When Paula went to tuck Aiden in, he had a thoughtful look on his face. “You look awfully serious.”
Aiden nodded. “We had career day at school. Kids’ parents came in to talk about their jobs.”
Paula had done that earlier in the year. She’d taken in a tray of fruits dipped in chocolate for the kids to try and answered question after question about cooking. No, she’d never starred on foodtv. No, she didn’t know Bobby Flay. Yes, she’d gone to culinary school. She’d been surprised at how many things the kids asked until she realized that their teacher had coached them before she got there. She had to give the class credit. They’d followed their teacher’s instructions really well.
She looked at Aiden. “Did someone talk about a job that interests you?”
He shook his head. “I’ve been thinking about being a soldier like Grandpa and Dad.”
No! Her heart lurched. It was almost painful. Her dad was a career army guy. Howard, her kitchen help, had been an army mechanic until he bummed up his shoulder. Alex had signed up for another tour of duty, but had never returned. She didn’t want that for Aiden. She couldn’t stand the worry.
Bailey voiced Paula’s feelings—her gutsy, little girl. “What are you? Stupid? Dad got killed in the army. I won’t let you go.”
Aiden rolled his eyes at his little sister. “You’re a girl. You don’t understand.”
Paula studied him. Because she’s a girl? Was he serious? She shrugged. “Girls can enlist now. Maybe Bailey will sign up, too.”
Aiden’s jaw dropped. “No!”
Bailey glared. “Why not?”
“You could get hurt.”
Paula smirked. “Our point exactly.”
Aiden leaned back on his pillow and smiled. “That was a pretty cool move, Mom.” The boy was too smart for his own good.
Paula shook a finger at him. “I have to try to stay a step ahead of you.” Not that she could. The day would come when she could only voice an opinion, nothing more. She bent to kiss them goodnight, turned down the light, and said, “Get some sleep.”
When she settled on the sofa, though, with her thoughts to herself, she felt bruised, as if she’d been punched. Raising kids was no easy job. She’d worried enough about Alex when he was overseas. She didn’t want to go through that again.