Copyright© 2011, Faydra D. Fields. All rights reserved.
Typos have been fixed in the final version of the book. Keep in mind that some of this information may have changed in the final version, as well. The changes were made to make the story flow better.
Denise and William
“…share an idea with you, Mother. I would appreciate it if you’d let me say everything I need to say before you comment. This isn’t easy for me.” William sat stiffly in his seat looking down at his hands crossed over his abdomen. He knew he had to remain calm like he’d seen his father do when he had to tell his mother something she didn’t want to hear.
“Yes, son. I can agree to that.” Denise removed her fingers from William’s knee and sat back in her seat.
On the outside, it seemed that nothing had changed in her demeanor. Inside, Denise’s mind and heart immediately began to race. What news was William bringing to her? He’d been withdrawn and moody for about three months. When she’d mentioned this to Emmanuel, he’d laughed it off and said, “He’s probably smelling himself. You know how boys get at a certain age. He’s just a jumble of raging hormones, and some little girl probably has his nose wide open. You won’t let him date for another year, something I told you I don’t agree with, so he’s probably just unhappy about being treated like a little child.” Denise had taken Emmanuel’s explanation and not pressed the issue, but she wondered now if William had been sneaking around with some girl behind her back and had an accident. Denise thought to herself, “If he tells me anything other than I’m about to be a grandmother, I think I can handle it.”
“Like I said earlier, I did feel badly about walking in on Naomi in the bathroom. I just wasn’t thinking, and I opened the door before I thought.” William realized he’d said “thinking” and “thought” back-to-back. He tried to ignore the redundancy, but it kept playing over and over in his head. He was hoping his mother didn’t get hung up on that and stop listening to him. She was relentless about good grammar. He needed to set his mother up perfectly to drive home his points.
“William, I know you didn’t walk in on your sister on purpose, but she’s very self-conscious about her body right now. That’s the only reason she’s so upset with you about it. I was going to make her apologize for bumping you with her shoulder like that, but I think you earned it a little bit, my prince.” Denise spoke to her son warmly. She tried hard to block out the redundant words he’d just spoken to her. She knew if she nit-picked his grammar right now, he’d just clam up and go to his room. She wanted to hear what he had to say, because something in the pit of her stomach told her she wasn’t going to be happy when he was done talking.
“How do you think I feel, Mother? I made her cry so hard. She was so humiliated. I wish I could take it all back, but I really had to “go.” Mother, we’ve outgrown this place.” William still kept his eyes on his hands.
“I’m doing the best I can, William.” Denise sensed that this conversation was going in a direction she wasn’t interested in going, but she had to finish the ride.
“Yes, Mother. I know. I think you’re doing a fantastic job. It’s just that I feel like a burden to you.” William finally looked into his mother’s face. He didn’t look into her eyes, though. He knew if they made eye contact, she’d see right through him. He focused on a point between her upper lip and nose.
“A burden, William? When have I ever made you feel like a burden?” Denise thought to herself, “What the hell is he up to?”
“Mother, you’re out there working so hard to support the family, trying to make up where Dad isn’t able to help, and I’m growing into manhood and unable to get a job and help out financially.” William dropped his eyes again, feigning shame. He’d chosen the financial point to try to get his mother to say a phrase that was key to getting him to his next point. If he’d paid close enough attention to the way his father had handled Denise, and if he knew anything about his mother, the financial angle would net him the reward he was looking for.
“William, have I ever asked you to do anything other than get excellent grades and help me with your sisters? Do you really think I expect you to step up and be the man of the house?” Denise looked at the top of her son’s head, because that was all he would show her. William heard bells and whistles going off in his head. She’d said the perfect phrase: man of the house.
“That’s the thing, Mother. I want to be a good man, a strong man, and you can’t teach me that. I need my father to teach me that.”
“OUT OF THE QUESTION, WILLIAM!’ Denise popped up from her chair and started pacing when she realized where he was going with the conversation. She couldn’t contain herself, even though she’d given William her word that she’d hear him out. She thought she would come unglued mentally if she heard him voice the statement she knew was on his mind.
“Mother, please sit down. You agreed to hear me out before you gave your comments.” William remained calm like he’d seen his father do.
“No, William, no. The answer is no.” Denise kept pacing, but she lowered her voice, even though it had a hard edge.
“Mother,” William said calmly, “you haven’t even given me a chance to say what I want to…”
“I DON’T WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY, WILLIAM! I KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY! PLEASE DON’T DO THIS, SON, PLEASE! If you say it, I…please, son…please don’t go there.” Denise continued to pace and now she was hugging herself, arms wrapped so tightly under her breasts William thought she might crack a rib.
“Mother, please. I’m not trying to hurt you. I love you. You’ve done such a great job raising me to this point, but…”
“No, William, please don’t do this.” Denise couldn’t hold it together anymore. She burst into tears and William rushed to her. As angry as she was with him, and as much as she didn’t want him to touch her, she let herself sink into her oldest child’s arms. He was tall and broad like his father but with a slighter build than Emmanuel. She’d dreaded this day since he was born. She knew it would come, but she never prepared herself for it.
