“Now you do.” She smiles, and it meets her eyes. I don’t know how I missed it. She’s so right. Here I thought Tyson wasn’t driven, but I was so wrong. He goes full force into the things he’s passionate about. “Tell me about your brothers. I saw a few videos of them, but I’d like to know more. They’re adorable.”
I get lost in telling her all about my brothers. That is until I hear them come in the door. Their voices bounce through the house. Cherie and I make our way toward the front of the house, where we find them along with Tyson and his father Rick.
“You boys ever thought about playing football?” Rick asks them.
“I’m killer at Madden, aren’t I, Tyson?” Dean looks up at Tyson. Logan has his arm wrapped around Tyson, leaning into him. Seeing them like this always brings a smile to my face.
“He sure is.” Dean preens under Tyson’s praise.
“You boys hungry?” Cherie asks, drawing their attention to her. I wonder a bit what they’ll think about her. She’s a modern-day June Cleaver.
“Always,” Logan shouts excitedly as the doorbell starts to sound through the house. At least that’s what I think it is.
“I’ll get it.” Rick walks over and opens one of the giant double doors. My heart drops when I see my mother standing there.
“Well, there you are. I think someone forgot my invitation.”
It’slike the fairy tale where the one witch doesn’t get her invitation but comes to the party anyway and spreads a black cloud of doom over the event.
When Sheila first arrived, Logan was thrilled. He abandoned his towel and duck-shaped floatie and raced over to throw his six-year-old body at his mother’s legs. She fussed over him, commenting how his swim trunks looked too tight and how he wouldn’t grow if too much of the pool chemicals got into his mouth. Logan opted not to swim after that. Whenever we asked him if he wanted to get in the water, he’d press his lips together and shake his head vigorously.
Dean got a different treatment. He is older and has a better understanding of his mother’s moods. He could tell immediately that despite Sheila’s smiles, his mom wasn’t happy. Logan stuck close to her—and to Dean—even as Sheila remarked that Dean didn’t like nuts when my mom brought out peanut butter cookies or that he hated football when my dad offered to play catch and that video games were for babies when I booted up the PlayStation. The boasts about being good at Madden weren’t repeated.
Rory got the best, and by best, I mean worst treatment. Everything from her hair—so bland, why haven’t you colored it like I suggested,to her face—very worn out, going to look like you’re forty in your twenties,to her weight—you’re supposed to be serving the café pies, not eating them or is that where all your tips are going.
“Rory looks perfect,” I’d said which is only the truth. Her mom’s response? That I was young and a victim of my little head doing all the thinking for me.
That led to my mom telling Sheila that we should all try to focus on the positive, to which Sheila said, “Easy for you to say, Cherie, given that you left all the dirt behind and climbed up the ladder to live in your ivory tower, forgetting about everyone who supported you when you thought spam was a delicacy.”
Spam’s fucking delicious, so I don’t know why that’s such an insult, but it shut Mom up. Dad wanted to say something in her defense, but Mom kind of shoved him out of the room, whispering something in his ear that kept his mouth glued shut.
Even now, as we sit together at our dining room table—the one that we never use because it’s too big and fancy—he hasn’t said much of anything. He carved up the ham, poured some drinks for the three adults, and proceeded to sit back and grind the back of his teeth together as Sheila continued a subtle attack against her three kids.
“Dean, don’t pick at your teeth. You’d think you were raised in a barn. Logan, you’ve already had two biscuits. One more and you’re going to explode like a tin can full of rotten fish. Rory, for the love of God, would you stop slouching? You look like you’re a fisherman.”
“Fishermen have bad posture?” I can’t help myself. The question sort of asks itself.
Rory brings her napkin to her face to hide a smile.
“Yes. From bending over,” Sheila replies stiffly.
“Rory’s been carrying a lot of weight on her shoulders for a while. If her posture’s shitty, it’s because she’s working three jobs and—" Rory kicks me in the legs.
Sheila gets my drift, though. She tilts her head, fork dangling between her fingers, as if she is thinking about stabbing me with it. “And what do you intend to do about that? You’ve brought my family here to your palace for a visit, but tonight they will have to go home to our shack where there is no pool or PlayStation. Dean will whine about his next visit, and Logan will sulk for days while Rory grows older by the minute. I know exactly how Rory feels because I was her. I had a taste of this life, but because I didn’t have the right connections, I was only good enough for a f…king,” she ends coyly.
My eyes fly to my dad. He’d dated Sheila? He shakes his head.
“I’m not going to lie, Sheila, Tom didn’t do right by you back then,” he says.
“Are you saying your son is going to be different?” Sheila challenges.
“Yeah,” I interject. I don’t need my dad speaking for me. “Damn straight. I’m marrying Rory. Logan can swim here every day, and Dean can play video games whenever he doesn’t have homework.”
“If you say so.” Sheila twirls the fork in her fingers and then resumes picking at her plate.