Chapter 2: Family Feud
As it turned out Mike was going to the reunion. El's insistence had eventually worn him down. It didn't mean he had to make his displeasure a secret though.
"I'm telling you El this is a mistake." Mike retorted for what felt like the hundredth time.
"Mike I love you but you've been acting like a mouthbrether even since we got on the plane." El replied as she drove the rental car the Wheelers had bought down Cornwallis Road.
Their plane trip from New York to Indiana had gone without incident, surpingly. James and Eleanor had been the most excited about it since it would be their first time going to a different state. Sara had spent the flight glued to her phone and didn't really seem that interested about the trip. Mike had also stayed quiet during the flight until they arrived.
"I'm simply saying no magic wand is going to make my Mom see sense. I'm just trying to help her and dad out."
"I'm sure Karen understands that. You just have to approach the subject more...delicately than you have in the past."El offered.
"Delicately? How much more delicately do I have to be? She's too stubborn." Mike said as he learned back in the front seat his arms crossed in annoyance.
"Reminds me of someone." El said quietly under her breath but Mike had heard her.
"I am not as stubborn as my mom is okay. If it was reversed and Mom was the one making the offer I would have already said yes." Mike replied.
"Your stubborn, Dad."James suddenly injected into his parent's conversion. Seated in the backseat of the rental car, James and Eleanor had endured their dad's repetitive moaning about this being a "bad idea". Sara meanwhile had spent the plane trip texting...someone. James honestly had no idea who his older sister.
Eleanor nodded in agreement. "James's right daddy. You are stubborn. Like when you wouldn't let me bring Oprah for show and tell at school." Eleanor said referring to the pet spider she and James shared "custody" over.
"Honey you know a girl in your class has a fear of spiders." El reminded her.
"I know. I wanted to see if she'd have a heart attack." Eleanor replied.
"I swear if we get back home and that spider is in my room again I am going to kill it." Sara told her younger sister her eyes glued to her phone. Something Mike noticed.
"Sara can you get off the phone please? You've been on it ever since the flight to Hawkins. Who are you even texting?"
"Her boyfriend." Eleanor piped up.
Immediately the car came to a sudden halt on the side of the road. El and Mike went silent until...
"ARE YOU SHITTING ME?!A BOYFRIEND!" Mike bellowed.
"When did this happen?" El asked much calmer than her husband.
"We met at school." Sara shrugged.
"They're in the same class." Eleanor answered again.
"Shut up, you little narc! I'm never telling you anything ever again." Sara snapped as she quacked her little sister over the head.
"Who the hell is this kid? I want a name!" Mike angrily asked.
"Bruce? Do we know a Bruce?" Mike asked El.
"What's he like?" El asked Sara, ignoring her husband's question.
" .I don't know." Sara replied.
"Great description Sara." Mike said.
"Are you two doing sex?" James asked.
"James!" El said.
"Shut up!" Sara said giving her brother a quick wack on the head.
"What? I was just asking!"
After the brief silence that come from the question, Mike announced: "I wanna meet this Bruce."
"No way." Sara replied immediately.
"Yes way. Listen, if this Bruce is as "nice" as you say then I'm cool."
"Ten bucks says Dad will get in Bruce's face." James suggested to Eleanor.
"Twenty says he pushes him against a wall." Eleanor countered.
"You're on." James said as they shock hands.
"Wow thanks for the family loyalty. And trust me Sara you think I'm overprotective; you should have seen Hopper. He HATED me dating your mother." Mike said.
"Papa Hop? Nah he's cool." James said.
"Papa Hop? Is that what you call him?" Mike asked incredulously. He couldn't believe the same gruff Hopper who had been a cop and who didn't take crap from ANYONE would allow himself to be called papa Hop by anyone. He sure must have mellowed out in his old age, Mike thought to himself.
"Yeah he tells us war stories about when he fought those Vietcong bastards." James said.
Mike immediately turned to El. "So I can't say shit but Hopper can tell our kids about war and fighting "those Vietcong bastards" huh El?"
El, trying to hide her smile, shock her head. "I will speak to Dad about watching his language."
"Plus he says you're a bad singer too daddy. That you use to sing and make out with mum." Eleanor added.
El burst out laughing at that comment. Mike meanwhile looked insulted. "Well that's not true. I'm a great singer. I could have been in a band if I wanted to. Isn't that right El?"