Denise thought that right now, in this moment, it was a blessing and a curse to have children who were well-educated and who knew how to use reason and logic to communicate. It was a blessing and a curse to have fostered open communication with her children all these years and have them be comfortable enough with her objectivity that they came to her about anything and everything. Denise had several years before lost the ability to say “because I said so” to William and Naomi, because she had encouraged them to respectfully question her directives and share their points of view and expect to be taken seriously and offered substantive information. It was all back-firing on Denise right now.
“William, I’m going to let you say what you have to say, but I’m going to tell you this, so you’re very clear.” Denise was still leaning into her son.
“Yes, Mother. I’m listening.”
“Son, this is a line you cannot cross back over. You can never take back the words you’re about to speak to me in the next few seconds. Please, son, please think very hard about whether this is a line you want to cross. I’m not saying it’ll change my love for you, but think about how deep a wound this is going to leave on our relationship if you must make this point.” Denise backed away from William, still hugging herself, and looked up into his face. William finally looked into his mother’s eyes, and he saw the pain he was causing her. He did think for about three seconds and plowed ahead.
“I’d like to go live with my father,” he said in a rush of words. He didn’t notice a change in his mother’s face, but he saw something in her eyes raze. He felt himself panicking inside, but his face didn’t betray him. He looked steadily at his mother. He had to maintain his resolve. He braced himself for his mother’s next wave of tears, but they never came.
“You may not go live with your father.” Denise spoke crisply and with a sense of finality. She stepped further back from William, dropped her arms to her side and squared her shoulders. She matched her son’s gaze.
“Mother,” William began slowly, “you can’t stop me from discussing this matter with my Dad.” William watched his mother’s eyes begin to blaze. His resolve was weakening by the moment.
Denise was determined not to fall apart again. She knew William was right. She couldn’t stop him from going to Emmanuel with his request, and she couldn’t really stop William from moving out, but she just didn’t want to see her baby go. She hurt so badly, but she couldn’t make her case based on emotion. She couldn’t guilt him into staying. She knew he would only come to resent her and become more and more withdrawn and start taking it out on his sisters.
They stood in silence looking at one another; both determined not to flinch first. They both jumped when they heard the phone ring. Neither moved to get it. After four rings, the phone went silent. A few seconds later, the door to Naomi’s room opened, and she saw her mother and brother in their face-off. Naomi almost retreated back into the room and closed the door, but the caller had been insistent. Naomi cleared her throat.
“Excuse me,” Naomi said.
“Yes, Naomi,” Denise responded very calmly and without taking her eyes off William. William continued to face down his mother, also.
“Mother, there’s a lady on the phone who insists on talking with you. I told her you were busy, but she said she must speak with you.” Naomi, standing as close to her door as possible holding the cordless phone unit, felt awkward relaying the information in the midst of this showdown; neither her mother or brother willing to concede anything to each other.
“Ask who it is, Naomi,” Denise said still staring at William who was still staring at her. Denise saw that William’s brow was starting to moisten.
“May I ask who’s calling, please?” Naomi spoke into the receiver. After asking the question, Naomi finally realized she had been silent too long, because it prompted Denise to ask her about the caller.
“Who is it, Naomi?” Denise and William were still eyes-to-eyes.
“Mother, she says you don’t know her, but she’s a friend of Dad’s.” Naomi rocked back and forth from her heels to her toes. She had a feeling this wasn’t good. This caused Denise to break her focal point.
“Excuse me. Did she give you a name?” Denise looked at Naomi.
“Za…Za…,” Naomi put the phone back to her ear and mouth to ask the woman to repeat her name. “She says her name’s Zavari, Mother, and she’s a friend of Dad’s.” Naomi realized her mother was now staring at her with the same gaze she had had trained on William; almost like she couldn’t believe this was her life. Without looking away from Naomi, Denise spoke.
“William, go to your room, and we’ll finish this conversation when I’m done with this call. Naomi, hang up the phone when I pick up in the kitchen.” Denise looked back and William hadn’t moved. She gave him her best “you better do what I tell you to do and do it now” glare. After a few moments, he complied.
Once William was moving off toward his room, Denise moved toward the phone in the kitchen. She picked up the cordless phone unit and held it to her ear and mouth for a few seconds.
“Hang up the phone, Naomi.” Denise heard Naomi click off the line.
“Good night, Mother,” Naomi said quietly, with obvious disappointment in her voice, as she disappeared back into her room. Denise looked at the clock and realized it wasn’t Naomi’s bedtime yet. Her daughter knew her well enough to know that Denise wasn’t going to be in the mood for anymore talking after this phone conversation was over.
“Yes, this is Denise. Zavari, is it? How may I help you?”
Copyright© 2011, Faydra D. Fields. All rights reserved.