Note: You can also find this piece here on ff.net.
Summary: Arthur and the gang are sophomores at Elwood City High. Watch as they go through the ups and downs that come with teenaged life. Rated K+/PG for some violence, some language, and some adult situations.
“Catherine! Go, go, go! You’re going to miss your flight!”
Francine’s parents were happy to send Catherine back to college. Her fiancé, so California schmuck, was glued to her side, and Francine knew they’d broken a house rule and slept together at least four times while she was there. Since they’d moved into a different apartment, Francine had her own room. Catherine did as well, but she’d share with Francine while she and her love were there. In short, Francine heard everything, her young ears traumatized beyond repair.
“You didn’t say much, Sport,” Francine’s father chuckled, punching her arm lightly. “Want to hit the ball around before practice?”
“I didn’t make the team, remember? They wanted me to play softball instead, so I told them to—”
“Oh, Francine, softball is a good sport too,” her mother smiled, leading them back through the airport towards the parking lot. Her usual speech led them back to the car: Women are just as good as men, softball is just as challenging, it comes on television too, blah, blah, blah. Francine blocked it all out as they left the busy airport.
“Well you can still play with me, Sport. What about soccer? Are you still doing that when it’s time?” her father asked. Francine sighed audibly. Her parents shook their head, letting the question fade into the crowd.
Francine loved sports in middle school, but high school sports drove her mad. Her baseball coach, who taught her ninth grade health class, refused to put her on the team because of “paperwork, piles and piles of paperwork! You’d be my age by the time you got on the team!” The soccer coach worked them all too hard, sending one to the hospital with chest cramps and trouble breathing on the second practice. Francine kept getting a ride to the fields after that, but she went to the public track instead, jogging at a steady pace until “the end of practice,” when they’d pick her up. They never asked about games, thankfully, but her lie about freshmen not being able to play seemed to keep them content.
Now she was thinking of track because of the new track coach, a thirty-something with light brown hair and a golden smile. Francine felt herself blush as she thought of him. He would also teach her US history course, making her even more happy.
“Hey, while we’re in the city, who wants some good food?” Francine’s father called to them all. Her mother immediately agreed. It took Francine a moment to remember English after thinking of Coach Peters for just those few seconds.
“Yeah, sure,” Francine nodded.
“She’s doing it again, Laverne. What should we do about it?” her father grinned.
“Oh stop! I was looking at the scenery!” Francine countered. They both laughed heartily.
“We’re stuck at a red light, Sport. Just give it up and tell us who he is,” her father prodded, but Francine returned her eyes to the cars around her. A fat businessman was picking his nose two cars up, and a woman in the car beside them was throwing on makeup with one hand while drinking a latte with the other. She kept doing both as traffic eased forward.
“We’ll leave her alone for now, Oliver. She’ll have to tell us if this keeps up,” her mom winked. Francine ignored them again; the woman was now reading some sort of memo and the fat man was shoving two donuts into his mouth at once. Francine stifled some gagging as they reached the next red light.
“What did you think of Catherine’s friend? He knows a lot, but if I hear one more thing about California weather—”
“Now, Oliver, we have to support her. She did seem really happy with him,” Francine’s mother smiled, beamed. She was so happy to see her oldest daughter with someone special. Wedding pages were all over the computer’s history, making Francine gag for real this time.
“What was that, Sport?” her father called, hearing the noise.
“Nothing, Dad,” she replied. He nodded, turning back to his wife.
“Well he’s going to be fun to explain to her grandmother. If he’s Jewish like us I’ll eat this steering wheel.”
“Oh, Oliver, it won’t be that bad. We’ll just…have some minor explaining to do,” her mother faltered.
“See, you don’t agree with that part either.”
“What does it matter anyway?” Francine asked. Her parents scoffed at once.
“You tell her, Oliver,” her mother said sternly, looking out the window.
“Our family has always stayed with its own, Francine. I’ve never liked the rule much myself, but I found your mother before it became an issue, and she found me. If we’d found someone else like your sister did, we probably wouldn’t be able to stay with the person unless we converted them, though our family doesn’t like that either. Your mom’s family is a little more lenient,” he whispered, hinting at Francine’s lesbian aunt who married her partner recently. They never expected to see them at Hanukkah celebrations, yet they were there.
“Not hardly,” her mother scoffed, hinting at the argument that followed said-Hanukkah celebrations. “It’s just something apart of the culture, Frankie. You can be with who you want, but keep in mind how the rest of the family might feel.”
Francine immediately wondered if Coach Peters was Jewish. She felt herself blush as they pulled into a restaurant. She recovered quickly, sitting across from her parents and focusing on the diner’s décor to keep her mind from the handsome, young coach she was eager to please.