The smooth sounds of Jazz danced its way from a small wooden radio into the spacious dining room, providing its occupants with a cheery melody. Melanie was smiling as she scooped a ladle-full of steaming mashed potatoes onto her eldest son’s plate, but the smile wasn’t from the music, it was due to the warm reception of her culinary work. Thomas looked up from the golden mound with a silent plea of one more scoop. Thomas had only one vice, if such a thing could be called a vice, and that was his yearning for his mothers’ special mashed potatoes. Thomas continued to stare at his mother in the hopes that she would sate his hunger with another spoonful. Melanie was aware of the look, but chose to ignore it. Years of ladling food onto his plate brought with it an intimate knowledge of his stomach, although like any normal parent, she enjoyed toying with him. Without the slightest of glances from the plate she was currently filling, she smirked at her son and asked if he would like more. Thomas grinned and shook his head, gratefully acknowledging her question. While Melanie was scooping more potatoes onto his plate, her daughter, Kathrine, the vibrant six-year-old with pigtails and skinned-knees, slowly walked into the kitchen, head hanging low, pigtails swinging from side to side. Apprehensively Kat slid behind and slowly tapped her mother’s side with a little marshmallow finger. Melanie turned as she replaced the bowl she was holding and faced her daughter. “What is it baby?” Without saying a word in response, Kat handed a small folded piece of paper to her mother. As soon as the paper had left her little digits, she bolted out of the kitchen. Melanie, unfolding the paper, watched her daughter race away. She read over the note, and then again, twice, to ensure she comprehended the documents’ contents. Folding the paper carefully, the way it had previously been, Melanie tucked the note casually into her apron’s pocket. “Could you go get your sister for me Thomas, and put that spoon down.” Melanie asked without looking at him, a command fashioned into a question. Thomas was daydreaming about shoveling a spoonful of food into his mouth and it took him several moments to process the request before he turned to face her, his mouth hanging open. Looking from his spoon to his plate, he finally gave in, shook his head in acceptance, and bid his plate ado. Thomas pushed himself away from the table with the beginnings of a fit but as he stood, the fit disappeared. Walking out of the kitchen he cast a forlorn glance to his steaming plate of food, knowing full well this was only the beginning of a much longer ordeal. It didn’t matter, it was game night tonight. Thomas didn’t have to search for his sister, he knew exactly where she would be. Ever since she was old enough to walk, the two enjoyed playing hide and seek. The only problem was that she always hid in the same place, a worn wicker clothes hamper in the bathroom. Reaching the top of the spiraling staircase, Thomas shortened his stride so that he wouldn’t make the floorboards creek. Drawing nearer to the bathroom, he put his ear on the door and listened. At first he couldn’t hear anything except his own heartbeat but after the third Thu-thump, he was able to hear muffled sobs coming from inside. Slowly, trying not to attract his sister’s attention, Thomas gently opened the door and crept over to the hamper. Getting as close as he dare, Thomas leapt the remainder of the distance and flung the top of the hamper open with a mighty “Booga, Booga”. Kat sprang up with a shrill cry, her face changing from sad, to terrified and back to sad, all in a matter of moments. “Why’d you scare me like that, Tooma?” she asked, hiccupping in-between. “I’m sorry, little bit. I just wanted to mess with you.” “Don’t do that,” she said with all the importance a little girl could muster. Kat raised both her little arms into the air, a signal for Thomas to pick her up. Thomas chuckled to himself and graciously complied. Sitting her caringly on his knee as he sat down on the toilet. “Now, what’s all the fuss KitKat?” He asked as he wiped wet streaks from her cheeks with his thumb. “Nothing,” she mumbled, as she made her own attempt to wipe tear-stained eyes with chubby fists. “Don’t do that. You know I’m not going to say anything to mom and dad. I want to know, so that I can help,” he said sympathetically in an attempt to get her to open up; and like so many times before his ruse paid off and she began to tell the tale of her misfortunate exploits. Melanie was re-reading the note from Kat’s teacher, plotting a plan on how she was going to break it to her husband. John was a simple hard-working man. He loved his family and God - in that order. Everything else in life was put on the back burner when compared to those two, and it was a lesson he imparted to his children. When Melanie replaced the note into her Apron