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“Shit. Shit. Shit,” Ali grumbled as she shot a look at the clock before tearing out of the house with her purse slung over her shoulder. It was already a few minutes past three and the last thing she wanted was to be late. She could already picture the judgmental stares and comments she would be subject to if she failed to arrive on time yet again. Setting a good example was number one on her list, but cleaning the house and finishing folding laundry had caused the morning to quickly fade into the afternoon.

Without a single care as to her appearance she jumped into the shiny, black BMW X5 that was parked in her driveway and threw the car into reverse. She backed up into the street, ignoring her garbage can that she knocked over and a blaring horn from a driver who thought she cut the turn a bit too close for their liking and then peeled out, her tires leaving a black rubber mark on the newly paved street of their subdivision.

As she drove, she took in the surroundings. Everything was so new, her backdrop so different after the move and she could barely take it all in on the short ten minute ride. Perfectly manicured palm trees lined the streets, a stark difference to the Oak, Maple and Cherry trees that would line the roads back in Maryland and the ragged, overgrown tropical shrubbery that spilled out onto the street by her first Florida home. While she had been in Orlando for a little over a year now, the stark difference between the places she resided in still hadn’t quite sunk in yet. Orlando Perk, her favorite coffee and pastry shop zoomed by on the right and as much as she wished there was time to stop and grab some caffeine, something much needed after the early morning wakeup call she had received that morning, she was already running later than she cared to admit.

Soon, the small shops and cute bungalows became more spaced out, being replaced by larger, upscale homes. These were sprawling three story excessive mansions that looked like they hailed from the Spanish colonial era, and many of them in fact had been inspired by such, that Ali always scoffed at. While she had always been well off, the need for such lavishness was lost on her. Why anyone needed seven more bedrooms than they would ever use, or four different wings of a house, or a completely separate maid’s quarter located just inside the large wrought iron gate would never be understood by the brunette. She shook her head and let out a soft sigh, as she made the final turn.

Beeman Park Preparatory School rose out of the ground before her. It was three stories, had six different wings and a separate building situated just inside the iron gate where the maintenance man lived with his wife and young daughter. The expansive lawn was a freshly cut crab grass that seemed almost too green to be real, and hundred year old palm trees lined the driveway that lead to a parking lot split into two; one for teachers, professors they actually called them as if seven year olds needed to be taught basic sentence structure and math by prestigious professors, and the other for visitors and parents. Ali almost couldn’t contain her laugh that the houses she had just scoffed at on her ride there, so closely mirrored the expensive prep school she had sent her son to. As she pulled through the wrought iron gate, she turned her music down, deciding that blasting Biggie Smalls around the hordes of small children would likely be frowned upon. Besides, she was already five minutes late and didn’t exactly need to catch anymore looks from the judgmental stay at home moms who had the routine down to a tee already.

She carefully parked the car, thankful that at least her BMW fit in with the Audis, Mercedes and Jaguars littering the parking lot, and quickly hopped out of the car. After pushing her Gucci sunglasses down over her eyes, hoping she would at least be able to avoid some gazes, she hurried over to where the other parents were gathered. Immediately, she felt underdressed as she sidled up to the group, noting right away the three women who were clearly trophy wives -from their stepford wife faces and perfectly manicured nails, to their flawless boob jobs and Prada heels- that dropped their gaze to her Nike frees and quickly raked their eyes up the rest of her Nike garment covered body. She could hear the whispers and the curt little laughs they shared between each other, but simply rolled her eyes under the cover of her sunglasses and scoured the playground for her son.

It didn’t take long to find him, sitting alone with his head dropped down on a black wooden bench along the wall of the school that faced the playground. Her heart sunk for him. This school was supposed to be a new start, a way for him to escape the nightmare haunting him at his old public school on the other side of town. She was, of course, to blame for the incident as absurd as it all was, but the sight of her son sitting dejectedly on his own as the sound of shrieking children enjoying fun times and laughs with their friends filled the air was enough to make her heart catch in her throat. She had made this change for a reason, hoping it would give him a better chance to succeed. Not that she could put a price on her son’s happiness, but this school certainly wasn’t cheap and even with an abundance of income after the recent World Cup win, she had thought that he might have at least made one friend his first week there.

He finally looked up, his light blue eyes catching hers from across the yard and offered a weak, partially annoyed wave that she returned with an enthusiastic one of her own. Grabbing his black Nike backpack that Ali remembered him debating about for almost an hour in the store, going between Adidas and Nike, he slung it over his shoulder. In the sporting goods store, he had been so torn between the two. He clearly loved the Nike one, but his rebellious streak was kicking in and a smirk crossed his face when Ali had unwisely teased him and said he couldn’t being an Adidas backpack into her Nike sponsored household. Eventually, the sleek design had won out, as well as the laptop pocket that he thought would be a perfect place to put the iPad he was going to convince his mother to buy him, and he grumbled as he crammed the Adidas one back on the rack and led his mother to the checkout counter.

