a shocking display of cuteness no assessor would be able to escape and Dr. Blur would be no exception. Around the time I was able to collect all of the clothes we needed, Palin came back from her shopping spree. She had a bag from the department store in one hand, and I was a little shocked because I couldn’t figure out how she had paid for the clothes without my help.
She told me, “Oh, I just had them punch in your credit card number and everything was alright.”
I was a little taken back. “How did you get my credit card number?”
She laughed a little before saying, “Come one, Rachael, it is not exactly your credit card number. It’s really Robert that takes care of all of the financial needs of this family. He just lets you use his credit card in the meantime. By the way, what I found was so perfect I just couldn’t wait to find you before I bought it.”
I was really worried about what I was going to see as she pulled out her purchase from the bag. This garment would be the first thing the Secretary of Motherhood would see when she walked into my house. I was afraid it would be some black piece of clothing leaving not much to the imagination because it was either really short or really tight fitting. What I saw really surprised me. Once again, Palin, when given the opportunity to find the perfect clothing for the occasion, came through. She spread the dress out in front of her and modeled it with only her head sticking out over the hanger.
It was a full length dress with a conservative collar, and long sleeves. It was an off-white cream color with stitches of wildflowers up and down the dress. I could imagine Palin in the dress while she was modeling it for me. The image that came to mind was Palin, Lindsey and Zach standing in perfect attention as Dr. Blur entered the house. The secretary would be bowled over by these three perfect children. By the end of the assessment, she would pull me aside and tell me I had created a new standard of motherhood. I would be in all of the newspapers and they would offer me up as the ideal every mother should push to attain. Later on, I would realize how foolish such fantasies were and I know now the best I can do is just do enough to get by. I should just quit trying to live up to the impossible standards set up by a group that has no business making rules about something they knew nothing about.
Even though I’ve just recently come to realize these cynical thoughts, the rest of that day, I reveled in the fact I had the perfect family. I once again toyed with the idea it was my superior mothering abilities that were starting to turn Palin into a fine, young lady. It would only be two days later when this idea would be shattered by what happened during the assessment.
I remember the day of the assessment like it happened yesterday. I got all of the children up early. Lindsey and Zach were troopers as they woke up and helped straighten up the house as I cooked breakfast. I was even able to get a response out of Palin as I knocked on her door to wake her up. I knew she was moving because I heard her make it out of her room and into the bathroom while I was still cooking breakfast. The shower was running when I started to lay the plates of food on the table and Robert was the perfect angel after he was finished because he came over to me, gave me a kiss and told me good luck on the assessment.
After breakfast was complete, I sent the kids up to their room to get dressed in the new outfits. Palin had come downstairs with her hair wet and wearing nothing more than a very large bath towel. I should have noticed what a zombie she was at the breakfast table, but I was too busy making sure everything else was perfect. Her mouth mushed up a piece of toast while I cleaned the kitchen. She was quickly back upstairs before I could ask her how she felt that morning. When all of the kids were dressed, I had them stand in a row in the hallway in front of the kitchen.
Lindsey and Zach stood up straight as if they were in The Sound of Music and were about to sing a song for one of our guests. Palin, who was still trying to wake up a little bit, leaned against the wall and rolled her neck around in order to pop out some of the creaks from the night before.
“You all look so wonderful. Palin, please, stand up straight.”
She rolled her eyes, curled her upper lip and pushed out a sigh.
“Palin, you look like such a nice young lady when you stand up straight.”
Lindsey stood up straighter next to Palin and patted down her dress. She looked up at her half-sister and said, “You need to stand up like me, Palin.” Lindsey twirled around to show Palin how pretty she could be in her dress.
Palin looked down at Lindsey and slouched even further down on the wall, “Ugh, you are way too perky in the morning.”
“But if you stand up like me, we can be like twins.”
“Why would I want to be a twin with a fucking twat like you?”
“Palin!” I shouted at her to reprimand her for the cruel way she was acting to her sister, but the damage was done. Large tears bulged at the tip of Lindsey’s eyelids and her lips quivered. I waited for the moment the water would rush through the lashes and release her scream. Luckily, it was only a stage one tantrum, and I would be able to get it under control quickly.
Palin decided it was better to make the situation even worse by looking over at Zach and saying, “And you look like a fucking douche bag.”
Lindsey’s wail started at the same moment Zach registered what Palin had said and rushed over to her to throw punches. I picked up Lindsey quickly and started bouncing her up and down hoping this motion would appease her. “It’s alright honey. Don’t cry. Palin didn’t mean it.”
Zach was at Palin with his fists. He was trying to pound Palin in the leg with the heal of his fist. “Take it back. Take it back. Take it back.” The fists were not finding the target because Palin kept on pushing Zach aside before he got close enough to land a punch with any damage. The last push left Zach on the ground, wallowing on his back like an overturned turtle.
The way her brother was being treated caused Lindsey to scream even louder. In between the screams, Lindsey found enough breath to say, “I am not a fucking twat.”
“I know you are not, honey. Please quit crying. Everything is alright.”
Palin had turned away from the scene and started heading up the stairs towards her room. Zach had up-righted himself and started in for another lunge at Palin. He alerted Palin of his presence by shouting, “And I’m not a fucking douche bag.”
“Mommy, is Zach a fucking douche bag?”
I started to head after Zach to stop him from hitting Palin. At the same time, I tried to comfort Lindsey. “He’s not, honey. Please don’t say that word.”
I wasn’t able to catch Zach before he reached Palin’s threshold. She was able to turn around and push him in my direction. I jumped forward and was able to catch Zach before he went tumbling down the stairs. The force of my son running into me, made me lose my balance. I started to take a tumble up the stairs. My hands reached out to brace my fall. I dropped Lindsey as I reached out for anything to help prevent me from smashing into the ground. The first thing my hands were able to grab on to was the top of Palin’s dress.
The fabric of my existence was ripped by a tearing sound reverberating off the wall of my house. The sound continued as I exposed all of Palin to her new family. My nose smashed onto one of the edges of the stairs and a new sound pierced the air. I looked up to see Palin shrieking at the way I had taken away her decency. Looking back, I still wonder why she was so upset. She spent most of her time when Dustin was at our house by strutting around in barely anything more than her birthday suit. I tried to shake off all of the pieces falling apart as a watery haze swam through my vision. Palin clutched her arms to her chest, turned around and ran off to her room.
“Mommy!!!!!!” screamed Lindsey from where she laid on the floor.
“Mommy!!!!!!” screamed Zach as he struggled to get out from underneath my legs.
I let go of the long strip of fabric still clutched in my hands. I heard the door slam down the hallway. “Palin, get back here,” I commanded, hoping for once she would obey.
Above all of the commotion taking place on the stairs, the doorbell rang.