“Ha! Take that! Told you I was gonna kick your ass!” Asher cried triumphantly into his headset as he continued violently mashing the buttons on his controller.
“Asher Rosebrook! Language!” Christine appeared suddenly from around the corner, giving him a disapproving look. He hadn’t heard his parents let her in over the sound of his videogame.
“Hang on a sec, Ollie.” Asher quickly muted his headset before letting out a heavy sigh and turning to address Christine. “Sorry.” He muttered in reply, sounding anything but apologetic. “But it’s not like you’re my mom…” He added under his breath. Why was it her business whether he swore or not?
Apparently the babysitter had heard him. “Maybe not, but she and your father are paying me to look after you and your sisters this evening… and that includes making sure you’re using appropriate language.”
Asher rolled his eyes as he turned his gaze back to his game. “Yeah, whatever.”
He wasn’t sure how old Christine was, but she appeared to be even younger than his parents. So why did she always act like she was already a grumpy old lady? As one of his best friends, Lily, liked to say, Christine totally had a huge stick up her butt. He had to suppress a giggle as the thought crossed his mind.
Thankfully, this time Christine ignored his snide remark. Her attention had already been captured by Calvin and Klein, as usual. That was the one saving grace about having Christine as a babysitter — she tended to take much more interest in the cats than she did Asher and his sisters. He watched in satisfaction out of the corner of his eye as she left the room, Klein wrapped tightly in her arms and Calvin following closely behind.
“Christine’s right… You shouldn’t say those kindsa words!” Just when he thought he was finally free, Penelope popped her head around the corner, joining her brother in the sitting room. “What if Lainey heard you?”
“Lainey’s still taking a nap. She can’t hear anything!” Asher replied, annoyed. “And Mom and Dad haven’t even left yet… Christine’s not in charge if they’re still here!”
As though on cue, the muffled sound of his father’s heavy footfalls and the clicking of his mother’s heels reached his ears through his headphones. “Sorry, gotta go…” He muttered apologetically into his headset, putting down the controller yet again. Their next round would have to wait.
“It’s okay, me too. Wanna have a rematch tonight though? After the show?” His best friend’s voice asked in his ear. “If it’s not too late.”
“Yeah, maybe. Later, Ollie.”
Asher took off his headset and turned his attention to the hallway just in time to see his parents enter.
Penelope let out an obnoxious cry of amazement at the sight of them. “Mommy, you’re a princess!” She shrieked, running into Emberlynn’s arms.
“Aw, thanks sweetie!” Emberlynn gave her daughter a tight squeeze before rising to her feet once more.
Asher studied both his parents for a moment — his father looking so sharp in his tuxedo, and his mother more glamorous and beautiful than he’d ever seen her.
Asher furrowed his brow as he examined their outfits. Why hide behind all that makeup and those fancy clothes, Asher wondered? Why not just be themselves? He much preferred his normal mom and dad to these dolled-up imposters.
Asher forced a smile and tried his best to hide his displeasure. “Penny’s right — you look really pretty, Mom.” He knew that was what his mother would want to hear. And it wasn’t a lie either, at least. “You look great too, Dad.”
“Aw shucks, don’t make your old man blush over here.” Xander teased.
“We shouldn’t be back too late, but you guys will probably be asleep by the time we get home… Keep an eye on Lainey and listen to Christine, okay?” Emberlynn eyed her son significantly as she spoke.
“I’ll try.” He replied, shrugging. “Good luck, Mom. I hope you win!”
“She will!” Penelope cried. “Mommy makes the best, most prettiest costumes ever!”
Emberlynn laughed. “We’ll see… there’s some tough competition!” She crouched forward and beckoned Asher into her arms. “Be good.” She whispered in his ear, giving him a tight squeeze. “Love you.”
“I will.” He promised as he pulled away from her. “Love you too. Go kick ass!”
“Asher!” Emberlynn laughed despite her disapproval.
“Don’t worry, she will.” Xander gave his son a wink, earning another burst of laughter from his wife.
After giving his father a quick hug as well (and rolling his eyes at Penelope’s insistence that their mother show off her dress with a spin), Asher watched as his parents disappeared down the hallway and out of sight.
