When she turned back to her husband, concern wrinkled his forehead in a way she found endearing. Isobel smiled in spite of her building anxiety.
"What did Lyle say about it?" Mark asked.
She hadn't told her closest colleague about the call. She and Lyle Greenwood had started at LHHS in the same year and generally chatted each day. The news of the voicemail had been stuck in her throat at lunchtime, but the truth was, she knew what Lyle would say, and she didn't want to hear it. "I didn't get a chance to tell him."
"Do you think you should tell Wayne?"
"Wayne?" Isobel blew a breath out of the corner of her mouth, picturing her bumbling principal. "I mean, I guess so."
"Have you had a Grow and Glow lately?"
Isobel thought of her most recent performance review—they were stupidly named "Grow and Glow"—with her department chair, about a month ago. The "glow" had been about using Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk about stereotypes and assumptions. The "grow" had been to solicit comments from a wider cross-section of her classes. It was a friendly meeting, but Isobel knew how quickly public opinion on teacher quality could change. She only had to think back to the firing of Peter Harrington the previous fall for an example. He'd been a shining star one moment, and then he'd pissed off the wrong parent.
"It was pretty positive," she said to Mark. "It seemed before this morning like I was having a good year." She stared blankly at the television and took a several-second swallow from her wine glass.
Just a mile from the high school in Liston Heights, Julia Abbott set her cellphone on the counter next to the Viking range and poured a second glass of prosecco into a stemless flute. She peered toward the back door. She could hear her daughter, Tracy, knocking snow from her boots in the mudroom. Andrew, her oldest, refused to wear boots at all.
"Trace?" Julia called.
"Hey, Mom!" Tracy hollered.
"Was practice super cold?" The ninth grader insisted on cross country skiing as her winter sport, a choice that astounded Julia, who preferred Fair Isle sweaters and watching snow fall from the warmth of her living room. The prosecco's carbonation tickled her nose, and her eyes watered as she took a sip.
"Just a sec!" Tracy yelled. Julia heard the back door open a second time and knew Andrew must have made it inside. He appeared before his sister did, sliding in stocking feet into the kitchen.
"Well?" Julia said to him, her eyebrows raised.
"It was good." Andrew shrugged. He walked past his mother to grab a glass from the cabinet by the kitchen sink.
"Good?" Julia repeated, staring at his back. "Any surprises at the audition?"
"I mean..." Andrew ran the tap.
"Use the filter," Julia interrupted.
"It's fine." Andrew filled the glass with city water. "It was my first callback. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be like. Relax."
She bristled, but decided to ignore the condescending directive. "Did Mr. Dittmer seem pleased?"
"Mom." His voice took on a familiar edge. "I just don't know."
"Hi, Mom." Tracy came in, and Andrew slipped out of the kitchen, his glass rattling on the counter where he'd left it. "What's for dinner?" Tracy asked.
"Quinoa salad with roasted beets." Julia's smile was coy.
"I mean for us," Tracy deadpanned. She shook her hat hair, stretching a ponytail holder between her thumb and forefinger.
"Spaghetti," Julia offered, lips pursed. "With meatballs."
"Awesome." Tracy turned away, her thick mismatched socks pulled up over black workout tights that looked a little thin over her backside. "I'm gonna shower," she said.
Julia reached for her cellphone as Tracy padded upstairs. She'd order some new Smartwool knee-highs and decent leggings for her daughter that evening. Now, she tapped out a text to Robin Bergstrom, another theater mom. "Any buzz from callbacks?" she asked. "Andrew is useless." She watched her phone to see if the three blinking dots would appear, the indicator that Robin was texting back. When they didn't pop up, Julia put her phone on the counter and turned to the oven. Her beets were smelling done.