The New Normal – Chapter Four

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Sharon’s stomach was churning as they walked back from Betty’s house. David didn’t say a word as he pulled the twins along. Ryan sniffled once and that earned him a glare from his father, and a harsh, “Don’t be a faggot.”

Hunter kept his head down with the grim determination which Sharon knew too well. He was furious and was holding it in until it would explode out. When he exploded Hunter attacked whatever was at hand, a favorite toy, his brother or her. He hadn’t attacked David. Not yet. Sharon was terrified at that thought.

Their door was ajar, the way David had left it when he dragged her over to Betty’s house. He blamed her for it.

“Damn it, you left the door open. Some punk could have come in here and robbed us blind.”

She knew better than to point out that he had left it open. So, she keep her head down and said nothing.

He let out a long and dramatic sigh, “Jezz, I don’t know what the fuck to do with you.” Once he marched across the doorway, he released the boys’ arms, ignoring them now that they were home.

He turned right into the living room, or more accurately, his living room. The walls and the mantel were barren of the usual family pictures. Instead, the room was decorated with mementoes of David’s High School Football days.  

He poured more money into that one room than the rest of the house. David had outfitted it with an 80 inch television and state of the the art sound system. Where in most houses, such as Betty’s, the couch would be facing the television so that the family could watch together, David had placed a monster reclining chair. The couch was off to the side, almost as an afterthought.

“Can you at least get me a beer without fucking that up?” he demanded as he settled into his chair and picked up the remote control.

Sharon quietly told the boys to go upstairs and get ready for their showers. Ryan meekly started up the stairs. Hunter, looking so much like his father, glared into the living room. He then started up in the stairs in silence, gripping the handrail so hard that his knuckles turned white. He did know better than to stomp his feet on the steps.

Moving quickly down the hallway to the kitchen, she prayed that she had remembered to put beer in the refrigerator. The short hallway was dim and she was afraid to even pause a moment to turn the lights on. Anyway, with David home, the house felt claustrophobic in a way that light could never dispel.

She hesitated in the doorway of the kitchen fumbling for the light switch. Her rising panic made her fingers clumsy.

Running to the refrigerator, she felt the panic rising again. When she pulled open the door and saw two Coors on the door shelve, her knees almost collapsed in relief. With a trembling hand, she removed one of the cans from the shelf, being careful not to shake it. She shuddered at the memory of that time four years ago when David opened the beer and it exploded all over him.

Moving quickly, but very carefully, down the hallway, Sharon made her way to the living room. David was watching a baseball game. When she entered the room, he didn’t even look at her. He just held up his right hand as if expecting the beer to materialize in it. Sharon obliged.

She felt a surge of apprehension as always when he popped the top. Thankfully, nothing happened and he noisily began slurping the beer. She stood by the chair for a few minutes, waiting.

David said nothing and continued to watch the game. He acted as if she wasn’t there. Taking advantage of the moment, and like the perfect servant, she eased out of the room as if she’d never been there.

As Sharon crept up the stairs, she avoided looking at the family pictures she had hung along the wall. She had once hoped that by putting up normal family pictures by some form of sympathetic magic her family would start acting normal. Sometimes she’d look at the them and try to convince herself that everything was normal, or would be if she would just not keep screwing up.

At the top of the stairs, Sharon went to the twins’ room. It was next to hers and David’s, but was about half the size. Even though there was a large third bedroom, David insisted that the boys share. He had claimed the third bedroom as his office. He didn’t do any work there, just surfed the internet when he was home. Sharon wasn’t allowed to use his computer and besides, he kept the door locked when he wasn’t home.

When she came into the room, Ryan was lying facedown on his bed, burying his face in his pillow. From the way his shoulders moved, Sharon knew he was crying. By contrast across the room Hunter lay face up on his bed. His body was trembling too, but with rage.The way he nurtured his anger scared Sharon. It reminded her all to much of David.

Looking at her two boys, she knew that showers were out of the question. She wanted them to shower. She wanted the normality of that act. She also wanted to wash away their hurt and anger.  But, she knew from experience that she’d never get them out of their room right now.

Turning, she closed the door and said, “If you keep the sound down, you can play on the XBox for half an hour.” The Xbox had been a gift from David’s parents last Christmas.

Neither boy moved or changed their positions. Sharon went over to Ryan and sat on his bed. Both beds were plain and simple. Sharon had wanted to get them fun beds. Maybe something shaped like a car or something.

David refused claiming that he didn’t have money for it. And “What the fuck, you think money grows on trees? If you ever got your worthless ass out of the house you’d understand that.”

Sitting down, she started stroking Ryan’s head and slowly he relaxed and stopped crying. He rolled over and looked at her with that serious expression which always made her breath catch. He then moved off his bed to the turn on the game.

Hunter without changing his position said through clenched teeth, “I hate him.”

Startled, Sharon looked to the closed door as if David would come through any minute.

Quietly she said, “Don’t say that.” She meant to add, “He really does love us,” but couldn’t get the words out. Instead she said,”He really doesn’t mean it. He just works hard.”

Hunter turned his head to look at her, his eyes boring into hers. “I hate him and I hope he dies,” he said. He then turned over on his side, away from his brother and away from his mother. He lay there unmoving staring at the wall.

Sharon couldn’t look at him. She felt an overwhelming sense of despair. Sharon felt worthless. Hunter’s judging me, she thought, and I’ve failed. I’ve failed as a wife and as a mother.

Ryan with his back to the scene was too engrossed in loading his game into the Xbox to notice. Quietly, Sharon left the room and closed the door behind her.

Standing by the twins’ door, she was undecided as to what to do next. She didn’t hear the television anymore. That could mean that could be David in the bedroom. Sometimes after one of these incidents, he demanded sex. Suppressing a shudder, she moved quietly to the stairs to listen. Maybe he’d go out or just fall asleep in his chair first.