pocket, she did so confidently knowing how to break it to him. It was a really good thing because he was going to be home any minute. Dropping the thought for the time being, Melanie went back to finishing her job of setting the table. When she was finished with the last of the décor, she turned around and saw John entering the kitchen. “Hello, my love,” Melanie said, brushing her hands off while walking over to give John a kiss. The embrace lasted for a few moments before John broke away to set down his briefcase and well-worn hat. John then walked over to the cupboard, opened it and retrieved his glass - an old veteran from the war of use and cleanliness. Opening the refrigerator, John filled his glass with Tea and took a drink. He savored the tea, allowing the sweet liquid to roll over his tongue as he let go of the days’ troubles. It was his ritual to prevent work frustrations from being taken out on his family. John swore long ago that he would never let that happen, and true to his word - he never had. “Tough day at the office,” Melanie inquired, beginning to think that her plan may not work. “No…well a little. Nothing that you should be worried about, my dear. I had the chance to do a proposal for the partners.” Melanie’s eyes widened and she jumped over to wrap her arms around her husband’s slender frame as she gave him another kiss. As Melanie stepped back from him, she noticed that he wasn’t sharing in her excitement. “…you didn’t get it?” “No, actually I did,” Thomas responded before taking another drink. “Well…” “I turned it down. They wanted it tomorrow morning, but I wasn’t going to miss game night.” Melanie thought about it for a moment and then hugged him. This time she squeezed, as though at any moment he was going to be torn away from her. “Its commendable. Not many people would’ve put their family over work.” She stated, her head on his shoulder. She was proud of her husband. Melanie took a few steps back and turned away from John. Rubbing her hands with the bottom of her apron, she started to debate if she should tell him now or wait until after dinner. Just as she came to her conclusion, Thomas entered the kitchen and solved the riddle for her. “Well, she’s really sorry about it and has finally stopped crying. So I think she’s punished herself enough,” he said while sitting down in a chair at the table. Glancing over at his still steaming potatoes, he shook away the thought of continuing his previous conquest, because they all knew not to eat until everyone was ready, and continued his one-sided conversation with his parents. “So, what have you decided to do?” Thomas looked at his dad then and noticed a puzzled expression on his face. Realizing what he had just done, he looked over at his mother and offered a silent offer of forgiveness. He then got up from his chair and eased out of the kitchen. “What was that all about?” John asked, wanting the full story before he allowed himself to become emotional. “Well, I was going to wait until after dinner…but I guess now…” she trailed-off as she reached into her pocket retrieving the folded then refolded note, “Its from the school”. Melanie gently placed the note into John’s hand then gingerly sat in the chair Thomas, just moments before had occupied, and waited for her husband to read the note. John read the crumpled and folded note a few times, then, setting his tea down on the counter behind him, took the note in both hands and re-read it one final time, trying to keep his anger in control. Melanie sat and tried to decipher John’s expression as he worked his way through the document. Nervously twinning her fingers around the end of her apron strings, she pushed her patience to its limit and finally gave in with a sigh. She stood up and removed the well-worn apron before she carelessly tossed it onto the counter, part of which went into the sink. “And…” Melanie asked as she paced the small kitchen, not wanting to look at John, yet chancing a well-concealed glance every second or two. John looked up from the note, not fully understanding what had gotten into his usually calm, levelheaded wife. Concealing his smile, he decided not to torment his wife any longer. “I’m,” John began before being interrupted by an overly excited Melanie. “I know we need to do something to her, but its not really that bad. Times are different,” she went on, barely catching her breath in her constant pacing.” It’s not like when we were kids. We need to think on that as well, when deciding what to do to her.” Melanie finally stopped and glanced up at John, surprised to find him with a smile stretched across his face. Eyes’ twinkling from the show his wife was putting on. “What?” “You, my love. Running around the kitchen, trying to justify your daughter’s actions…it is as though you’re the one at fault. Lets just think about this for a moment and then we’ll come up with something.” Motioning