Next entry in the series of shorts about life across the pond.
Past installment can be found here.
Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean my mother is not out to get me.
She had not said a word, except for hi or hello since she I saw her coming out of Heathrow. She pounced the moment I took the exit to the M4 going west, “So when are you going to get married?”
I had three options, a) let my anger at being ambushed inside my own car force me to clamp up, b) try to engage Dad in a diversionary tactic (but a glance at the rear view mirror told me he was having none of that) or c) deflect it through sarcastic humor, “Oh Beth hasn’t proposed yet, so I don’t really know.”
A rumbling chuckle came from the back seat. My mother’s head snapped back like a cobra ready to strike, “That is not funny!”
“Said one of the two divorcee’s currently residing in this moving vehicle,” I threw in, because I like to see how gasoline flares up when it hits an open flame.
“That’s not…you two always gang up on me…this is serious…I’m serious, you’re going to be a father. You have a baby on the way!”
“Babies”, I said.
Ooops! I forgot that I, well forgot, to give her the update on our status (Beth’s and I) from Single Parents to Single Parents of Twins. I never knew when to fold them or zip it.
“Babies?” my mother said with eyes as wide as headlights.
Dad’s hand clamped on my shoulder, “Yep, babies, as in two, twins, 1+1=2, dos, more than one less than three, I hope,” I said.
“That’s my boy! He shoots from the hip and scores a double!” I don’t know if dad was going for the baseball or a basketball analogy but it was true none the less.
“Mom, my left ear is not even a foot away from your mouth. Just so you know,” I said.
Finding herself outflanked, outgunned and outraged she fumed all the way home in blissful silence. Millie’s face pressed against the window the moment we pulled up in front of the house.
“You have dog?” my mother quipped the moment she caught sight of Millie’s black eyes.
“A dog and three cats,” I said.
“Yes, mother, in-doors.”
“Oh boy,” said my dad in subsonic tone.
I dragged their luggage, eighty-percent of which belonged to my mother, in, with little help from dad. He was “on vacation” as he told me, while he strolled inside. There was an awkward moment with Beth when I told her a few things in Spanish, before I switched back to English, compounded of course by the introductions the rest of the family gave the newcomers. Milo nearly toppled her as he crisscrossed mom’s legs, Millie tried to give her a slobbery kiss and even Her Royal Highness Lily came down from her perch, stepped ever so gently over my mother’s lap and tickled the end of her nose with her long ginger tail. It was her way, I suppose, of saying, “You are in my house and therefore are my loyal subject.”
Mom held back a monstrous sneeze. I scooped up Lily and put her back on her perch a top the cat tree. She gave me a single meow as a thank you and went back to sleep. Beth popped out of the kitchen, “Would you like anything to drink?”
Dad shook his head but mom would not pass the chance to test Beth’s culinary skills. In a heavily accented English she said, “I would like some coffee please?”
“Coming right up!” Beth said with a smile.
“I’ll get one too, a bit later,” I said. I taught Beth how to brew coffee Puerto Rican style, so I had nothing to worry about there. My dad gave me a head shake which I took to mean that he wanted a tour of the house. Once in the solarium, and away from earshot of the women folk, dad sat down to read me the riot act.
“Your mother has a point,” he said with gravest concern.
“No she does not,” I shot back. “I’m not going to shotgun a weeding just to make her, or you, happy. The kids come first, the relationship comes first. We will do it when we are good and ready and not a moment sooner.”
“Your mother, I mean we, I, am worried. You just known this girl for….”
“And she is going to have your baby.”
“Okay. Children need a stable household.”
“Like the one you took away from me when you left? That kind of stable household?”
He took a deep breath, “That’s exactly what I mean, son. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. You turned out okay, but….”
“Thanks to mom.”
“Yes, thanks to your mother, although I was always nearby.”
“Dad, that is precisely why I don’t want to rush into anything. I want to get married, when the time is right. I’m not just going to do it for the kids, I’m going to do it for Beth and me.”
“Well then you should tell that to your mother,” dad said in a tone bordering on an order, an order he knew damn well I was not going to obey.
“Hell no! So I can open myself to her manipulating ways? And don’t tell me she means well. I damn well know she means well, but meaning and doing are two very different things.”
“She wants an explanation, son.”
“No, she does not. She wants an opening, one that I’m not going to give her. If you think she needs one, go ahead and give it to her.”
“Cut the crap son! This is between you and her. Be a man and tell her what she needs to hear.”
“Sorry dad, but I’m not going waste my time spiting into the wind. I’ve been there before and it is hopeless.”
“Suit yourself. But you know she won’t stop.”
“If telling her were I stand would make her shut up, I would but….” the sound of laughter coming from the living room interrupted my train of thought. I took a peak and I saw my mother and Beth laughing it up while sharing coffee and tea.
This does not bode well.
The rest of the week was uneventful, which just put me on tenterhooks waiting for the next landmine to go off. But it didn’t. I gave them the tour of Forest of Dean, of the surrounding villages nearby, then drove them down to London so they could stay in friends rented flat near the city center. As I climbed into bed early the night before my parents were to depart for home, I heard Beth on the mobile laughing at some joke. Something about it just didn’t seem right, so as soon as she hung up I asked, “Who was that?”
Beth eyes fixed on me, “Yes.”
“You two seem to get along quite well,” I said, hoping my trepidation did not spill over my lips.
“Oh yes. She just reminded me of when we went to that London shop and I called her ‘my mother-in-law’.”
“Yes, and she reminded me to set a date for next year.”
I didn’t bother asking her what the date was for.