It would be a couple more hours before the award broadcast actually began (not that he was planning on paying much attention to it anyway), so he had some time to kill. Once he realized that Oliver hadn’t come back online, Asher decided to use this time to get a head start on planning his science fair project. He felt like he had ten thousand ideas but no clue on how to narrow it down. But maybe a little research would help… That’s how his mom always started her costume designs, wasn’t it?
When she woke up from her nap, little Elaina stayed glued to Asher’s side while he worked, singing little songs to herself and playing her favorite music games on her iPad. If it was anyone else (especially Penelope), Asher would have found this incredibly irritating. But he’d always had a soft spot for his littlest sister.
“Mommy’s bringin’ home a golden man!” Elaina cried out happily in a sing-song voice as she continued poking the little digital piano on her iPad screen.
Asher laughed. “It’s called an Oscar, Lainey.” He explained gently. “And I hope she wins too…”
She had to, didn’t she? He’d looked them up, and the other costumes nominated were totally boring and lame. His parents told him he was too young to watch The Dragon’s Abyss, but his mom had let him look at some of her designs, and they were SO COOL. Those dumb academy people were crazy if they didn’t see it too!
“WOW! Look at THAT dress, Lainey!” Penelope’s shrill voice called out as she pointed eagerly at the TV. She’d spent the past hour watching the red carpet footage and interviews eagerly, drooling over the beautiful actors and actresses who walked across the screen.
“Oooh! She’s pretty!” Little Elaina turned her attention toward the TV and joined in her older sister’s excitement. “But where’s Mommy? I wanna see Mommy!”
Asher sighed heavily. “They aren’t gonna show Mom. All they care about are these stupid fake actors… It’s so dumb!” He did nothing to hide his annoyance. “Mom works ten times harder than all of ‘em!”
It actually felt good to express this thought out loud for once. Oliver’s mom was a very well-known actress, so Asher had to be very careful about sharing his true feelings about the Hollywood elite around him.
No sooner had this thought crossed his mind than a familiar face appeared on the screen. To the rest of the world, she was Callista Cross, two-time Oscar nominee and Emmy award-winner for her role in the hit mini-series, Beyond the Emerald Sea…
But to him, she was just Callie — Oliver’s bright and bubbly mother who made some of the best peanutbutter cookies Asher had ever tasted.
Asher rolled his eyes as Penelope looked up at the screen, completely enraptured. It was no secret that she practically hero-worshipped Oliver’s mother. Asher had never really understood why… But then, he understood very little of what his sister ever did.
“I hope she wins too!” Penelope squealed.
Asher shrugged. “That’d be cool, I guess.” Though he really was rooting for Callie too, he tried not to sound too enthusiastic. Why encourage his sister’s stupid obsession?
Before Penelope could continue her gushing, they were interrupted by the sound of Christine’s footsteps on the stairs. A few moments later, she appeared from the hallway, smiling kindly with Calvin and Klein at her heels. “Dinner’s ready! Who’s hungry?”
The three Rosebrook children followed her eagerly downstairs to the dining room, and by the time they’d finished their macaroni and cheese, the award ceremony had begun.
Thankfully, the award for costume design was fairly close to the beginning of the broadcast, so Asher didn’t have to suffer through very much before the big moment finally came.
“And the nominees for achievement in costume design are…” Asher couldn’t help it. His breath caught in his throat at the sound of the presenter’s voice as she began rattling off the list of nominees. This was it. “… Emberlynn Rosebrook, The Dragon’s Abyss…”
“Mommy! Daddy!” Elaina cried happily as the camera cut to their mother, with Xander smiling proudly at her side.
The couch shook slightly as Penelope literally began bouncing up and down in excitement.
“And the Oscar goes to…”
Asher’s heart was pounding in his chest. He closed his eyes tightly in anticipation, waiting. Come on, Mom! You’ve gotta win!
“Virginia Harmon, Winter Moon!”
There was a beat of silence, which was quickly broken by Penelope and Asher’s cries of dismay and indignation.
“No! NO! Mommy was ‘sposed to win!” Tears were already falling down the little girl’s face.
Asher didn’t even remember leaping to his feet. “This is BULLSHIT! It’s rigged!”
