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Saturday, May 29 (cont.)

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     After Reese’s hour of writing out his sister’s punishment, she gave him the middle part of the day off since she was supposed to go out with Elle later to hang out with some of their friends and play Spikeball at the park. Her friend was just so athletic and got so into sports during their time at college, and coupled with Olivia’s love for fitness, the two of them seemed to make a great pair and were hanging out more and more. It was only a matter of time before Olivia invited her friend over for dinner with her family that night.

     “Hey, do you guys remember meeting my friend Elle when I was in high school?” Olivia asked, introducing her sporty blonde friend to her parents. Reese was on the couch, watching a YouTube video on his phone.

     “No, I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure of meeting,” Tracy warmly responded, reaching out her arms to shake Elle’s hand. “Ella, was it?”

     “Just Elle,” the girl politely responded, shaking Stuart’s hand as well. “Nice to meet you guys.”

     “So you two went to high school together?” Tracy asked, pointing between the two of them. “Been catching up with some old friends?”

     “Yeah, we knew each other in high school, but we pretty much became like actual friends in college,” Olivia explained, and Elle nodded in agreement.

     “Aw, that’s nice then. Well however you know Olivia, welcome to the family,” Tracy smiled. “We were just about getting ready to eat, are you joining us?” Elle nodded, and Tracy turned to the living room where her son was. “Reese, can you come set the table?”

     “I’m not really hungry, Mom,” he replied, not looking up from his phone.

     “I still want you to set the table,” his mom answered without missing a beat. “Your dad and I made dinner, and Olivia brought a friend over.” Reese had been so focused on his video, he hadn’t even realized there was a fifth person in the house, and he turned to look over the couch and see who Olivia brought.

     “Hey Reese,” Elle mentioned, waving at him from the kitchen, and a small sliver of him felt weirdly glad that his sister hadn’t brought back Jordan. 

     “Oh. Hi,” he said, then jumped off the couch to get some plates and silverware from the bottom cabinets and set up the dinner table for everyone else. Elle turned to sit down and wait at the table while Olivia went to grab a cup of water from the sink. But Tracy happened to glance down as her daughter walked by, and noticed that Olivia had left big, brown footprints behind her, that she realized trailed all the way to the front door. 

     “Olivia, wait, stop!” Tracy ordered, holding up her hand as she gazed at the trail. Olivia did as she was told and paused mid motion, confused about her mom’s sudden tone of concern. She looked behind her and followed Tracy’s eye line downward to the floor, realizing the trail of slightly discolored smudges she’d left on the wooden floors. There was a second trail too, which must’ve been from Elle’s footprint. “Lemme see the bottom of your feet,” Tracy insisted, and Olivia lifted one of her legs up behind her, showing off the bottoms of her soles. They were completely brown, defiled from the hours spent playing barefoot in the park with her friends. “Oh, Olivia, they’re filthy! How could you come home like that, weren’t you wearing any shoes?”

     “Uh… sorry Mom, we were playing Spikeball at Beaumont Park. I didn’t realize they got so bad,” she grimaced, turning her foot over and peering at her sole from another angle.

     “Elle, I’m assuming yours are pretty bad too?” Tracy turned and asked, trying to still be polite but visibly upset by her tarnished floors. 

     The other girl’s mouth was open, looking at her and her friend’s mistake and what they had accidentally tracked in. She lifted her foot onto her lap to look at the sole, and saw it was just as stained with crud as Olivia’s. “Oh, Mrs. Smith I’m sorry, I didn’t even realize,” she apologized, looking around like she wasn’t sure where to walk next without soiling even more of their house. Stuart raised his eyebrows as he looked at what all the fuss was about, but didn’t add anything as he carried the food over to the table.

     “How about you two go wash your feet off in the tub upstairs,” Tracy suggested.

     Olivia eyed the food her dad carried to the table: a golden glazed ham, juicy red beets, and some creamy mashed potatoes. “Can we do it after dinner? I literally haven’t eaten since lunch, I’m so hungry.”

     Her mom shook her head, “No, Olivia, I don’t wanna forget, and then you end up walking on the carpet and getting dirt in the fibers that are hard to clean out. Just go do it now.”

     “We’re gonna have to walk on the carpet anyways to get upstairs,” her daughter rebutted, before their guest came up with a solution.

     “We could put our feet in ziplock bags,” Elle offered with a shrug. “Kinda weird but it’d work.” Reese finished up with setting the table, and as Olivia looked at him, an idea formed in her mind.

     “Reese, didn’t you say you weren’t that hungry, you weren’t gonna eat with us?” 

     Her brother looked up at her, having zoned himself out from their conversation until he heard his name called. “Uhh… yeah? Why do you ask?”

     “Then you can clean our feet!” Olivia announced with a smile, glad to have found a solution that could work for everyone.

     “Oh, Olivia, don’t make your brother do that,” Tracy commented, wrinkling her face at such a notion. “It’ll only take you and your friend ten minutes, just go on upstairs and do it.”

     “Yeah, well that’s ten minutes longer I’ll have to wait for dinner. And I’m not gonna ‘make’ him do anything; he already kinda owes me for something.”

     “For what?” their mom asked suspiciously, crossing her arms. What kind of thing could he owe her for that would make him willing to watch his sister’s (and her friend’s) disgusting feet?

     “That’s a brother-sister secret,” Olivia proudly declared, bending her knees so she could pull her brother up against her legs and ruffle his hair. “But you won’t mind, right?” she asked, looking down at him.

