So the Sparrow house quickly becomes one of the most fun summer homes in the neighborhood. Everything that the kids could ever want to play with is outside, so much so that they forget to use most of it.
Which doesn't mean that anyone in the family is exempt from doing their chores, of course. Who wears all these knits and pairs of jeans around here?
Not Dustin, bringer-of-bread, defier-of-death- and buyer-of-pools.
Not Meghan, slightly narcissistic and reclusive privately funded scientist who brings more bread, but also bugs into the house.
Not Jyoti, sporty eldest child who clings to her activewear and brings mostly more expenses so far.
Not Jet, wearing flannel shorts in summer because nobody cares what he paints in and they can always buy him another one.
The kids are on their own for meals a lot, sometimes Jet talks about all the things he remembers their dad making when he was younger.
That, and sometimes you just want a bucket full of chicken and a summer picknick when the weather finally breaks.
“Do you know how much more exercise you have to do now that you're eating nothing but cheese and bread everyday?” Jyo remarks.
“But- you're having a muffin.” Jet doesn't understand the fitness obsession. "Make a salad if you care about it so much.”
“I'm having this muffin because I miss baking, and it's tiny so I can have it as a snack.” She defends quickly.
“You brought it up. I don't know why you like working out so much anyways.”
“It's not like there's anyone around to look at you.”
“Yeah, and I don't need anyone either thanks!” She barks sarcastically, trying to ignore her brother's smug smile.
She's been so weird after mom and dad came home from their trip. But, he doesn't care about that too much. As long as he can keep doing whatever he wants all the time.
He started cooking to get to feel a little closer to his dad, anyways. It's nice that they can have some things in common and they both like to share recipies, although Jet suspects that he isn't telling his dad much that's new. One day, maybe he will surprise him.
Dustin sneezes. He hopes he's not catching a cold. It would happen today, on a day he doesn't have work later, so of course he's feeling germy now, when he's planning operation family fun.
It's apparent that something is wrong with his daughter lately, so he pulls her aside to talk about it. She's been stomping around the house like she wants to hit something.
“You know we have a punching bag, right? It's right upstairs, you're welcome to go destroy it when you're feeling like this.”
He's rewarded with something of a glare for his kind tone. “Oh, and how am I feeling like, Dad?”
“Obviously upset, struggling with your feelings, I know how hard it can be to deal with so many emotions as a teenager- you don't have to have a reason why, either. Just go work out a little, and use that time to think things over. Try to find your why- but sometimes you won't know why, and that'll be okay too.”
Gross. Don't talk to me about understanding my teenage feelings. That's just weird.
That's what she wanted to say. But something in his expression makes her hesitate from lashing out. Which is kind of annoying too.
He takes advantage of the silence and pats her on the shoulder. “Go work out, your mom and I have a surprise for you today that I think you'll like.”
She breaks character for a second. “Dad... how did you...?”
“Yeah? How did I what sweetie?”
“Uhh nevermind.” She looks down. How did you know what you wanted to do in life, why were you always so sure about mom? I don't like anyone, not really... what if I'm not normal? No other girls like sports the way I do, and all the boys annoy me, and the girls annoy me, and everyone annoys me... what if I end up alone? I have friends, but something's missing.
She doesn't want to talk about any of these things, not really. But there's a nagging feeling that she should, which is even worse.
“You don't have to force yourself. Ask me again when you're ready.”
“Okay, maybe I will. Thanks, Dad.”
Hours later, the Sparrows are hosting a pool party. In the daylight, with lots of awesome food and a bunch of guests of all ages.
Gotta enjoy labor day, where the right not to work is celebrated all over, so there's no school, no shows, not even a care for normal hobbies.
The sun feels like heaven on her skin and Jyoti doesn't complain for once that she doesn't know what to do. Everyone knows what to do at a pool party.
This awesome picknick table looks like this with an open picknick basket on it. Did anyone else know they can have a different table cloth based on the table?! So pretty!
And this is the general party setup before the guests arrive. Meghan and Dustin should probably be punishing their daughter for having a party while they were away, but it showed them how much they were missing of their kid's lives, so they're trying this instead. Giving her a supervised party so they can see how she is with kids her age, and see if their kids are okay in general.
Her dad used the groceries for the party excuse to be the first one to drive her awesome hot-rod however.
Back to the party.
For some reason, now that Jyo isn't the one who invited everyone and wants to be liked or to like her guests, a lot of pressure is off and she is able to relax a bit.
She doesn't like anyone yet, big deal. The realization is kind of empowering. Everyone here is just a bunch of kids, having fun because it's absolutely gorgeous outside.
