Time passed and Beth became pregnant. Jay was finally promoted to manager at the pizza place he had been working since he was a teenager. Beth’s job as a bookkeeper for a chiropractic office made it so she could adjust her schedule and work whenever she wanted. Grace was born in February of 1996 and was the joy of Jay and Beth’s life. She came out with a full head of hair and a smile that stopped everyone in their tracks. They still didn’t have much money but they were the richest people they ever knew.
Taking Grace out in public was a job similar to being a body guard for a movie star. With her long thick hair and beautiful face she resembled a model in a Gap kid’s ad. People often stopped Beth and Jay just to tell them how beautiful she was. This was a situation which made Jay as happy as it concerned him. When Grace started school it became even worse, every little boy followed her around like a puppy and every little girl desired to be her best friend. This particular condition made her a constant target for her teachers that appeared to be jealous of the child and the power over other students she had.
“Grace is always talking to others in class”
“Grace seems to be distracted.” They even tried to convince Jay and Beth that she had Attention Deficit Disorder and she needed to be medicated. To which Jay suggested they may need to draw a bath and drag a rusty razor across their supple wrists. Saying that Jay Branch was overprotective of his daughter would be a major understatement. His life had turned out to be more than he had ever dreamed of and to be perfectly honest he had never dreamed was even an option. The simple life in a house in a neighborhood with a wife and kid and a 40 hour a week job seemed something that the suburban sheep did and that he, the once fame hungry musician, could never begin to admit fit him all too well.
But he was happy, happy beyond words. Every day he couldn’t wait to get home to see their waiting faces peeking out the front window. To be able to just sit on the couch and watch Grace as she watched whatever cartoon was currently enthralling her. While Beth and he would snuggle on the couch behind her like a couple of teenage kids both waiting for the second she was asleep so they could sneak off to the bedroom and at the same time just marveling at the awesomeness that she was. She was an adorable child that would just create worlds of her own imagination. Building forts out of just
about anything and constructing entire cities for Smurf dolls to live in and apartment complexes for her My Little Pony’s.
After Grace made it through a year of kindergarten unscathed Beth decided to go back to school part time to finish her degree. She started taking night classes at Georgia State University.
“We have to show Grace that an education is important.” she had said to Jay. “Besides you know by the time she hits middle school she will be bored and disgusted with us.” She had snuggled her face up to Jays and then cooed in his ear. “By then I’ll have a degree and I can get a good job so we can start saving money for our Winnebago so we can travel the states together like cute old people do.” Jay didn’t know if he was scared out of his mind at the thought of being a “cute old man” or if he loved it. He did absolutely love the thought of him and Beth traveling around the country discovering stupid things like the biggest ball of yarn and checking out haunted houses and hitting every greasy spoon from here to California. He just never knew that this plan for the future would upheave his entire world.