     He rubbed the back of his head, feeling awkward with the eyes of everyone in the room focused on him. “Yeah Mom it’s fine. Olivia’s right, I kinda owe her for something she’s been helping me with. I don’t mind.”

     Tracy didn’t say anything at first, eying her children. “I still don’t see why you can’t just go wash off upstairs, honey.”

     Olivia rolled her eyes now, “Mom, he already agreed to it anyways. It’s fine.” Tracy saw that there was no point in arguing and sighed as she joined her husband and Elle at the table, as Olivia did her best to backtrack her steps as much as possible so as not to further smear the floors. And Reese headed into the kitchen to grab a towel, a sponge, and a Tupperware container that he filled with warm, soapy water. Then he carried it into the dining room with both hands like he was bringing in a dish, except instead of setting it down on the table, he knelt down on the floor with it instead. Normally Olivia and Reese sat opposite each other on the long ends of the table, with their parents at the top and bottom, but this time his sister had hauled his chair around to her side to sit next to her friend, leaving room for Reese to dip under the table. Tracy ducked her head under too, frowning at how weird it still was, but resigned to the fact that her children were both adults now and didn’t need her second-guessing their every decision. The least involved was Stuart of course, who frankly didn’t care if it was a game or a bet or an IOU; they were still kids in his eyes, so he just let them do whatever they wanted.

     Reese laid the towel to make sure the water wouldn’t drip onto the floor, and then set the tray of warm water on top. He sat in front of Olivia’s feet first, and she kindly offered him her giant, dusty foot, wiggling her toes to remind him that all of her crevices needed to be cleaned. Grabbing her ankle, the boy winced at the foul-smelling crud that covered her sole, but nonetheless dipped his sponge in the water and started rubbing away. “Mmmmm, the warm water was a nice touch,” Olivia murmured.

     “Thanks,” he said, as the brown water slowly dripped off her feet, into the water again and on the towel. Slowly, it seemed he was able to erode the muck from her sole.

     “I know that I’m the one you owe and not Elle, but remember that mom wants you to clean Elle’s feet too, OK? So do just as good of a job with hers as you’re doing with mine.” He didn’t needed the reminder, but he rolled his eyes and voiced his acquiescence anyways. Technically, mom didn’t want me to, only you did, he thought. But the difference didn’t matter. 

     Tracy didn’t like being reminded that her son was under the table though, or hearing the soft splashes of his water tray while Olivia happily ate her dinner up above, so the woman started talking with Elle to try and get a conversation going with the family. “So, Elle. Olivia said you two knew each other in high school, but didn’t really become friends til college?” Elle nodded, and relayed the story of how the two girls slowly got to know each other better through the years, with Olivia piping in details here and there and Stuart occasionally conversing as well. It wasn’t long before the whole family had forgotten about Reese down under the table; even Olivia had stopped being aware of her little brother tending to her dirty feet below her. Until eventually, fully washed, he patted them dry with the towel.

     He then scooted over so he was in front of Elle’s legs now, who was completely oblivious to his presence and like everyone else had forgotten he was even there. Reese gingerly reached out to take hold of one of her feet, and she yelped out in surprise, pulling her legs away instinctively. “Oh! Sorry, I totally forgot about you Reese,” she commented, making the boy blush. Slowly moving her legs back out in front of her, she lowered her head under the table to watch as her friend’s little brother obediently took ahold of her soles to start cleaning them. Even though she had played out in the dirt for just as long as Olivia, Elle’s skin was much fairer than Olivia’s bronzed tan, so the contrast between her pale skin and the dark dirt made the task seem even more monumental. Just like with his sister’s feet, Reese could faintly smell the mixture of skin, sweat, and soil that was caked between her toes. It was just a smell he had to put up with though.

     Finally, Reese thought he was done as he dried off Elle’s feet a few minutes later and prepared to get out from under the table. But Olivia was walking by to grab some more water from the kitchen, and bent over to look at him under there. “Hey Mom, you know since he already cleaned mine and Elle’s, why don’t you let him clean yours too?” Reese froze up upon hearing this. It was already annoying enough that he had to clean his sister’s, but he did it without complaining since he didn’t want another fiasco like this morning, or to lose out on her helping him. Even cleaning Elle’s had been a bit much. But for her to now make him add his mom’s to the list?

     Tracy scoffed at the idea, curling her toes and withdrawing her legs under her chair. “Oh, no. Really Olivia? I’m sure he thinks doing yours and your friend’s were more than enough, and my feet aren’t as dirty as yours. I didn’t track dirt through the house, remember?”

     Olivia ignored her mom’s accusation and doubled down on the idea. “C’mon, didn’t Jesus wash people’s feet in the Bible? You’re just like Jesus, Reese, that’s not such a bad thing,” she joked, lightly prodding her brother with her foot before heading back around to her seat.

     Their mom sighed, frowning at her daughter and the games she was playing with her brother. “Sweetie… really?” She wasn’t quite defending her son with the same gusto as before, but she still wasn’t about to so easily be persuaded. 

     “Reese, go ahead. Maybe Mom will like it, but if she doesn’t like it then she doesn’t like it.” Tracy was still hesitant, but her son wasn’t saying no. And he had given her a foot rub about a week ago. So maybe it wasn’t that weird of an idea after all.

     “OK, fine. If this is your idea of humility or serving or whatever, you can go ahead,” she said, and reached her feet back out in front of her. Reese sighed, assuming that his mother wouldn’t have given in to Olivia so easily. Mind as well just get it over with though, it won’t even take 5 minutes, he told himself, accepting his mother’s wrinkled feet into his hands.

 

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