Kevin is here too, soon to age up, probably, this is how he dives.
Jyoti, Kevin, Dannigan, some kid from class. No Iris, there are rumors that Dannigan and she broke it off, something Kevin and his sister are taking in stride so far.
Darla's dive is particularly epic, especially as she's the shorts and a t-shirt type of diver who doesn't come off as that serious until it's time to launch oneself into the air. It was a perfect dive, so I didn't catch it on the screen.
The party is perfect. As the sun starts to slowly, lazily set there is still the smell of burgers being grilled, the sounds of people splashing and swimming in the pool and people joking and laughing and yelling for splashing too much...
That's Maria, Leon's girlfriend sitting in the island being nerdy and finishing her homework last minute (the blond).
Jyoti gets the satisfaction of beating that kid from class at a hold your breath contest, Alyss Khan talks to Jet about some school project they're partners working on...
And then teaches him a song. Apparently she used to live in France before her parents moved to Starlight.
Jyo still can't help look over her graduating class and thinking it's all slim pickings.
Is it just because her two best friends, Kevin Swift,
And Howard Huanna have yet to join her as an agemate? Is that why she feels lonely for no reason, in this pool full of people, that she feels no excitement?
It takes her a second to notice that the guy she beat at holding her breath is also watching her. That's right, Malcolm Meir. He's that shy kid who never says anything from class, guess they aged up around the same time. So weird. But before she can recognize that his gaze looks to be something like sympathy, as if he knows she's thinking a million more things right now that she could ever express, she decides more pool games are in order.
Today is not about self-reflection, at all. It's about fun and letting off steam and being exhausted and happy later.
And being way better than anyone else at holding her breath. She can too swim without drowning!!
Seriously, even though Everet has his moments (which is all that was last time) there's nobody worth her time here. At all.
Nice belly flop, Everet. Guess nobody's perfect.
Nobody notices when her parents slip away for go make out in the car a little bit, either. It's a good time for... research gathering.
Alyss also shares her opinions about how bad this party is. "It's horrible, so bad."
Just to be contrary, Jet smiles and thanks her. “That's what we were going for.”
“What? You're lying!”
“Maybe. But I had fun. Who cares what you had?”
Oh. That's what you two were doing over there. Sure it was.
“You know Dustin, I think we've been worrying over nothing. Everyone seems fine.”
'Jyo's doing great, still looks like she gets along with her friends, Jet has friends, and a lot of people are staying later than they would if they weren't enjoying themselves. I think this party was a success, maybe we should just all do more things together?'
Dustin's not as convinced. “Our kids are great, but I think things have happened too fast for them. Suddenly we have money, suddenly we're not home as much, we've been selfish, even if it was to have a more secure future. I hope Jyo's okay... that she's not just putting on an act.”
He has no idea how good his instincts are about this, but still he can't prove it, he'll just have to trust his daughter.
And maybe put a few more ladders in the pool or make if wider, easier to navigate.
Overall, it was a success (Nobody Died).
Meghan and her daughter (who gave up on not-grilled cheese for the day) eat afterwards in a companionable silence.
The food in the picknick basket was out in the sun a little too long though.
And the school week starts tomorrow, so...
Everything goes kinda back to normal?
Although now there's more family time, as promised.
Meghan uses these moments to talk to Jyoti about what goes on in school. Mostly she gets to hear about clubs, sports and most importantly, the kinds of kids her kid likes to hang out with. She's pleased it seems like a she gets along with a lot of other types of personalities. Their son however, is another matter altogether. Jet likes to rant about people that annoy him, and are dumb. Hopefully that apparent disdain for others is a phase.
“Mom, should I be in love with someone? I should try to find a boyfriend right? Not like go off and have sex with someone randomly, I just mean that I don't feel anything for anyone right now. I mean, what if there's something wrong with me?”
Dustin breathes in a piece of bun at exactly that moment. “Am I supposed to be here for this?” He asks weakly.
“No dad, you can be excused.” Jyo replies snippily. “I didn't want to ask you because I knew you'd react like this!”
Dustin grins. “Just kidding, you can ask me anything any time. So that's what's been bothering you? How you're never gonna meet someone you like? Just ask all the guys at school to measure their wieners, then choose based on that.”
“Calm down Jyo, he's kidding and being a jerk.” Her mom replies quickly with a side glare that does nothing.
“Yes, I-am-being-a-jerk.” He parrots back. “Also, and I'm telling you this as your father, don't date a guy with a small wiener.”
“Gross dad, stop saying wiener.”
“Noodle, doodle, shlongus.”
