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in the silence between

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Derek sat in a coffee shop on a Friday afternoon, staring blankly at the blinking cursor on his laptop screen and waiting for the words to come. He had a cup of mocha that’s bitter despite the chocolate, and usually he would mix three packets of sugar into it, but at this moment bitter coffee suited him just fine. He’d been there for an hour and hadn’t written more than two paragraphs that were quickly backspaced out of existence like a hastily swallowed morning-after pill that magically disappeared the mistakes of last night….

His brain producing analogies like that was the reason he was struggling to write anything of sustenance now.

He glared at the laptop screen and the pile of spiral notebooks on the table next to it and wished for spontaneous combustion. No such luck. He reached for the cup of coffee, it was made with a heavy cream that he hadn’t been too fond of his first time trying it, but it had quickly grown on him. He drank the whole thing in one long sip. It was lukewarm and unsatisfying, just like everything he’d written in the last week. No sooner than he’d set the empty cup down, a new one appeared on the table next to him.

He offered Cora a small smile as she took his empty cup. She just rolled her eyes and headed back across the shop, rounding the counter and disappearing into the back. She liked to complain about her older brother invading her place of employment, but Derek reminded her that he’d been visiting this coffee shop long before she’d gotten hired there, so technically she was the one invading his space.

Derek ignored the second (or was it his third? It might be his fourth) cup of coffee, and turned his attention back to his computer. It should not be so hard to write something he’d already plotted down to the tiniest details. The story was there, but he couldn’t find the words.

He sighed and forced himself to type a sentence. The next sentence came naturally after that.

The next time Derek looked up, Cora was back, taking away his half empty cup of coffee and placing a plastic to-go container holding a banana nut muffin on the table where the cup had been. Derek glanced at the time in the corner of his computer screen, shocked to find that almost an hour had passed. He mumbled a thanks to Cora and quickly saved his document (then saved it again on his flash drive and yet again on his SD card and once more to the cloud). Cora steals his wallet while he’s shutting down his computer and stuffing the stack of notebooks into his messenger bag. She reappeared with the wallet and his receipt just as Derek is double checking he had everything.

“See you Friday,” Cora said.

“Later, Cor,” Derek called and headed out the door.

The reason he frequented this particular coffee shop had nothing to do with the quality of the coffee (because he’s had better for cheaper) and everything to do with its location. The whole neighborhood was made up of converted warehouses. There were lofts and artsy stores, a couple of offices, the coffee shop, a rec center, and a building named The Beacon Gym.

The last place was where he headed. He was only a couple of minutes late, but as soon as he stepped inside, he was bodily assaulted by a small person. “Lindsey,” Derek greeted, picking the small girl up in his arms and hugging her tightly.

“Daddy,” Lindsey said, leaning back in Derek’s arms so she could look him in the eyes, her expression uncharacteristically serious. She spoke as though these were the most important words she would ever say, “I want to play piano.”

Derek didn’t answer right away. This wasn’t what he’d expected to hear upon picking his six year old up from gymnastic practice.

“Piano?” He asked, confused.

“Yep.” Lindsey wiggled until Derek put her down, her previous seriousness gone as quickly as it had appeared. She flounced over to get her duffel bag from where she’d dropped it and pulled the strap over her shoulder. “Can I take classes?”

“What’s brought this on?” Derek asked, waving at Lindsey’s gymnastic coach and leading his daughter out the door.

Lindsey walked ahead of him, her green duffel back bouncing against her hip with every step. The back of her tennis shoes were squashed beneath the heels of her feet, Derek noticed. He’d chastised her about that many times before, but she continued doing it anyway. 

"I just want to play piano. I don’t know how, but I want to.” She said as though it was the simplest thing in the world.

“You’re already taking gymnastics lessons,” Derek pointed out, but Lindsey had already considered that.

“I only got gymnastics one day a week. That leaves six days for piano.”

“But you also have art and scouts.” Derek saw no reason why Lindsey couldn’t take piano lessons, but he wanted her to put some actual thought into the decision. Teaching the six year old to honor her commitments was a long process, as shown through the discarded tutu and baseball mitt in the back of her closet. 

Lindsey had hated ballet with a passion, despite the fact that she’d chosen it herself. Derek had made her stick it out for two months, but she’d begged to be allowed to switch to gymnastics instead. Derek had suggested gymnastics for her before even paying the exorbitant fees for ballet, but she’d had her heart set on dance until she realized she hated it. 

Then one of her friends from scouts had convinced her to try out for tee-ball the previous summer. When she’d learned that she wouldn’t be allowed to use her werewolf powers, she’d quit the team in a heartbeat.

The only activities Lindsey had not given up on were scouts with her Aunt Laura, art with Cora at the rec center, and yoga with Derek. It was probably the fact that it was her family and pack in charge of the activities that kept her committed. Even her gymnastics classes were taught by a pack member, albeit one without any blood relation to them. 

Derek encouraged Lindsey to get involved with activities that would let her interact with kids her age, since she was currently being homeschooled, but she grew bored with things fairly quickly.

Lindsey frowned. “Scouts is only on Saturday. And art is on Tuesday.”

Derek mentally recapped Lindsey’s weekly activity schedule. He hadn’t wanted to overload her with too many extracurriculars, but he did keep her on a somewhat regular schedule.

On Mondays they had was Derek called “explore days” where the two of them went out to find something new to do in the city and surrounding counties. This included trips to art museums, science centers, theaters, single day classes, carnivals, and festivals; just anything new and exciting that wasn’t a regular commitment.

Tuesdays Cora taught art classes at the rec center.

Wednesdays the public library had story time. This was mostly for preschool kids, but Derek had been taking Lindsey to it since she was a baby and she enjoyed it still.

Thursdays they didn’t have anything scheduled. They sometimes did afternoon yoga on Thursdays, but they were just as likely to do yoga any other day of the week.

Friday was gymnastics.

Saturday was scouts.

Sunday was pack meetings.

The only inflexible activities were gymnastics and scouts. Before Cora had started teaching formal classes at the rec center, she would come over to Derek’s house and teach Lindsey art whenever she had time to; there was no reason they couldn’t go back to that.

“Thursday!” Lindsey exclaimed, having reviewed her schedule just as Derek had. “We can have piano on Thursdays and…” She whispered softly to herself for a moment, then frowned. “Just Thursday I guess.”

They could actually have piano lessons on any day of the week if they had the lessons during an earlier time of the day when most kids would be at school. Perks of homeschooling was that there was more flexibility in their schedules, but the purpose of having Lindsey in activities was to meet new people, so he usually kept them for after school hours. 

But, Derek didn’t play any instruments and music and fine arts were an important part of education, so Derek had been thinking about finding someone to teach her music anyway.

“Are you sure you want to learn piano? You’re not allowed to quit after you start.”

“I’m sure,” Lindsey said earnestly, green eyes shining with excitement. “I really wanna play piano.”

“Alright. I’ll see about it.”

They got in the car and Lindsey immediately reached for the banana nut muffin Cora had sent with Derek. Derek gave the girl a look and Lindsey set aside the muffin to put on her seatbelt. She grabbed the muffin again as soon as she was buckled in.