A Mother's Pain

He was sitting opposite of me in the living room as I read "Gone with the Wind" for about the hundredth time. I could feel him watching me, watching me intently but he hadn't said a word since he sat down. Each time I flipped a page I became more and more anxious. What was his argument going to be? What was he going to say to make me cave? Little did he know, I wasn't going to cave and the boy could beg and scream and cry all he wanted but I wasn't going to give in. Not tonight.

I had to give him all the credit for how clean the house was today though. He'd been doing everything he could think of to try and butter me up to say "yes" and it was probably cruel of me to tell him I was going to "think about it" but I was tired of doing all the chores myself so I just let him go. But you name it, he'd done it. He was so much better at taking care of the house than Cheyenne.

He'd made his bed, did the laundry, and washed not only the breakfast dishes from this morning but all the dishes from today. He mowed the lawn, picked up Elizabeth's toys and God love him, he even washed my car.

I heard him sigh heavily. Oh, he was just trying to drive me crazy wasn't he?

I finished my sentence. "Jake, Honey, did you need something?"

"Have you thought about it?" he asked.

I glanced up from the page. "'Bout what?"

"The sleepover. Can I go?"

"No, Jake."

"Mom, please?"

"Not tonight, next weekend." I said then glanced back down at my page.

"But Mom, I never get to go anywhere."

"You're kiddin' right?" I scoffed and looked at him again. Which angle was he working tonight?

"Mom-"

"I said no."

"But, Mom!"

"Drop it."

"Mom." he whined. "Why can't I? You never let him come over here."

"Why?" I asked and closed the cover of my book gently. "I'll tell you why. We're all going to church tomorrow; as a family. Cheyenne, Van and Elizabeth are gonna meet us there."

"But why do I have to go? Dad isn't."

"Yes, he is. He, Barbra Jean and Henry are going with us."

He groaned loudly. "Well, just because you want me to go doesn't mean I have to." he said standing.

"You're thirteen years old and you'll do as I say, I'm your mother."

"I don't care, I'm not going!" he yelled.

I raised my eyebrow; he really wasn't helping his case if he was going to start raising his voice. "Tone it down, mister."

"You can't make me." he sneered.

I set my book down on the trunk beside me. "If you don't tone it down, you're gonna find yourself grounded."

Jake flung his hands toward me exasperatedly. "You're not gonna follow through with it anyway, Mom, and you know it."

"I do so follow through!" I exclaimed and lifted myself from the chair.

"Maybe with Kyra, but with me and Cheyenne you've never once followed through! Why do you even say it if you're not gonna do anything? I'd rather you actually punish me than say you're going to and then not. What's that teaching me Mom?" he exclaimed.

"Excus-"

"I always get into trouble and you "ground" me then forget about it, so why even say it? Why don't you just leave me alone and let me do what I want?"

"Because, I will not have my son getting in trouble all over Houston!" I said angrily. I hated it when the kids, or anyone for that matter, cut me off like that. And not only that, was he questioning my authority?

"I only play video games! At my friend's houses! What's the big deal?"

I shifted my weight to my other foot. I had to have a comeback to that! "Because you're m–"

He shifted his weight to his other foot just as I had. "Because you're my son, do as I say, my house my rules." he mimicked.

The nerve!

I laid one hand on my hip and pointed the other toward the stairs. "Go to your room."

"Go to your room." he copied putting his other hand on his hip.

"Jake—"

"Jake Mitchell Hart." he said rolling his eyes.

That was enough. "Get your butt up those stairs now!" I yelled walking toward him.

He glared at me. "I hate you! All you ever do is boss me around!"

"Because you're out of control!" I cried.

"Who cares!"

"Me Jake, I care!" I said pressing my hands to my chest.

"Well, you shouldn't! I'm surprised you've even noticed!" Jake shouted.

"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked taking half a step closer.

"You never pay attention to me; it's always Cheyenne, Van, Kyra and then Elizabeth! Barbra Jean's beanie babies even have a higher priority than me around here!"

That stung more than he would ever know. I never thought I'd ever hear one of my children say I didn't pay attention to them. "Jake, that's not true-" I said softly.

"Yes, it is and I hate you for it!" Jake cried.

I could feel my throat closing. "You don't mean that." I said.

"Yes I do! I hate you!" he was furious and I couldn't blame him. What he was saying was true. He drew his hand back and before I knew it I'd stumbled back, my left cheek burning. I heard him gasp. "Mom, I'm sorry!"

I pressed my hand to my cheek. "Go to your room." I said quietly. I didn't look up, I couldn't. I knew if I did I wouldn't be able to hide the pain he was causing me.

