Coming Out On Top

Warning: Messing with worried mothers may result in the serving of a cold dish of revenge.

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1. Coming Out On Top

"I can't believe you talked me into letting her do this, Ben," I snap. "What if she falls? What if she breaks something?"

I pause a moment, horrified.

"What if she falls and it's even worse than that?" I ask.

"The wall's not even twenty feet tall," he replies, rolling his eyes. "She could literally fall off the top onto solid ground and barely get scratched. That's not even taking into account the giant squishy mat under her. Calm down."

"It's still dangerous," I protest as I watch my daughter carefully scale the rock wall. "Why are we doing this again?"

"Because she wanted to climb one and you wouldn't let her go on the one in the sports store."

"It was like a hundred feet tall! As if I'd let her do something that dangerous!"

"It was forty, I asked. You're exaggerating because you're scared of heights."

"I'm not exaggerating," I bite, becoming more anxious as she climbs up higher. "Excuse me for being worried about my child."

"Your child?" he asks, raising his eyebrows. "Last I checked, it takes two to-"

"Shut up."

"It's not even half as tall as the other one," he reassures, sighing. "I promise she'll be fine. Now be encouraging, she's looking at us."

I muster my brightest smile for Izzy, giving her a thumbs up despite wanting to throw up. I'm shaking just thinking about being up there like she is, and I feel faint. I just don't want her to get stuck like I did when I was her age and I couldn't climb down. I cried for an hour after they finally got me to the ground.

"You're such a wuss," Ben teases, poking my cheek when Izzy looks back up. "There's something wrong when a six-year-old is braver than you."

"Oh yeah?" I challenge, voice deadly. "I'm not sure you're one to talk, considering you're terrified of snakes."

"They're slithery and slimy demons that can kill people," he replies, sucking in a sharp breath. "How could I not be scared of that? That's not a phobia, it's common sense."

"I'm so sure the tiny garden snake we saw last week was absolutely deadly," I say, snickering. "Scariest thing ever. It definitely warranted your girly shriek."

He narrows his eyes at me, but the sound of the bell at the top of the wall ringing interrupts his snarky reply. Izzy grins, beaming at us as we cheer for her.

Now she just needs to get down before I have a heart attack.

She slowly makes her way back, bouncing onto the squishy mat below her when she reaches the bottom. She runs up to us, chattering away excitedly. Ben smiles at her.

"Come on, my little adventurer," he coos, taking her hand. "Let's go get some ice cream before your mom has a panic attack."

I resist the urge to elbow him in the ribs, deciding on a better revenge plan for his teasing.

"Hey, Izzy," I call. "I have a fun idea. Tomorrow, let’s go to the zoo. We can check out that little section where they let you interact with the reptiles."

Ben glances at me, curious as to what I'm getting at.

"Okay!" she chirps. "I like them, they're weird looking. My friend Jackie said they even have a snake there you can touch named Steven."

Ben stiffens at the word that haunts his nightmares, and I can feel his burning glare. I choose to ignore it.

"I don't think that's such a good idea. . ." he interjects, trailing off.

"Please, daddy?" Izzy asks, peering up at him with her almost always effective puppy dog stare. "I wanna see Steven."

Of course the man breaks, he always does (even when he shouldn't), and he reluctantly agrees to go.

After several declarations of hatred for me, some not as subtle as he imagines them to be, we go get ice cream. Ben tries, and fails, to make Izzy change her mind. He finds himself unable to suggest anything else she would rather do. Dejected, he finally accepts his fate.

"Your heart is frozen like this ice cream," he mutters to me, moping as I laugh.

I guess revenge really is a dish best served cold.

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