toward the table, John led Melanie to a chair and waited until she sat before he followed. Taking a moment to gather his thoughts, he looked at his wristwatch. Doing some mental calculations, he looked at his watch again as though he was trying to adjust time with his mind. “How are we doing on time?” Melanie asked when she noticed John’s discomfort. “We’re fine, I actually stopped off prior to coming home. I saw a perfect game for tonight and had to get it. I knew the family just die for it.” “That’s so sweet of you,” Melanie leaned over and gently caressed John’s face then kissed him, “my thoughtful husband”. When the kiss broke, John stared into her deep blue eyes and in all the time they had been married, he hadn’t once forgotten why he loved her. “We have to do something.” Looking over at all of the delicious smelling food, John shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “Like Thomas said, she’s beaten herself up enough.” An hour later, with dinner eaten and its evidence disposed of in the sink, John remained at the table sipping his coffee. Reflecting on the dinner, John believed it had gone better than he had expected. Kat was unusually quite, wondering when the shoe would drop and Thomas was busy wolfing down plate after plate of potatoes and giant thighs of meat one would commonly find at an obscure, over-priced theme park. Without being said, the majority of the meal had been silent, except for the brief banter between Melanie and him on how the day had been and how the weather would be the next day. When Kat had finished her meal, John merely told her to go to her room and he would see her after he had finished. Thomas had looked at him pleadingly in support for his sister, but John had held his ground and his silence wanting to speak with Melanie further on the issue. After putting her plate into the sink, her head down with pigtails swinging back and forth, she slowly wobbled her way out of the kitchen and up the creaky stairs to her room, without once having glanced back. John was extremely surprised at how well she was dealing with the situation considering how young she was. Finishing his coffee, John looked at his watch. He stood up and walked over to the stove refilling his coffee. Returning to the table, he sat down and took a sip. Looking up at Melanie, he shook his head and gestured toward Thomas so that they could get started on the issue of Kat before they lost any more time. The debate didn’t last as long as he first thought. Thomas made a compelling argument, and for some reason, John agreed with him. It could have been due to tonight being game night, but he pushed the thought from his mind before it had time to corrupt his thoughts. Melanie looked on in disbelief, agreeing with the two as well. She had thought John would prove unmovable on the issue, but was glad he didn’t want to make a fuse over something so little. Having talked over the issue, the entire family was unanimous on how to deal with Kat. Nodding his approval John placed his cup on the table and stood up. Having settled the issue, all was ready for family game night, except for giving the culprit her verdict. The most entertaining night of the month was finally here, once again. The bedroom door quietly opened into Kat’s room. She was lying on her bed looking at the ceiling, thinking about what it was little girls thought about, when John slowly entered her room. He was nearly to the bed before she noticed him approaching. At first she looked away, not wanting to face the punishment, but accepting her fate she turned to look at her father. “Hello daddy,” He patted her leg in an attempt to soothe her worries. “Hey baby,” Not wanting to drag this out more than it had already been, John continued. “You know what you did was uncalled for, correct?” “Yes.” She flatly responded, looking down at her fidgeting fingers, as they made intricate alternating circles around one another. “Your mother and I have decided that…you have beaten yourself up enough.” John sat on the edge of her bed; hand still firmly on her knee to remind her the conversation was serious. Taking a few moments to judge her startled reaction, John slowly continued. “You are getting old enough to make your own decisions. Whether for good or bad, the choice is ultimately in your hands. Now the consequences for what you do must be accepted as well. You acted like a big girl tonight, so we will start treating you like one. But, I wouldn’t let it happen again.” “Daaaaaddy,” she yelled with glee as she sprang up and tried to swallow him in her arms, though coming up a bit short. Slumping down to straddle his knees, she slowly looked away. “I won’t make another B again. I promise. Ummm, do I…” she began then stopped from fear of what the answer would be. “Go on,” her father encouraged. “Do I still get to play tonight?” John delayed for a moment, noticing the joy slowly draining