From the newly re-released version of this story, now available as a PDF download on my Free Reads page.
Dad sat beside Tyler, and Mom took the last chair. Before we could eat, we each had to talk about something we were thankful for. My parents had started the tradition before I could even talk, because even though they didn’t believe in a god to pray to, they did believe there were higher powers than us in the Universe. They felt those powers deserved thanks for good things that happened in our lives. Plus focusing on good things made everyone happier.
Since Landon was still sort of a guest, he went first. I expected him to say he was thankful for V.J., like he had last time. Instead he said, “I’m thankful for being mostly moved in, and for you guys letting me move in. It really means a lot to be able to finish high school here.”
“I’m thankful because you’re here,” Mom said. “It’s going to be nice having another kid around.”
“Is that your thanks, Dawn?” Dad asked.
Mom smiled. “Yes.”
Dad nodded. “Okay. I’m thankful because I found the bug in the app I’ve been working on, so now I can finish it up and show it to the higher-ups at work.”
“I’m thankful for winter break and not having to go to school,” Tyler said.
“You’ve used that one every day since school got out,” I said.
“I’m thankful for it every day since school got out. I’d rather work on my manga.” Tyler had convinced himself he would write and illustrate Japanese graphic novels when he grew up. He didn’t know any Japanese and could barely draw people who looked like people, but he kept trying.
“It’s your turn, Shane,” Mom said.
I had to think about it. Not much had happened today other than Landon moving in, and I didn’t want to use that since Landon and Mom both had.
After a couple seconds I came up with something that went along with what I’d been thinking earlier. “I’m thankful because I have friends and don’t have to worry about relationships.”
Mom got a weird look on her face as if she wanted to say something and didn’t know what. Tyler looked down at his plate and poked at his burger roll.
“There’s plenty of time for relationships,” Dad said quickly. “I for one think it’s smart to just be a teenager and focus on things like school and part-time jobs for now.”
Maybe I should have said I didn’t think I’d want a romantic relationship even after I finished school and had a real career, but I kept my mouth shut. According to what they’d told me, neither of them had dated anyone until college. They just hadn’t wanted to. But then they’d gone to college and had started dating people, and then they’d met each other. That was probably what they expected me to do. Date in college and find my soul mate. Because those totally existed.
They could sort of understand wanting to stay away from dating while I was in high school, but I didn’t think they’d understand wanting to stay away from it forever.