"Mom, I didn't mean to. I'm so, so sorry!"

"Go." I said coldly, and lifted my head long enough to look him in the eye before I turned toward the kitchen, leaving him standing there.

I watched her go, her voice was thick with emotion and her eyes were glistening with tears. What had I done? I'd never said anything so hurtful to anyone let alone my mother! Not only that, I'd struck her! I wanted to go after her, I needed to go after her and apologize but I couldn't move, I didn't want to go into the kitchen and see her eyes. I didn't want to see the handprint I'd most likely left on her fair skin. I didn't want to see her cry. Instead I turned toward the stairs and went to my room, hoping she wouldn't hate me.

I grabbed the back of a chair and pulled it back from the kitchen table and sat down slowly, letting my hand drop from my face to the table top gingerly. I heard him run up the stairs and winced upon hearing him slam his bedroom door. He was right; he was absolutely, undeniably, totally right. I could count on one hand the times I'd put him before the others and that hurt me more than my stinging cheek. I wasn't even mad at him, I couldn't be mad at him. I was so disgusted with myself that I was starting to feel sick to my stomach. How had I let that happen?

Loud thuds were coming from his room as he tossed things around. I squeezed my eyes shut tight and as I did a tear slipped from my eye and ran slowly over my cheek, making it burn. I couldn't wipe it away, I couldn't move, I couldn't even avert my eyes. I stared straight ahead.

"Hey." Brock said optimistically as he came in through the door. "What's up?" he asked hanging his coat on the rack.

I couldn't contain it anymore. "I'm a terrible mother!" I cried as the tears I'd been trying to hold back, finally fell from my eyes.

"Whoa, hey. What's wrong?" he asked and moving quickly to sit in the chair beside me. "What happened—" he stopped abruptly and placed his hand under my chin, slowly turning my head. "Oh, my God." he breathed. "Reba, what happened?"

I sat down on my floor, exhausted, amongst the mess of my strewn about belongings. I didn't know what to do, I was still so shocked that I'd hit her. When Dad found out I was going to be in a lot of trouble. I stood and went to the only person I could trust and knocked softly on her bedroom door. "Kyra?" I called.

"Yeah?" she answered.

I sighed; thankful that she didn't have band practice today. "Can I talk to you?"

"Sure, come in." she said.

"Thanks." I said shutting the door behind me.

She watched me as I crossed her room and sat at the foot of her bed with my legs dangling over the edge. "What's up kido?" she asked.

"I did something really bad."

She smiled. "Who'd you kill?"

My jaw dropped. "Kyra, it's not funny, I really think I hurt her!"

The smile fell from her face. "Who?"

"Mom."

Her interest peaked. "Why, what'd you do?"

"I hit her."

"You what! Jake, what the hell is wrong with you?" she exclaimed tossing her book to the foot of her bed.

"I don't know, I snapped."

She sat up and crossed her legs. "Did this just happen?"

"Yeah."

"What were you thinking? I could hear you yelling at her from here!"

"I don't know what I was thinking. I was mad!"

"Mad about what?"

"I wanted to go on a sleepover and she said no."

Her eyes popped. "So, you hit her?" she hissed.

"She never lets me do anything!" I defended.

"Did she say why you couldn't go? Maybe there was a good reason."

"She said we have church tomorrow but I don't want to go."

"Jake, all of us going to church together as a family means a lot to her."

"But why? We always go!"

She stayed silent for a second. "Jake, how often do Cheyenne and Van join us?"

I looked at her. Was she crazy? "All the time!"

She shook her head. "No, most of the time it's just Cheyenne."

"So?"

She resituated herself on the bed then closed her eyes for a second. I assumed she was thinking. "Just try looking at this from Mom's perspective, Jake."

"And what perspective is that?" I asked.

"Cheyenne's married with a kid of her own, I've only got one year of high school left and you're going into high school."

"Yeah, so?"

"Jake, think about it, we're almost all grown up, she just wants to get in as much time with us as she can."

I was confused. Time? What about time? "Wait, what?"

Kyra sighed. "Jake, she doesn't want to be alone."

Then I realized. "Oh." I said quietly.

"Yeah."

"Why?" I asked after a second.

"Ugh, Jake! Think, she has no husband; once we move out she'll be all alone."

"Jake!" I heard yell from downstairs.

I sunk. "Dad knows…"

"Yeah, no kidding." Kyra said quietly.

"Jake, get down here now!" he bellowed.

"Jake, buddy, just go. It might not be that bad." Kyra said.

