1. to move or act in a carefree, frolicsome manner; behave in a free, hearty, lively, or jovial way.

Tea with the ladies.

It was their monthly ritual. But it felt more like torture than a family event, at least for Naomi.

The middle child of five daughters, she sat on the overly stuffed pink sofa, visually tracing the furniture’s wood trim.  The overhead fans in the sunroom stirred a light breeze, moving their hair beneath their ornate derby hats. Why they would wear such hats was beyond her, but it was something her mother insisted upon.

She observed the women in her family as they sat around chatting about the latest fashions, the town gossip or what their husbands had last purchased for them. This bragging was part of the ritual, until the conversation inevitably turned to her.

“You’re just so…”

Here it came, another well placed insult.

“…So passionate, Naomi.” The obvious ring of insincerity enveloped her eldest sister’s words.

Missy paused her laughter in order to sip more of her earl grey. Her family joined in on cue.

“I mean the way you rollick from country to country on your vacation time volunteering!” Missy shook her head in disbelief.

“It’s so obvious that you have the heart of Mother Theresa, Naomi…”

And, as if they had rehearsed it, her mother effortlessly jumped into the game like a double dutch star.

“But I’d rather you not end up like her.” The look on her mother’s face was stern.

Naomi pressed her lips together and nodded, trying to refrain from saying anything. She understood. The annual trips had drawn amused looks when she was in high school and college, but now that she had graduated and had a career, the looks were moreso wearisome. Her vacations to help build orphanages was less appealing to her mother than grandchildren, the second topic in heavy rotation at their gatherings.

“So Naomi,” Evelyn said innocently, “any prospects on the horizon?”

Emily, Evelyn’s twin, gave a slight laugh at the tired question.

Naomi set her tea down on the small circular table and scooted forward slightly on the couch. She actually did have news today. But it wasn’t what they were expecting. She’d worn her flats today in preparation. Naomi gauged the distance between her and Evelyn, who was the youngest and the most fit in the family, but completely incapable of running in heels.


All snickering and side conversations stopped. Naomi felt everyone’s gaze upon her as they leaned in, awaiting an update on the recent changes of their sister’s life.

“There are some new prospects for me…” she said, more quietly than she would’ve liked.

Her sisters were staring at her like starving dogs around a steak. Their mother put down her cup and saucer and clasped her hands together as if she was silently praying.

“I’m…” She took a deep breath, a tentative smile crossing her face.

“I’m leaving in two months go work in an orphanage full time in Myanmar; I gave my two-weeks notice at the hospital a month ago.

Silence stifled the room. Her news seemed to have the same effect as atrophy. It was the cracking of Geneva’s cup as it shattered against the floor that restarted time.

In one swift motion Naomi had one foot on the cushion and was hoisting herself over the back of the sofa, leaving her hat behind. As expected, it was Evelyn who responded the fastest reaching out, only to grab the sleeve of Naomi’s blazer.

Her family was too predictable. Naomi couldn’t help but smile. She had left her blazer unbuttoned on purpose. With two quick twists of her shoulder she was out of her blazer and picking up momentum as she barreled through the sunroom doors and shot through the picturesque living room she wouldn’t see for the next 12 months. The clatter of heels striking the wooden floor wasn’t far behind her.

But Naomi had thought this through. Today she had left her purse in the car and kept her car keys in her skirt pocket. As she made it through the front door, she grabbed her keys and started the car before jumping inside. Her father stood calmly on the porch blowing her a kiss. He looked a little sad.

“Love you, Daddy!” She shouted the words, but was doubtful he could hear her at this point. He was the one person she’d talked to when she’d first started considering the move.

The women of her family came bursting through the front door just as she sped down the gravel driveway. In the rearview mirror their faces displayed varying shades of red, like a picturesque sunset.

She didn’t realize she was screaming and laughing hysterically until she was out to the main road and off of her parents’ property. Calls began to ring through to her car. One family member called after another, possibly to scream at her or talk her out of the decision she had made six months prior. But Naomi didn’t care. Instead she turned off her phone and threw it in the back seat and blasted the radio.

“You’d better get used to that,” she said, “because I won’t be able to pick up calls that easily when I’m overseas.”

A weird sensation rushed through her, like a potent cocktail in her blood. It felt strangely like freedom.


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