The rain fell across the walk and poured off, pooling in big puddles around the street grate on 15th Avenue in an area of New York City known as Hell's Kitchen, a violent and corrupt neighborhood. Little Kevin Donnelly didn't care about all that. He just knew his four year old legs could make water splash high if he jumped hard enough.
"You're gonna be soaked and cold." Mommy finally came out of the apartment building, the new baby Sean in her arms with a blanket over his head to keep him dry. "Hold my hand."
Kevin did as he was told, but only after drying his hand on the inside of his coat. Dad told him gentlemen don't use wet hands to hold their mom's hand. She only made him hold her hand until they crossed the street, than she let him walk like a big kid again. There were three streets to Preschool. "How does Dadda's rain song go?"
"Raindrops keep falling on my head -" Mommy laughed at herself and looked down at him. "You know I hate singing."
"Yes. Raindrops! Falling on my head! My eyes are soon red!" He stopped singing and thought about that part. "Mommy, what does it mean?"
"People are sad when in rains." She moved the baby onto her shoulder and fixed the blanket and he started sucking on her hair.
"I like rain. Do you like the rain?"
"Only when I can stay inside with my coffee." She smiled at him and took his hand again. There were always a lot of people on this middle big road.
Kevin knew how big the road was and that everyone had to wait for the w-a-l-k. Mommy said that means walk, but he only knew the W. He wiped his wet face on Mommy's sleeve and sighed. "What happens if we don't wait?"
"We get hit by a car." She paused thinking about the type of traffic that traveled that road. "Or a truck."
Kevin looked back at the road with all seriousness in his voice. "We won't do that than." Kevin started walking with Mommy when the letters came up, but than she pulled him back and into the diner where Jenny's Mommy and Dad worked. "What are we doing? It said w-a-l-k!"
"Yes, it did." Mommy sounded different and she lifted him onto the stool with one arm. "Good morning, Meredith. Have they been in today?"
Mrs. Reilly came over with a fresh coffee pot and poured Mommy a full cup. "Not yet, everything okay?"
"No." She sighed and sat next to Kevin, laying the baby over her knee. He was playing with the blanket and giggling. "I saw our van up there and a little bit more than I should have."
Mrs. Reilly looked down at Kevin. "He knows what time you walk Kev up."
"We can say hi!" Kevin interrupted happily. "To Dadda, Mommy!"
"Shh… don't cut in." Mommy's voice was harsh.
Kevin suddenly remembered the grown up conversation rules and sat quietly, and not pouting. "Excuse me, Mommy?"
Helen had to smile and she shook her head. "Yes, Kevin?"
"Can I have a hot cho-co-late?" His over enunciation made Mrs. Reilly laugh out loud.
"Oh your so cute. It's on me, Helen." She filled a mug and put whipped cream on top. "There you go, Baby."
"Thank you." He grinned as he stuck his finger into the whipped cream and swirled it before pulling it out and licking the sugary cream off.
Mommy put a five dollar bill on the counter and Mrs. Reilly shook her head. "I told you it's on the house today. Besides, to deal with Bobby and four boys… you should be canonized, a coffee is a small gesture."
"And a hot chocolate." Mommy laughed.
"Yeah, yeah." She crossed back to her other two customers.
"Oh, Meredith? Is Jenny having trouble in math?"
Mrs. Reilly nodded as she placed the plates in front of her patrons. "Actually, yeah she is. She keeps blaming the teacher. Tommy is?"
Mommy shrugged. "His homework is cut and dry, but any of his exams, he's getting 30s and 40s. That's an easy F by the end of the period."
"Maybe it really is the teacher. Tommy always says how much he likes math. Weird kid you've got there." She laughed.
"Yeah, well, the other two don't, he was a fluke."
"I'm going to talk to the teacher at the conference, will you be there?"
Mommy shifted the baby in her arms and kissed his forehead. "No, Sean has shots, but Bobby will be there, I'll make sure he says something too."
"Speak of the devil.." Mrs. Reilly mumbled nodding toward the door.
Kevin turned around and grinned with his arms open. "Hi, Dadda!"
Dad picked him up and sat down on his stool, Huey on the other side. "Hey Lucky. Late for school?" He didn't look at Mommy as he said it.
"Yeah, we're having a rainy day drink." He giggled and looked over at Mommy. "She looks mad, Dadda."
"Yeah, I know I know. Helen, it was out of my hands."
Mommy shook her head and leaned over Kevin's head, pressing him against Dad so he couldn't hear. "Your four year old about witnessed a brutal beating. You better make sure it's back in your hands."
Kevin heard more than Mommy thought he did and he tried to pretend he wasn't going to cry.
Dad saw his eyes. "Oh come here, Kev… I'm sorry buddy."
"Did you-get in a - in a fight, Dadda?" Kevin wrapped his little arms around Dad's neck.
"A little one, with a mean guy who doesn't like me. But we fixed things. It's okay now."
Mommy took a deep breath. "I am going to take him home. Please don't let this happen again."
"Yeah, it won't. I'm going to be late tonight, don't wait up."
She nodded and stood up slowly, again moving Sean to her shoulder. She let Dad kiss her cheek and took Kevin's hand.
Mrs. Reilly poured the hot chocolate into a 'go-cup' and stretched over the counter to give it to him. "Have a good day, Baby."
"Thank you, Mrs. Reilly." He mumbled around the straw.