"I have no comment."
"Whatever. The point is you shouldn't believe everything Hop tells you okay? Also he's wrong about the singing." Mike said half to the kids and half to himself.
"I can't wait to hear another one of Papa Hop's stories when we see him and Auntie Joyce tonight," James said to Eleanor who nodded.
"Actually we're staying over at Ted and Karen's house." El announced.
"What?" Eleanor said.
"Boring Grandpa Ted, no!" James groaned.
"Seriously mom? All Grandpa Ted does is eat chicken and watch TV in his chair. And Grandma Karen talks. A LOT." Sara said looking up from her phone.
"See El even the kids don't what to be here! I told you." Mike complained to El.
"ENOUGH COMPLAINING! FROM ALL OF YOU!" El suddenly shouted shocking everyone, especially the kids. Their mom never raised her voice at had had enough.
"We ARE going to this reunion and you ARE going to sort things out with your mom." El declared to Mike who nodded his head timidly. Turning to her children she continued, "Sara if you don't get off that damn phone I swear I will crush it with my powers." Before Sara could reply her mother turned to face Eleanor. "Eleanor stop swearing or I'll sell all your toys including Oprah." Eleanor gasped in shock but El had already turned to finally face James."James, Grandpa Ted isn't boring he's just...comfortable. Okay. Now I'm going to start the car up. You are all going to be silent for the rest of the car ride. Nod if you understand."
Sara, James and Eleanor all immediately nodded their heads fearful of their mother's implied threats.
The car now silent, El now continued their drive through Cornwallis Road until they finally reached the familiar Wheeler House. Mike immediately groaned upon seeing his childhood home. "I can't believe she's still living here." He said as El parked out the front. "You know Lucas's mother and father moved to Florida after Lucas graduated? Even Dustin's mother moved. Yet my mom's still here." Mike said as he, El and the children walked up to the front door.
"Just be happy." El muttered to her husband as she knocked on the door.
After a brief pause, the door swung open revealing a gray-haired slightly hunched Karen Wheeler. She smiled upon seeing Mike and El and immediately hugged her son. "Michael it's so good to see you." The older woman said.
Despite all the issues he had with his mother it felt good to hug her. Mike had always been what you would call a mama's boy growing up. Due to his father being closed off when he was younger Mike had naturally gravitated to Karen's more openness. Will's disappearance, the discovery of El and the Party's battles against the Mind Flayer had only reinforced how much he loved not only El but his mom and family as a whole.
"You too mom. I...missed you very much." Mike said after they ended the hug.
El approached Karen with a warm smile. "Thanks again for letting us stay at your home while we're here, Mrs Wheeler."
"Jane darling how many times do I have to say call me Karen? We're family." Karen replied playfully rolling her eyes before embracing El in a bear hug.
"Right sorry." El replied, always surprised by the amount of affection Karen showed.
Finally Karen turned to her three grandchildren smiling down at each of them. "Oh my god you've all grown so much." She said before proceeding to give the three of them bear hugs as well.
"Great to see you too, Grandma." James said, his voice strained from the heavy hug Karen had given.
"TED! Mike, Jane and the grandkids are here!" Karen suddenly shouted.
An older, balding Ted Wheeler suddenly appeared by the door. "Michael." He similarly said holding out his hand to shake.
Mike accepted and shock his father's hand. "Good to see you Dad."
El, Sara, James and Eleanor each did the same as Mike giving Ted a handshake. She and the kids knew Ted wasn't as affection compared to Karen and that a handshake was about the best they would get.
"So is Holly home?" Mike asked as he led El and the children into his old house. He couldn't help but notice the kitchen and living room had been perfectly preserved from how it was when he had been growing. It was as if he was in a museum with everything looking exactly the way it was during the 80s.I bet this is all Mom's doing, he thought to himself as he glanced around. The only minor difference Mike seemed to notice was the new large screen television.
"No your sister's staying over at a friends' house tonight." Karen replied as Ted after bring the rest of the bags in took his usual seat in front of the TV.
"Oh I see. Shame I was looking forward to seeing her." Mike mused awkwardly not sure what to say to Karen.
El, sensing the awkwardness between mother and son, turned to the kids and said, "Umm Kids why don't you go upsides and start unpacking ok?" The children nodded and did as their mother instructed.