from her face, he responded with a nod. “But of course, get changed and head on down. Your mother and brother are waiting on us.” Before he could finish the sentence, Kat was off the bed and riffling through her closet for game night clothes. Watching her excitement, John almost didn’t want to tear himself away and get changed him self, but his own excitement won over and within a few seconds he was doing the same. Midway through changing he caught himself humming a church hymn. Laughing at his own excitement, he finished and walked out into the hallway to see Kat coming out of her room dressed as a nurse. He wished he had a camera handy. It was almost too cute. “Awww, my little nurse.” Kat turned to face him and smiled. John walked over and picked her up. The two made their way down to the basement together, their eagerness growing with each step. When he rounded the corner, it was all he could do to keep from running. He felt her reaction mimic his own. Opening the normally pad-locked door with one hand, he nimbly lowered Kat so that she could walk herself. With her leading the way, the two descended. The musty, warm smell of the cellar rose to greet them as they made their way to meet the others. Rounding the corner, Kat bolted once she saw her mother, She was dressed as she normally was, as that of a schoolteacher. Melanie picked Kat up in a mother-daughter embrace and the two began to chat excitedly to one another. John looked around for his son, but at first couldn’t see him. Making another sweep, he spotted him emerging from the game room, wearing only spandex bicycle shorts. Normally Thomas would wear dark colored coveralls. John dismissed it with a shrug and walked over to greet his son with a handshake. “New outfit I see.” Thomas looked down and shrugged. “Yeah, just something different. They are pretty comfortable and easy to clean.” “Easy to clean, huh, I’ve never thought of that” was all the reply John could manage. Then ready to begin the nights’ activities, John looked over at his wife and motioned for her to walk over. He could see the joy in her eyes, he could also see an animalistic impulse seeping through. Melanie walked over and put Kat on the ground. John kneeled down and looked into Kat’s eyes. “Honey, we’ve all decided that since you’re a big girl, you get to lead.” Kat’s mouth dropped, her hands flying up to conceal her squeal. “Really,” she managed to gasp. “We sure are Kit-Kat,” Thomas put in, as he handed his father an object wrapped in a stained cloth. John unveiled the metallic object, which gleamed from the few lights in the basement. Her eyes were alight with joy and hunger as she followed the transaction between brother and father. She had waited an entire year for this moment. Walking up behind her daughter, Melanie placed her hands onto Kats shoulders and whispered into her little ears. “I’m so proud of you honey.” Then she gave her a little peck on the cheek. John looked from the object to his daughter. A tiny tear welled in his eye, but before it had a chance to fall he brushed it away. “Here you are my darling,” he said quietly. “Enjoy this moment. It will be the greatest night of your life, and you’ll remember it forever.” Handing her the object he took a step back and was greeted with an embrace by his wife. The two of them looked at their daughter, their pride filled the room with love and admiration. Motioning her towards the door, the trio fell in step behind her. All three watching as she took her first steps in becoming a woman. Kat felt the cool, grainy wood on the palm of her hand, memorizing every nick and imperfection as she approached the game room, the anticipation of the coming exhilaration weighing down her feet. Nearing the room, she had to put a chubby little hand up, to shield her eyes from the bright light. As she entered the room, she heard some muffled, heavy breathing and the sudden scrapping of metal on concrete. Her pulse quickened as the moment was approaching. Lowering her shielding hand, she took in the scene, burning it into her memory so that it would last forever. Sitting in a chair was a young well-groomed man. His skin was flawless. It also appeared to be well moisturized and heavily cologned, although, she could still smell his excrement and urine. The young man’s eyes were aflame with fear and confusion as he sat naked, having had his expensive, pressed suit cut from his body and hastily thrown into a corner of the room. The man struggled against his bonds as the little fiend approached slowly, savoring the moment as though it was a fine nectar. His groomed, short hair was soaked in sweat from his effort, but still she approached. His gag wet with saliva and drool, his screams, only soft incomprehensible murmurs. Kat calmly lowered the knife and continued her stalk feeding off his fear as a zealot to the damned, her smile widened with each unfaltering step.