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Episode 6: Christmas Presence

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The Trager family was happily sitting around the breakfast table enjoying the scrambled eggs and a stack of golden pancakes.

Josh asked, "Could you pass the pancakes?"

Kyle held the plate for him and he speared one off the shrinking stack and put it on his plate. Nicole raised an eyebrow at him.

"What?" He asked, defensively.

"That's your fifth pancake," she tilted her head and gave him a mock stern look.

"I'm a growing boy," Josh protested. "And Jessi makes good pancakes." Jessi smiled at him.

Nicole turned to Lori, "Lori, it's getting to be time to be sending in college applications. Have you been thinking about where you want to go?"

"It would be nice to go to UDub. I could stay closer to home, Dad is there, I'm used to going there regularly for my performances, and Mark is there, too."

"In reverse order of priority," Nicole observed with a knowing smile. "You can't pick your college just because you are dating someone from UDub. This is your whole life we are talking about."

"It is a good school," Stephen protested. "Unless Lori really wants to go out of state, UDub is certainly a place she should consider."

"I agree," Nicole said. "Lori, if you think you would like to go to UDub you should definitely apply there. But you should also think about other places too. It's a big decision and you shouldn't just settle on UDub because it's comfortable. Plus you might not get in. You need some back-ups."

"All right," Lori said without enthusiasm. "But I really would like to go to UDub. I like it, I've spent time there and it feels comfortable to me."

"That's fine, it's a good school," Nicole agreed. "I just want you to consider alternatives."

Stephen looked at Kyle, "I assume that when you graduate high school you and Jessi are going to college as well -- not that you need to take the classes."

"We want to lead as normal lives as possible," Kyle nodded. "So we should go to college, too. I've also thought we would go to UDub. We work at the Latnok office there, Kesdet Consulting is nearby, and I don't want to go far from home." He looked at Jessi, "We haven't talked about this. What do you want to do?"

"I want to go wherever you do," Jessi said without hesitation. "We're a team. I don't care where it is." She looked at Nicole, "I don't think I want to move far from home either. I'm still getting used to having one."

Nicole smiled at her, "Shouldn't you be considering MIT, Cal Tech, Stanford -- one of the top schools?"

"Cassidy is at MIT," Jessi said with a frown. "We can't go there."

Kyle smiled, "It doesn't matter where we go. We just want to spend time with other people. That's the lesson we need most. We have our own studies. Our work is here."

Nicole looked at Stephen who shrugged, "For intellectual challenges, they'll be on their own no matter where they are. It makes sense for them to stay in the vicinity."

Nicole nodded, "I will admit, I like the idea of having you nearby. Both of you," she added looking at Jessi. Jessi smiled at her. "You should probably submit your applications as well, although I doubt you will have any trouble getting in."

"They won't," Stephen said, chuckling.

College is an important step in most people's lives. After eighteen years at home with their parents, it represents a time when children exercise their independence to varying degrees. Some stay close to home for comfort or for financial reasons some go thousands of miles away. Jessi and I had lived with the Tragers for only a short time. Neither of us wanted to go far away from our home. We missed those years.

Stephen turned to Jessi and asked, "Has your computer model come to a conclusion yet?"

Jessi said, "It's still running. It has at least another week to go."

Stephen nodded, "So you're just waiting?"

"We've been looking at assembly techniques in case the model demonstrates that our idea will work, but we're mostly waiting for it to finish," Jessi said.

Kyle looked at Jessi and hesitantly said, "Jessi, since we don't have anything we need to do, would you like to go to the movies after we're done at Latnok?"

"Are you asking me on a date?" Jessi's eyes brightened.

"Sure," Kyle said with a smile. "I said we would go out again."

As Jessie's excitement grew, she said, "We'll have to leave the office early today so I have time to get ready."

Kyle looked puzzled. He said, "We could just go there from Latnok."

Nicole said, "Kyle, you have to let a girl get ready for a date."

Lori looked at Jessi, "Absolutely. We have to pick out clothes and everything."

Kyle looked confused, as though carried away by forces he had unwittingly released. "I guess I should change for the date too."

"That would be wise," Stephen assured him with a knowing smile.