"I'm glad you decided to come to the school reunion after all Michael." Karen said after a pause.
"Well it took some convincing." Mike replied. What was his mother trying to do? Make small talk?
"Look Michael if you have something to say just say it. I can tell your holding your tongue."
"Okay fine. What the hell are you still doing here? In this house, in Hawkins."
"We live here Michael." Ted called out from the living room.
"Right and everything just happens to be exactly like it did when Nancy and I used to live here." Mike said his voice starting to rise.
"Mike? Remember delicately." El whispered. But Mike either didn't hear or didn't care.
"What's your point Michael?" Karen asked even though she already knew the answer.
"My point is you can't let go of the past. You're stuck. Do you know the Sinclair's left Hawkins after Lucas graduated? So did Dustin's mom. In fact aside from Joyce and Hopper you and dad are the only originals still living in Hawkins." Mike said his voice now rising.
"It's my house Michael." Karen replied although not as forceful as she hoped.
"Right and what are you going to do when Holly eventually graduated? Huh? You going to keep staying here?"
"I don't know. Maybe."
"Why don't you just admit it?" Mike's patience close to snapped.
"Admit what Michael?" Karen shot back.
"THAT YOU'RE LONELY!" Mike suddenly shouted. "Everyone else has moved out and you're still going to be stuck here in Hawkins, Indiana with no friends and no one to keep you company except Dad who let's face it it's the best company to be around!"
"Hey." Ted said from the living room but neither Mike nor Karen paid any could look between her husband and mother-in-law as their argument continued.
"I don't have to listen to this in my own house." Karen turned to go upstairs but Mike blocked her path.
"Then stop being so stubborn and take the damn money." Mike said.
"I don't want charity." Karen replied bluntly.
"How many times do Nancy and I have to say it isn't charity? We have both said time and time again that we would pay for the plane ticket and moving costs. You could live with us in New York be closer to the grandkids. Or in Washington with Nancy and Jonathan. Just as long as it's not Hawkins." Mike said.
"I don't want the money. From either of you."Karen said.
"Why do you have to be so goddamn stubborn? You know this is why Nancy and I stopped talking to you. Because every time we tried to convince you to leave Hawkins and move with either of us you'd shoot us down." Mike explained with a hint of sadness in his voice. He didn't want to be arguing with his mom but her stubbornness and refusal to listen got the better of him.
"Well maybe it's a good thing you both stopped talking to me since you clearly both don't need me in your lives anyone." Karen said tears starting to stream down her face. She pushed past her son and raced up the stairs.
El glared at her husband. "So much for delicate." She said as she turned and walked upstairs to follow after her mother-in-law.
"My mom is impossible." Mike said as he stood in fact of the mirror to see if the tie he was wearing was on properly.
"I told you to talk to her delicately. You only made things worse by yelling at her. Now she's refusing to come out of her room." El said as she put the last bit of makeup on.
"I didn't mean to yell at her. I just hate how she thinks me trying to help her is somehow charity. Can you please tie this tie for me?" Mike asked frustrated.
El smiled and began to tie Mike's tie. "So are you excited for the reunion?" She asked.
"I guess it's a good distraction after the argument with mom. And I suppose seeing the old gang would be nice." Mike begrudging admitted.
"See there you go." El smiled as she finished her husband's tie."They might even have read your books, Stephen King."
"Are you going to keep making fun of the name?"
"Maybe." El teased as she moved in to kiss him. Unfortunately...
"MOM! WE'RE READY!" Eleanor called out.
"She's worse than Hopper." Mike joked as he and El left the room and made their way down the stairs to the front door where the kids and Karen were waiting.
Karen smiled at El but seemed to ignore Mike. "Look Mom about what I said before... "Mike started to say before Karen cut him off.
"You don't want to be late for the reunion." Karen interrupted as she ushered El and the kids out the door until Mike was left standing face to face with her in the doorway.
"Now you're just going to ignore me? Real mature Mom." Mike said.
"Enjoy your reunion Michael." Was all Karen said before she slammed the door shut right in Mike's face.
"Shit." He said as he jumped back in shock. Whatever. She wants to ignore me fine, Mike thought as he turned and after a final look back at his house got into the car with his waiting family and drove towards Hawkins High School, the anticipation of the reunion on Mike and El's minds.