“Bullshit! Bullshit!” Elaina repeated.
“Asher!” Christine cried out in disapproval. “I know you’re disappointed, but that kind of language —“
“This sucks!” He was almost surprised at his own anger… But it just wasn’t fair! They were all a bunch of stupid fakes and the whole thing was rigged!
Asher stormed away into his bedroom then, where he stayed for almost the rest of the night. He didn’t even come out to see if Oliver’s mom had won her award. He’d find out tomorrow anyway. And besides, it didn’t really mean anything, did it? The whole thing was so stupid!
It wasn’t until he heard the sound of his parents’ voices downstairs and Christine bidding them goodbye that he finally emerged from his bedroom. His sisters had both gone to bed already, but he caught his parents in the upper landing as they made their way toward their bedroom, still looking as glamorous and not-themselves as they had before. Except this time, their joyful, hopeful expressions had been replaced by looks of defeat.
“Hey, buddy!” Xander’s expression brightened as soon as he laid his eyes on his son. “What are you doing up so late? You’ve got school tomorrow!”
“I couldn’t sleep… I was too mad.” Asher confessed. He turned his dark eyes toward his mother then. “Mom, it should’ve been you! I can’t believe you didn’t win! It was rigged by all those stupid fake Hollywood people and… and…” He suddenly felt like he was going to cry.
“Honey, come here.” Emberlynn beckoned Asher to follow her down the hall, where she took a seat on the couch. He dutifully plopped himself down beside her. “I understand how frustrating this whole thing is. Trust me… I’m disappointed too. In fact… this totally sucks.” She confessed, smiling softly at him.
“It does!” He agreed. “It’s not fair!”
“Know what though?” Xander asked, sitting on his son’s other side. “As much as it sucks… it doesn’t change the fact that your mom’s costumes are amazing, right? She doesn’t need some stupid award to know that.”
“Exactly. I’m really disappointed, but I’m not gonna let that take away how proud I am of my work… These awards are just based on people’s opinions. And trust me, it’s not worth it to worry so much about what other people think of you.”
Asher shook his head. “Then how come everybody else cares so much?! Penny, everybody at school, all those fake people on TV… Even you guys! You got all fancy and weird tonight. You would’ve just dressed normal if you didn’t care.”
His parents exchanged a look. “We care a little.” Emberlynn admitted softly. “And that’s okay! What’s not okay is letting it get to you. Or trying to change yourself because of it…” She paused, shaking her head. “That’s something I learned the hard way a long time ago…”
Xander nodded. “You’re right though. There are a lot of fake people in this industry. Your mom and I have to deal with them every day, and sometimes we’ve gotta humor them a little bit. But what’s important is that at the end of the day, we rise above it, right? We don’t let it bring us down… So don’t let this bring you down either, okay, Bud?” He smiled warmly at his son. “We’re still just as proud of Mommy as we were before, aren’t we?”
“Then that’s all that matters.”
The little boy looked up at his father, shrugging. “Okay.” He agreed, a bit reluctantly.
His parents each took turns giving him a tight squeeze, and Asher had to admit, he felt a little better now, despite how ridiculous and unfair the whole thing still was.
“Alright, Mister. Now that we’ve got that settled… Back to bed.” Emberlynn gave her son a quick kiss before gently nudging him off the couch. “We love you.”
“Love you too.” He replied with a yawn. Asher hadn’t realized until that moment just how tired he really was. “G’night.”
He started heading back to bed, but only made it halfway down the hall before he paused and headed back. Another thought had suddenly crossed his mind. “I forgot to ask… Did Ollie’s mom win her award? The ‘acting support’ thing?”
Emberlynn laughed softly. “‘Best Supporting Actress’, you mean?” She corrected him gently. “I think I’ll let Ollie tell you himself tomorrow.”
“That means yes.” Asher grumbled, unable to hide his jealousy as he finally turned away and began heading back toward his bedroom. Oliver was one of his favorite people in the world, but sometimes he let himself care too much about stupid stuff too. Which meant he would talk Asher’s ear off about his mother’s award in the morning…
And, because he was a good friend, Asher would have no choice but to listen.