After finding out that Aiden had been fighting in school, Deirdre explains to Corin why she hates it so much. Her father was abusive, and she grew up watching him hit her mother and brothers. She also tells him she’s decided to write a book. He tells her she should write about her life in an abusive home.
“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.”
“Sure.” Corin hopped up, giving her a hand. “It’s gonna be okay, Mom. Dad’s got another setup?”
“In Minnesota. Leaves tomorrow. We thought it was next week.”
“Oh, well.” He shrugged.
“I’ll be glad when you three can get yourselves up and out the door without me.”
“We could, we’re just lazy.”
“Really?” Raising a sarcastic eyebrow, she led him to the kitchen.
“Yeah, we’d be late, and probably kill each other, but we could.”
“Good to know.”
They got dinner finished and called the other two to the table. The older two boys wouldn’t talk to each other. Deirdre got the impression they’d gotten into a text war. They did that, when confined to their rooms. Fortunately, the silence wasn’t too uncomfortable. She and Corin had an interesting conversation, at least to them, about the invasion of the water hyacinth. He was already interested in ecology and marine biology, but wasn’t sure which to focus his attention on. This invasive plant had decidedly caught his interest.
“I have to do a science experiment,” he told his mother. “I want to do it on the water hyacinth. I talked to Mr. Moody about it. He said he has the equipment and can get other stuff that I need. I can set it up there, and monitor it daily after school.”
“What about golf?” Aiden snarled.
“This won’t be until after golf season. I won’t miss.”
“Too bad,” his eldest brother muttered.
“What was that?” Deirdre cupped her ear. “Did I hear you say something nasty about your little brother?”
“He’s the one who told!” Aiden jabbed a finger at Corin. “Worm! Twat! Traitor!”
“Enough!” Deirdre bellowed. “I won’t have this kind of anger in my home. You knew better than to fight. You knew better than to cover it up. You can be sure that your father and I are going to talk more about this. I’m furious! I won’t have you hitting people for no reason.”
“He came at me, Mom,” Aiden said. “And he said all kinds of things. Bad things. I was defending myself.”
“What did he say?”
“He called me a faggot. And said I f**ked boys. I’m not gay!” he yelled. “I don’t do any of that.”
“He said that to get a rise out of you. Did you throw the first punch?”
“He slapped me, Mom. Slapped me! Who the hell does that? So I slugged him in the nuts.”
Deirdre could understand his anger and retaliation, but she’d taken a stand on no fighting. She wouldn’t back down. But being slapped was horribly insulting. Her father used to slap her mother and call her a whore and a slut. She hadn’t know the words, as a child, but knew they were bad.
“Those are words,” she said calmly. “Words can’t hurt you. The slap…I concede the slap. That’s terrible. But son—a nut punch? Risky. Better to hit the solar plexus and hit him on the back of the head when he’s going down. Maybe slam his face into your knee.” She picked up dishes, carrying them to the sink.
“What—did you just…. What?”
“I didn’t stutter. I’m not saying you shouldn’t defend yourself. Sometimes, you have to. But don’t you dare initiate it, or I’ll beat you down myself.”
Aiden snorted. Deirdre grabbed her son, nearly a foot taller than she, and pulled his hand behind his back, pushing his upper body down.
“Tell me you don’t think I can, and I’ll prove it to you.”
“Mom! Shit!” He patted her calf, surrendering.
Deirdre let him up. “I know how to protect myself. I had to learn. But you don’t use your skills in anger. In self-defense, or when protecting someone else, violence is understandable. Never, ever use your skills to bully someone else.”
“No, ma’am,” he responded automatically. “Never.”
“Good. Then I taught you something.”
Aiden hugged her. “You taught me a lot, Mom. Why don’t you go watch Netflix. We’ll clean up.”
“Corin helped prepare.”
“Then Burl and I will.”
His middle brother had already started putting the leftovers away. Working as a team, they took care of things while she went to her computer. Corin pitched in and helped his brothers. She could hear them talking and laughing over the sound of running water and clattering dishes.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes