LAnthony

Excerpt from The South Hills Conspiracy

“He needs us to sign, Cassandra.” Andrew looked over at his wife. Her cafe au lait skin and narrow cheek bones highlighted the large round eyes that completed a look Andrew thought of as Egyptian regal. At that precise moment she turned from the vanity mirror and stared back at him. A challenge he refused to back down from.
“He’s seventeen. The Army requires parental consent before age eighteen.”
“I know how old he is. Don’t sit there and tell me what I know. I also know this country has been at war less than five months, a war I oppose in every way, Stone. People are being killed, being blown up every day. Don’t tell me you want me to give my baby permission to get involved in that. No.”
When she turned back to the mirror to do her eye lashes Andrew saw her watching for his reaction in the reflection.
“That would be five years from now, if ever. Jesse has four years at the academy to complete first, which begins a year from now assuming he gets accepted. And that’s only half of it. He also has to garner a congressional nomination, an even harder requirement. Only a handful is awarded each year. But just think about it, Cass. Do you realize what could happen in five years? That’s an eternity in terms of armed combat. It could long be over before then. Signing for him to go to the academy is not volunteering him to fight in Iraq.” Andrew stood and walked past her into the bathroom. He ran cold water in the sink and scooped his palms underneath, splashing his face with it. Looking up in the mirror he didn’t see a highly regarded fifty something police chief. Instead, he saw a tired looking, gray haired, middle aged man, who had failed to convince his wife that one agreement over a family matter was so vitally important.
Determined that the outcome of this conflict would serve as a referendum on their relationship, Andrew closed the faucet and went back to Cassandra, dripping water as he pressed a cream colored towel hard against his forehead.
“This isn’t just the Army. It’s West Point. The-”
“I know what the hell it is. Can you stop for one minute trying to tell me what I know? God help me.”
Andrew paused, his hands dropping beside him, the towel falling to the floor. It wasn’t only that his authority in the family was being questioned. Those attacks had begun long ago. This was also about respect. Cassandra had proven herself to be every bit his equal as an investigator, perhaps his superior. His wife was the head of the fraud unit for a major insurance company, which garnered a substantial six figure income that dwarfed his. Why should she listen to him? His argument had to not only be persuasive but also on the right side, if there was one.
“I apologize. But I have to tell you why you should sign.”
“Go ahead then, tell me, please. I gotta here this.” She put her brush down, swiveled the stool around, and crossed her arms, waiting. Andrew sat back on the bed, bending down to retrieve the towel as he did so.
“Your position is based on emotion, which may not be the best way to inform your decisions. Because of that you are missing the main focus of what this is about.”
“Uh huh, right. Why does this feel like another lecture?”
“What I’m trying to say is that it’s not about you, yet you’re acting as if it is. As a mother your instincts are to protect your child. And while I admire that I see Jesse for who he really is.”
“And I don’t?”
“No, I’m afraid you don’t, not in this case. He is seventeen. Your child but not a child. You act as if eighteen is a magic number and you get to make all the choices right up until his birthday but that’s just not the reality. He is already grown up. A man making difficult decisions about his own life. If you presume to do this for him you aim to take away the very thing he has earned a right to. It is his future Cass, not yours, can you see that? Can’t you also see that if by refusing to sign and preventing him from his dream, you won’t be on his side? Aren’t we supposed to be on his side? Instead you will forever be on the wrong side.”
“Forever.”
“For the rest of Jesse’s life and that will be a very long time.”
“It had better be, Andrew.”

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