Kevin was sprawled across the bottom of Mommy's small bed, all of his GI Joes around him while Mommy nursed the baby. The boys were going to be home soon. "Can Jimmy play with me? Oh sorry." He giggled a little when he saw that Mommy had fallen asleep.
"Hey Kevin. Talking to yourself?" Jimmy peeked around the corner, his backpack on his shoulder. "Tommy, Ma fell asleep feeding the baby."
Tommy came around the corner and shushed Jimmy. "Than keep your voice down." He ruffled Kevin's hair and smiled. "Hey, buddy."
"I skipped school." Kevin whispered proudly as he killed another of his guys.
"Cool." Tommy was only half paying attention as he put his arms between Mommy and the baby and picked him up slowly, letting the blanket fall back over her. "Hi, Seannie." He was whispering in the baby's ear and he kicked the metal release on the crib to drop the rail.
"Ma never lowers that thing." Jimmy pointed out.
"No. It's kind of annoying." He leaned over the rail and laid him down in the crib. "Sleep well, little guy."
"When will I be big enough to put him away?" Kevin was kneeling on the edge of the bed watching Tommy.
"You won't be, buddy. When you're big enough to reach he'll be in a big kid bed."
"Oh." Kevin thought about it for a moment before holding his arms up to Tommy. "I want to give him a kiss."
Tommy picked Kevin up and than let him slide out of his arms to the ground. "You're already to big to pick up."
"You guys woke her up." Jimmy cut in, still leaning on the door jam.
"It's fine." Mommy rubbed her eyes and fixed her shirt. She kicked the blankets into the middle of the bed. "What time is it?"
"Almost four." Tommy picked his backpack up and left the room.
"Was he done eating?" Mommy slid her sneakers on and followed the boys into the dining room.
Tommy laughed hard as he dropped his books onto the table. "I don't know, Ma. Let me go ask him, 'yo, Seannie… were you done when I-"
Mommy smacked him on the side of the head. "Smart ass, you're going to do my shopping for that." She pulled the list off of the fridge and handed him the bank envelope with cash in it. "I get a receipt… and change."
"Yes, Ma." He kissed her and took the money.
"Jimmy go with him." She paused as Jimmy ran past. "Coats!"
Dad was coming in around Jimmy's hasty exit. "Where are you-Where are they going?"
Mommy looked up from Jimmy's homework folder. "Groceries. I thought I wasn't waiting up for you, with how late you planned on being?"
Kevin hugged Dad's legs, making him stumble a little.
He smiled down before looking back up and catching Mommy's eyes with his. "Yeah, well… I pissed my wife off this morning, don't you remember? I brought a flower." He pulled a single red rose from behind his back and held it out to her, his lip in a pout.
"Peace offering?" She eyed him.
"Maybe. It was out of my control. Huey told me that's where we were going. And he apologizes."
Mommy shook her head. "Do you know what that would do to him? See you doing that shit?" She whispered the curse, even though Kevin heard it.
Sometimes his Mommy said those things. Sometimes a lot. And he always tried not to giggle.
"Yeah, it'd do about the same thing it did to me…"
Mommy stopped him, holding her hand up. "I know… I'm sorry…" She watched him a moment thinking about how her father-in-law was when he was alive, ten times more vicious and brutal than Bobby. She reached out, almost hesitantly and took the rose. She walked into the kitchen and started going through cabinets to find a vase. "It's just… you've built an amazing life, a wonderful life for us. It would kill me if they ever thought of you…differently."
Dad scooped Kevin off the floor. "Hey Lucky, how was your day off?"
"Dadda, you're taller."
Dad gave him a funny look. "Yeah, probably, but taller than who?"
"Tommy!" Kevin laughed as though Dad should know who. "I wanna kiss Seannie goodnight."
Mommy found a thin vase and filled it with water. "It's Tommy's new nickname for him, God only knows what Seannie will go through with the ladies having a nickname like that."
"You don't much think like a mother… ladies? He's 2 weeks old." Dad walked out with Kevin to say goodnight to Sean while Mommy laughed in the kitchen.
She had coffee poured when they got back. "It's sticking…. The name."
"Hmm, yeah, it's cute." He set Kevin down and sat at the head of the table with his coffee.
"Are you happy?" Mommy ruffled Kevin's hair and he nodded. She sat down on the other side of the table next to Dad and laid her head on his arm. "Thank you, it's pretty."
Dad looked at her in surprise. "Is it really? You think so?"
"Shut up, Bobby." She shoved his arm.
"Well, you know you can be a difficult woman to please."
"I've not once tried to tell you otherwise." She leaned back against him and sighed.
"You're right, what was I thinking?" He chuckled softly and laid his head on top of hers. "You know… working late… getting that last dollar, it's not worth it if I don't get to come home to you every night. You know, while you're still awake and I can spend some time with you."
She lifted her head, forcing him to do the same to avoid a bruise. "Bobby, I-that was… that was sweet."
He grinned proudly and than leaned close as if to share a secret. "Hey, don't hold your breath for the next time."
She leaned in further and dropped her voice to match his. "I won't."
The words were barely out and he stole a quick kiss making her laugh.
"You're ridiculous. Dinner will be late, I won't have anything to cook until the boys get back." She stood back up and paced around the table before getting to the window and looking out. "I wish this rain would stop."
Kevin looked up. "You said it's okay when you have coffee inside."
She shook her head and glanced back at him. "It is okay, but I like the sunshine more."
Kevin slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand. "Make up your mind!"
"God, he's so much like you, Bobby." She laughed and turned back to look out the window.