We barely got through the front door of the Revolt House before we all collapsed onto the furniture or the floor.
With the arrival of our unexpected allies, the animal rights protest would go in the books as our greatest event. There were at least five local news stations that had covered the event and interviewed members of the Revolt House. They wanted to interview the leader of the movement, of course, but the other housemates were prepared to lie, claiming they were all in charge as a council. I wasn’t in it for attention. Honestly, too much attention on just me would seriously inhibit us.
In some cases, we benefited from fewer people knowing my identity and my part in the Revolt House’s inception. If people didn’t know who I was, they couldn’t avoid me when I needed to have a one-on-one conversation with them, like when Melissa and I managed to corner Representative Abbot. The only reason we were able to do that and get away with it was that at least one of us had maintained a sense of anonymity and wasn’t recognized as a member of the Revolt House. At least one person needed to keep that up. I was more than willing to do that for the team and the cause.
After a full day of protesting, educating, recruiting, and promoting, we were all exhausted. Even my feet were killing me, and our Kigurumi’s were drenched in sweat. We were all gonna sleep well that night. We probably weren’t even going to make it through dinner.
Shit. It was my week to make that.
I groaned, forcing myself to stand up from my comfortable spot on the living room couch, and wandered into the kitchen. “Tia, don’t worry about dinner,” Haley chirped up. “We’ll order pizza!”
“No, no. It’s okay. I got it.” Pasta. Pasta was easy and fast. I opened one of the top cabinet doors, searching for a small saucepan to heat the vegan pesto sauce we got on the last trip to the grocery store. I also needed the big pot that could cook up ten pounds of spaghetti.
Where were the pans? Where was everything? The cabinet was way too empty. Oh, no. With dread, I turned my attention to the dishwasher. It was practically exploding with dirty dishes, including pretty much everything I needed to make dinner. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten to run the dishwasher before we left. Fuck.
“Tia,” Jude’s dry, almost parental tone filled my ear.
“I know. I’m sorry—”
“Stop apologizing,” Jude interrupted.
“But I had one job this week—”
“One job? Tia, you’ve never had just one job. You’ve run the house. You’ve made sure we always paid rent on time, organized every single event, and gotten us all into rooms that were never open to us. On top of all of that, you’ve been cooking, cleaning, and doing your part just like the rest of us. You’ve had a million jobs for as long as everyone can remember. We can order pizza for one night. Relax.”
I looked around at everyone. Every house member carried two kinds of faces; worried smiles and just general worry. They had been talking about my workaholism. Again.
“Everyone, I appreciate your understanding and your patience with me—”
“It means nothing if you can’t be understanding and patient with yourself,” Haley piped up. Why did she have to be so sweet?
“I know, Hales. I’m trying. I really am.”
“We know you are.” Haley smiled. “And we would like to help you.”
It was at that point suspicious dread coursed through my body. They were up to something. “And how do you intend on helping me?” I asked, side-eying the whole group.
Haley took a deep breath, trying to enlarge her tiny frame as much as possible. She was actually scared to say what she wanted to say. “We’ve all voted. We came to the unanimous decision to implement mandatory vacation time for all of us, but especially for you. You have to take, at least, the next seven days off. If you want to take more, that’s great, and we encourage it. But seven days is the minimum amount of time you have to take off.
“Furthermore, you have to actually leave the House to take this vacation time. If it were anyone else, we would allow you to do a stay-cation. But we all know, if you’re here, you’re going to try to work. So your vacation has to be somewhere other than the Revolt House. If you like, it can be at one of the hotels in town. But we’re not allowing you back into the house until this time next week.”
I arched my eyebrow at Haley. “Next week?”
“Yep. Your vacation starts tonight as soon as we’re done with dinner. These are not the only conditions we have about this time. While we wait for the pizza to arrive, we will be packing your suitcase to make sure you don’t bring anything with you that would allow you to turn this into a working vacation. You’re not allowed to take your work laptop or work phone. And we’ll be monitoring to make sure you don’t try to work from your personal laptop or phone.
