Once they get home, Deirdre finds out why Burl and Aiden are mad at each other. Corin spills the beans. It involves two women and a car. She also finds out that Aiden had gotten in trouble for fighting at school, and Fred had purposely kept it from her. Angry, she sends them to their rooms. She’s not happy when Fred calls a little while later, and gives him hell. When he tells her that he has to leave the following day, instead of next week, she’s extremely irritated.
“How long will you be gone?”
“About a week?”
“You don’t know, or you’re scared to tell me?”
“Kinda scared, Dee. You sound pissed.”
“Aiden got in a fight, and you didn’t tell me?”
He sighed. “Who ratted?”
“Corin. You can’t keep things like that from me. That’s serious!”
“It’s a guy thing.”
“Oh, bullshit! Don’t give me that line. You and the boys claim that every time something comes up—”
“I need to go, honey.”
“Don’t you honey me, Fredrick! You know how I feel about fighting!”
“I really do….”
“You hang up on me, it will be worse when you get home.”
He sighed again. “Yes, ma’am,” he said in a patient tone.
“Don’t pull that shit, either.”
“I’m not saying anything.”
“How can you trot out the words that are most likely to put me in orbit? I’m furious, and you aren’t taking me seriously.”
“Kinda hard to take you seriously when you get that tone, Dee.”
“This tone?” she screeched. “You mean the tone where I scream at you, and your boys, for being completely brainless, Neanderthals?”
“That’s the one, my luscious harpy.”
“F**k off, Freddy.” She hung up. He hated being called Freddy, his nickname since childhood.
Forgetting her book, she put her head down on her arms, sobbing. A warm hand touched her shoulder and she looked up to see Corin. He squeezed her arm, smiling.
“It’s okay, Mom. We’re all a bunch of brainless zombies.”
She chuckled a little, wiping her eyes. “Are you too old to hug your mournful mom?”
He stepped closer and she buried her face in his belly, hugging tightly. He hugged her, less tightly, but he was a comfort.
“I’m sorry I said anything.”
“I’m glad you did,” she sniffled, looking up at him. “You know how I feel about fighting.”
He nodded. “I remember. But I don’t really know why.” He sat on the floor at her feet.
“When I was a girl, my father used to hit my mom.”
“Grandpa?” His eyes got wide with disbelief.
“Oh, no. The man you know as Grandpa is my stepfather. My biological father was a mean man, a drunk and a drug addict. He used to beat me and my brothers, too. Never had a good word to say, always reacted with violence. It made my brothers so mean, they would pick fights with other kids, and bully them. They were big, too. Especially Uncle Doc. He almost killed another boy, because they were fighting over something stupid. He was your age, and Aiden’s size. He broke the boy’s jaw, knocked out some teeth, and damaged his eye. The boy lost his sight.”
Deirdre frowned and he apologized.
“So, what happened to your dad?”
“He left. When I was sixteen, he got into a fight with Uncle Doc. He was nearly twenty at the time, and at his full size. My dad wasn’t much taller than you, and flabby. I thought he was going to kill Daddy with his fists.” She covered her face, shuddering. “It was horrible. Our father grabbed his keys and left. He never came back.”
“I didn’t know, Mom. I don’t remember you ever telling me that before.”
“I probably didn’t. It’s not a happy memory.”
“I don’t suppose it is.” He glanced at the computer. “What are you writing?”
“I decided to write a book.”
“No kidding? What about?” He squatted next to the desk, reading. “This isn’t half bad, Mom.”
“Didn’t think your mother could write, huh?”
“Didn’t figure you for the literary type. What kind of book is it?”
“I thought I’d write about something important, dealing with social issues.”
“You should write about your life, your family. I know lots of kids whose parents are divorced, or never married. I know a couple from abusive homes, too.”
“That’s terrible. You’d think the state could do something.”
“The system fails a lot. You should write about that.” He nodded sharply, emphasizing his words.
“I just might. Meanwhile, will you help me get a salad together? I need to start the bread and pasta.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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