“Hey, Tyler,” she said sweetly, holding out her arms to pull her son into a hug. She pulled back and looked him over, smiling at how handsome he looked in his khaki shorts and tucked in navy blue polo. His dark brown hair was still parted and slicked to the side and she was caught off guard by how quickly he was growing up. “How was your day?” she asked and pushed her glasses on top of her head, squatting down to meet his tired looking eyes as she rubbed his back gently.

“Fine,” he said, shrugging off the hand on her back. “Can we just get out of here?” he asked, his tone laced with a bit of bite that Ali chose to ignore. She knew the transition must be hard on him as well and was likely to cause some stress.

She smiled, pushing down the slight hurt that he had so quickly pulled away from her embrace and nodded. “Of course, baby. Your soccer bag is in the car. What would you like to eat?”

“I don’t want to go to soccer,” the boy groaned as he walked past Ali towards the car and yanked open the back door. He threw his backpack in and huffily pulled himself up without her help.

Ali sighed, hoping that for at least one day her son would choose to not be difficult. She understood that he was going through a lot and times were stressful, but just wanted her sweet little boy back. “Tyler it’s your first practice,” she said as she slipped into the car and turned around to make sure her son had buckled himself in correctly.

“Yeah, well I don’t feel good,” he whined, crossing his arms over his chest as he glared back at his mother.

His eyes were a bit glazed over and his light freckles were a bit more pronounced against his slightly pale skin. Ali leaned back at placed her palm on his forehead, thankful that he didn’t immediately pull back. “Well you don’t feel warm. Did you eat lunch?” she asked, her motherly concern growing. She knew her son was always tired and not in the mood to do much lately, something she attributed to his depression which he had been seeing a child psychologist for after everything that had happened.

“Yes, I ate. Can you stop cutting the crust off my sandwiches though?” he replied tersely.

Ali recoiled a bit in confusion, her hands wrapping tighter around the leather wrapped steering wheel. “But you hate the crust, baby,” she said, turning back around to start the car. She was already running late and didn’t want to continue the pattern.

“Yeah, well the kids make fun of me when you do that,” he responded, the hurt of not being accepted evident in his voice. He was tired of eating lunch alone and it didn’t help that he was constantly teased about his “famous mommy” babying him and cutting his sandwiches up.

“Alright, Ty,” she replied while carefully backing out, checking behind her to make sure there were no kids running about. “I’ll stop cutting it off. I’ll tell your coach you’re not feeling well today too, but it’s your first practice and that’s when everyone gets to know each other so you really should go.”

“I have a headache though, mommy,” he said in a whiney voice, trying to milk it and get out of practice.

The eye roll on Ali’s end was apparent but she just shook her head. “You’re going Tyler,” she said, not falling victim to her son’s tactics. “You need to make some friends here, buddy. Besides I heard this new coach of yours is pretty cute,” she joked with a teasing smile, trying to lighten the mood. She had heard some of the moms talking about the sexy new soccer coach and was simply trying to lighten the mood with a joke.

“Are you going to fuck them too and ruin my life some more?”

Her son’s words laced with anger pulled her from her thoughts. Ali slammed on the breaks at the Stop sign and whipped around with wide eyes, pushing her sunglasses up so she could meet his gaze with a fiery one of her own. “TYLER JAMES!” she yelled sternly, glaring at him as she fought the flush that was creeping up her neck to her cheeks. “We do NOT use that word!”

“Whatever,” he grumbled and dismissed his mother with an eye roll as he turned and stared out the window in an attempt to end the conversation.

Ali’s heart was racing at his accusation and hurtful words, the events from the past few months swirling into her brain. It had been a difficult time for both of them, obviously more so her son, and as much as she wanted to discipline him more for the cursing, she could barely keep the tears threatening to spill from her eyes and was forced to focus on the road to keep him from seeing her cry. Though she might have been crushed by the events all the same, she wasn’t allowed to be hurt in front of him. Not after the hurt and chaos her decisions had caused him, her precious baby boy. She had thought this new house, new school, and new setting would help them get past it all, that it would be a fresh start. But as the tears rolled down her cheeks while her son sat ignoring her in the back seat bubbling with his own anger, she knew the hurt ran much deeper for both of them. As she pulled into the luscious park and up to the soccer field, she quickly realized that this move was as much for her recovery as it was his.