“Da~d EW, I said stop!”
“I'm being serious!”
“So am I, guys with a tiny dingy are irritable and domineering. I want my daughter to date no one, but if she's thinking about dating already then I want her to be happy with her choice.”
“You're being gross. I'm your daughter.” She enunciates.
“Eh, you're older now you can handle it.”
“There's more to guys than their... I'm not going to say that! They don't go around worrying about their things all the time so I'm not going to either.”
“If there's a guy that doesn't worry about that then I want to meet him too.”
Her mom valiantly tries to get the conversation back on track.
“Jyoti, sweetie, ignore your father for a moment and look at me. It's not like an algorithm. You can't just put a formula into a calculator and come out with the most compatible person to be with. You just have to be patient and find someone worthwhile.”
“Someone who will beat up your current boyfriend because he can't stand watching you guys make out all the time.” Dustin suggests.
“Dustin what the hell is wrong with you today?”
He shrugs. “Maybe I'm feeling sentimental. Our anniversary is coming up soon you know.”
“You're feeling sentimental about beating someone up?” Jyoti chimes in. “Wait, dad did you really beat up mom's boyfriend?”
“It's a long story sweetie...”
“Fine, I'll date a local mafioso who will throw any potential other suitors of mine into a lake. Is that what you're telling me to do? Find some violent idiot who also happens to crack jokes all day so he can do whatever he wants?”
“Don't insult your father.”
“He's insulting me! I don't want some muscle-bound idiot who won't let me make my own decisions! So what, you helped mom 'decide' to be with you by terrifying her current boyfriend into leaving her, who even does that!?”
Dustin can sort of see her point. “I can sort of... see your point, Jyo. But it wasn't like that.”
“I don't think I want to know anymore, never mind.”
“Your dad's being a bit clumsy, but he means that relationships are complicated and you shouldn't enter into one just for the sake of having someone. I did that, and it was a mistake. My guy at the time, we didn't really get to know each other very well, and your dad, well he knew everything about me. Eventually what your father and I have just made more sense.”
“You mean you settled.” Jyo mutters under her breath. “Or did you just let dad boss you around until you wanted to be with him?”
“Okay, okay FINE, maybe I shouldn't be teasing you when you really want to know things.” Dustin offers something loosely related to an apology. “But in relationships, real ones, there is no boss, no one person in charge. It's a partnership, and you have to work with each other. It's not always easy.”
“That may be the single most useful thing you've ever said in your life.” Meghan quips.
“I know. Actually, there's always some truth in humor, and our daughter is smart enough to know that too. I made the weinus joke to make a point.”
“Are you making another joke right now?” Jyo asks, suspiciously.
“What? No, no I'm being serious. But yes, a point, ha-ha that's quality work.” He replies deadpan. “Actually what I'm saying is there's no real way to know, so simply stop worrying about it. Everyone has their own sense of timing, so just focus on getting to know yourself. Because if you start dating someone and don't know much about who you are, you're going to change and it won't work out anyway. You have to be happy with who you are first anyways.”
Meghan nods. Finally they were getting somewhere with this. “Basically you can't distill it down any simpler than that. Love can't be forced, it has to be worked at, there is no fairy tale prince, on a white horse, ready to whisk you off somewhere. But if you do find someone who stands up for you, or makes you feel better about yourself, consider keeping him around.”
“Okay, you know what, that actually made me feel better. I can't believe talking to you guys actually worked for once!”
“And don't you forget it.”
“Good afternoon, sweetie!” Meghan waves to their son.
Jyoti switches topics to finding the right thing to do in life while Jet makes his way over.
“What's going on, little man?” Dustin greets him.
“Hey dad, it's too hot out here, I'm going to stay inside and read okay? Since it's a Saturday.”
“Okay but don't leave me hanging kid.”
Jet leaves it hanging. If he has one imperative in life it's to do the opposite of anything that could be interpreted as a direct order.
He takes his food back inside without another word.
(Le choking on food gag still entertaining)
“Aren't you the Mayor's wife?” Dustin asked, not confused so much as wanting to change the direction of the conversation away from how she can't get a VIP pass to his dressing room alone after the show.
“I am, but we have a very open relationship. I'm here to see some of your... magic, first hand. Or if you like, I can show you...”
He cracks his knuckles. “Alright.” And she begins to levitate, until she's several feet away from him and getting further all the time. “I like to call this trick- Begone, Thot!” And he lowers her gently to the pavement very, very far away from him and spins on his heel to retreat inside.
Phew! I can see why Mayor Huanna doesn't let her come out in public all that much.