“These are our terms. They are not negotiable.” Haley finished her informative speech with a very confident head nod and grunt.
Aside from the eyebrow quirk and crossing my arms over my chest, I had remained still, tempering my reactions to not show on my face. I could tell my intent and unwavering eye contact had made Haley nervous as she spoke. There was a waver to her voice in some places, and she tripped on her tongue a few times. I passed my eyes over the whole group, taking in their reactions. They were behind Haley all the way. I got the distinct feeling Haley wasn’t made the bearer of this news by chance or accident. They had planned this. They had known just how hard it was for me to tell her no.
My own group. My own revolutionaries. My loyal soldiers in my squadron had unionized against me to force me to take time for myself. The Goddess of the Revolt was being revolted against.
I was so proud of those little fucking shits.
“Are you mad?” My silence must’ve scared Haley all the more if she had to ask that. I turned my focused attention back to her before walking up to her. My five-foot-nine body towered over her petite, five-foot-five frame, further intimidating her if the look in her blue eyes was any indication.
I let out a tired sigh before my lips spread into a crooked smile. I unfolded one of my arms so I could ruffle Haley’s blonde hair affectionately. “Why would I be mad about my friends wanting to take care of me?”
“Even though we didn’t ask if you wanted to take time off?” Haley asked timidly from beneath her messed-up bangs.
I sighed again, removing my hand from her head. “Had you sprung this on me this morning, I probably wouldn’t have been happy. But…I realized this afternoon, now that I’m back in touch with my family, it would be kind of nice to take some more time off to be with them again. Reunite. Admittedly, I didn’t think I was going to be doing that so soon, but…why not? No time like the present.” A silence fell over the house. As my eyes scanned the living room, I saw everyone looking at me with either wide eyes, unhinged jaws, or some other indication of surprise and disbelief. “What? Why are you all looking at me like that?”
“Who are you, and what have you done with Tia Angelos?” Jude asked in a mocking tone of confrontational conspiracy. The entire house burst into laughter at the sarcastic joke, myself included.
“Very funny, Jude. I know I’ve been a bit stubborn—”
“A bit?” Jude asked, giving rise to the laughter all over again.
“Okay,” I admitted with a nod. “Very stubborn. But even I can learn, and I think you’re all right. I need some time off, and I would love to spend it with my family.”
“So, you’ll go on vacation?” Haley asked hopefully.
“Only if you’re all comfortable with me being gone that long. You think you’ll all be okay?”
“Of course!” Melissa hopped up from the couch. “We got this.”
“Even if I leave tonight?”
“Yep!” the whole group said in unison, confirming their confidence in their personal plans. They’d been talking about it for a while if they were ready for it to happen so quickly.
There was still that little voice in the back of my head saying I couldn’t leave them. I had to take care of them. They trusted me, and I needed to be there for them. I didn’t want to let them down. But I could practically hear Eros in my head going, Lighten up, Tia. You worry too much. Besides, if they needed to depend on me as heavily as I feared they would, was I doing them any good? Was I really teaching them anything? I couldn’t follow anyone in the group when they decided it was time for them to leave the house and pursue other goals in their lives. They didn’t need me to take care of them. They needed me to teach them to take care of themselves.
I sighed again. “Alright. You all win. I will go on vacation. Starting tonight, right after dinner.”
Haley threw her arms around me, hugging me tightly. Meanwhile, Jude started barking orders. “Jacob, you order the pizzas. You know what we like. Melissa, you and I will start packing Tia’s bag. Everyone else, stay down here and keep an eye on her. Make sure she doesn’t do anything shifty to get out of this.”
I couldn’t help but giggle. “What, Jude, you still don’t trust me to keep my word?”
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” they teased. And with that, Jacob whipped out his cell phone to order our dinner while Melissa and Jude bounded up the stairs to prepare me for this impromptu trip.