The first excuse was easy. He really was suppose to have cleaned those filthy shelves off a week ago. Honestly, Maddie had known that they were dirty before, but until she had spent a few hours hiding behind them on her impromptu stake out, she hadn’t realized just how dirty. Each shelf had dozens of broken inventions on them, and at least a dozen more broken and unused parts. Beyond that there were globs of green glowing ectoplasm coating each shelf almost entirely, and a thick layer of dust coating to top it off. The shelves needed to be cleaned, and Danny… well she wasn’t entirely sure what to do with him now. Not since she had found out the truth, or at least as much of it as she could get from hiding behind those filthy shelves. All she knew was that this was new territory for her. Ghost, she could handle, no problem. Raising children, she had been doing that for 17 years now, no problem. But this, this was something new and unheard of.
When she looked at what she knew about ghost and raising children, she figured she had a few options. When it came to ghost, she’d taugnt them, curse them, and then blast then to bits and dissect what was left of it. Obviously, with all things considered, that was not an option this time—unless she wanted to hurt her son in the process, which of course, she did not want to do. When it came to parenting, her response was typically more situational. She would analyze the situation and act accordingly, under normal circumstances. In this particular situation, she would normally approach Danny and talk with him about everything—and logically she knew that’s what she should do, and in her heart it was what she wanted to do—but for reasons Maddie couldn’t explain, she simply could not make herself do that. So, she did the only other logical thing she could think to do, as a parent.
“What the heck do you mean I’m being grounded?” Danny asked, rather loudly. “What'd I do now?”
“Shelves.” She said simply. At his confused look she added, “In the lab. The ones you were suppose to have cleaned last week. Ringing any bells yet?”
“Oh, crud.” He said, leaning his head back before signing in defeat. “For how long?”
“One week.” She said easily. “One day for every day you didn’t clean those shelves. And I will add on another day to your grounding for each day that they continue to go uncleaned. Is that clear, mister?”
“Yeah, Mom, that’s clear.”
“Good.” Maddie smiled.
This, she knew how to do. This, she could handle.
“What did your father and I tell you about your curfew being 10:00, mister?”
Her son sighed. “That 10:00 means 10:00.” He mumbled in annoyance, before perking back up. “But I was only two minutes late!”
“Then you should have left two minutes earlier. Two minutes late is still late, maybe next time you’ll remember that.” Maddie explained. “You’re grounded. One week. No phone, no TV, and no going out with friends.”
Danny glared for a moment, clearly unhappy with her decision, before accepting it with a quick “Fine.” And disappearing up the stairs—the normal way, thank heavens—and heading to his room.
She knew as she said it, as she gave him his punishment, that normally she would have been at least a little more lenient since it was only by a minute or two. But what was she suppose to do? Obviously she knew the answer was to just talk to her son, but making herself admit what she now knew to herself was difficult enough, let alone out loud to him. And it wasn’t as if she didn’t know why he was late—the news had been on, she knew that there had been a ghost fight between Phantom and some ghost in a metal armored suit. Regardless, grounding him for being two minutes late was a lot easier that confronting the reason why and besides, if he was grounded from leaving the house accept for school then her son was less likely to get hurt doing something risky like what he had done tonight.
The first few excuses she’d used to ground him had made sense. She could tell herself that she was right to ground him, because she was. He had broken the rules and he had ignored his chores—she had grounded him several more times for neglecting to do his chores since the shelves incident. But even she had to question herself for this excuse.
“How was I suppose to know you’d baked those cookies for Dad’s birthday?” Danny asked incredulously. “It’s not like you told me about it! There wasn’t even a note!"
Maddie sighed getting out the bag of flour and a mixing bowl. “I still have to take the time to bake another batch though, now don’t I?"
“There’s still, like, two batches left!” He pointed put. “Isn’t that enough? It’s not like we took that many. It was a plate full, of like 10 cookies. What’s the big deal?”
“The ‘big deal’ is that your father is now short 10 cookies for his birthday. Now I have to bake another batch, which means I’ll have less time working in the lab on that new invention.”
It was a week excuse, and they both knew it.
“Two days, no going out with friends.” She said flatly. She knew he didn’t deserve to be grounded for this, but she was frightened and didn’t know what else to do. Still, even she had to admit an entire week would have been a tad bit too extreme.
“What?” he shouted. “That’s so unfair! This is stupid!”
“Just for that, I’m making it three days!” she called after him as he stomped up the stairs.
She heard him groan in frustration, and a part of her felt guilty for it. She couldn’t blame him for being annoyed, not really. And it wasn’t even his fault—not this time anyway, he had deserved the other times—it was hers, because she couldn’t make herself communicate with him that she knew, or how she was feeling. And it was an issue of trust. She’d figured that much out on her own. She trusted her son, Danny, but she could throw Phantom a lot farther than she trusted him. Making the two coincide in her mind so that she could trust them both was something that she simply did not know how to do. Simply grounding him to ensure that they both remained in the house as much as possible seemed like the easier choice.
Danny had decided that he’d had enough of this. He got being grounded when he'd neglected his chorse, sure. He had deserved it for that. And he even understood it when he was late for curfew, even if it had only been by a minute or two. But being grounded because he and his friends had eaten some cookies? That was crazy.
“Cookies? Seriously?” Jazz asked him skeptically.
“Yes!” Danny exclaimed. “You see the crazy, too, right? Its not just me?”
His sister shook her head. “It’s not just you. It definitely sounds crazy.”
He nodded enthusiastically. “Thank you! Something weird is going on with her.”
“And whatever it is, it seems to be focused on you.” She said. “You’ve been getting grounded an awful lot lately, little brother. More so than usual.”
Danny glared. “Trust me. I know.” His expression softened. “Just… help me keep an eye on her would you? Let me know if you find anything out?”
“Of course.” Jazz agreed. “Have any theories?”
“No. Do you?”
“Maybe one.” She admitted. “But I don’t have any evidence for it yet. I’ll look into it.”