"Are you kidding?" I exclaimed.

"Jake! Just go!" she whispered

"Coming, Dad." I called and slowly left Kyra alone in her room again.

"Get in the kitchen." Dad said hastily.

I walked ahead of him into the kitchen where mom was sitting at the table with her back to us.

"Sit down." Dad ordered pointing to the island. "Who do you think you are?" he asked but I didn't say anything. I kept my eyes down. "Reba, come here." Dad said. Mom got up silently and stood beside him on the opposite side of the counter from me. "Do you think this is funny?" he asked turning her head gently to the side. "Jake, what were you thinking?" he said letting his hand drop from her face.

"Mom, I'm so sorry." I said softly.

Dad raised his voice. "No! Sorry is not gonna cut it!"

"Brock, calm down." Mom said and rubbed his shoulder.

"I am not gonna calm down, Reba!" he shouted at her and she let her hand drop. "Look at your mother." he ordered. I looked down again. I didn't want to see what I had done to her. "Look at her face!" he exclaimed. "That is not okay!" he said and slammed his fist down on the counter. "Where do you get this idea that you're so much better than everybody? Where do any of you get this idea that you're so much better than everybody?" Dad asked and turned away from both of us.

"Brock, stop it!"

He spun around to face her again. "No, Reba! This has gone too far."

Mom looked at me, with a look of pure exhaustion. "Brock, you're scaring him." she said turning back to him.

"Good, maybe he'll smarten up."

She threw her arms up. "Fine! Brock, you're scaring me!" she yelled.

"Reba, he cannot do things like this! What's next? A gang?"

Mom pressed her hand to her forehead. "No! Brock, he gets it."

Dad looked at me again and shook his head. "I don't think he does."

Mom turned to me and leaned on the counter. "Jake?"

"I get it, Mom. You don't know how sorry I am. Mom, please, believe me. I didn't mean to!" I said. I wanted to run out of the kitchen. They were fighting again and it was just like when they were married. It was awful but this time it was my fault.

She turned back to Dad, while pointing at me and Dad sighed. "Jake, just go to your room."

I got up and looked at Mom and she met my eyes. I tried as hard as I could to show her how sorry I was. This was going to follow me for the rest of my life. She nodded ever so slightly and I gave a small smile, then left.

"Brock, what is wrong with you!" Reba exclaimed once Jake was out of sight. "You can't scare him like that. It's not like he hit me intentionally!"

"Have you seen yourself? You have a clear impression of handprint on your cheek, Reba!" I shouted. "Clearly it was intentional!"

"When have you known Jake to lash out? Huh?" she asked. "Never! That's not how he is. So, he lashed out once, something's obviously going on with him!" she hollered.

I gapped at her. "Reba, he hit you! There is a welt on your face to prove it!"

She sighed. "He knows he messed up! He was arguing with me over a sleepover, I told him no and he snapped and then he panicked. He knows what he did was wrong."

I kept quiet and Reba leaned back against the counter, looking at me as I leaned on a chair on the other side of the island. "Reba, he's out of control!" I exclaimed.

She shook her head. "He's not out of control, he's a hormonal teenager. Kyra and Cheyenne were the same way."

"But they didn't hit you! Did they?" I said bitterly.

"No."

I lightly slammed my hand down on the back of the chair. "Reba..." I sighed. "I just don't want him to think that it's okay to hit you."

"He doesn't think it is!" she exclaimed. "What's this about, Brock?"

"It's nothing."

"Yes, it is, it's something. Tell me." she walked closer to me but kept the counter between us. "Brock, come on. Tell me."

I studied her face and let my eyes scan over her cheek then I looked down at my hands. "I did the same thing to Liz when I was a kid and I've never forgiven myself for it. And seeing you like," I looked at her again. "That. Brings it all back. The look in your eyes when I came in was the same look she gave me."

"Oh, Brock." Reba said gently and rounded the corner. She held her arms open and I walked into her embrace. "It's okay." she said softly into my shoulder.

"No, Reba. It's not okay." I mumbled and pulled her closer, burying my face in her neck. "I'm trying to do everything I can to keep Jake from becoming me, but it's just not working."

"What's so bad about that?" she asked. "So, he'll be an orange dentist that obsess over golf, big deal." she laughed and rubbed the back of my head.

"That's not what I mean, Reba. I mean, I don't want him to be like me. I don't want him to ruin his life the way I ruined mine." She stopped playing with my hair and I felt her tense.

"Brock. You haven't ruined your life, you just needed a new one." I whispered. I couldn't do anything but, my throat was tight. What was he saying?