John rushed home after work to prepare dinner for his children. Phoenix would be on her way later anyway, but he wanted all of them together to make an announcement. Seeing his mother again had sparked something in him, and he decided the children should know about their grandmother. The thought of having everyone he loved in the same room excited him, but he had concerns. The kids would have questions, and the answers would put the Joneses in a terrible light. Mary was not his concern anymore, but she was the mother of his children. He didn’t want to malign her name or turn the children away from her. Especially Susie. She already hated her enough, and John had already done enough damage to the Jones family. He tried to think up answers that would be truthful yet wouldn’t hurt anyone, but it was hard to do.
By the time John washed up and dressed, the children had arrived. The landlord arrived too. John had placed a service ticket in a few days ago, and she just now attended to it.
“Oh, hello, girls.”
They weren’t in good spirits, and he hoped it wouldn’t put a damper on their night. Susie snarled at the landlord. He knew she hated being in his tiny rat hole and blamed Mary for it. He had accepted it and moved on, and she needed to do the same. Besides, it was his own fault. Sometimes, when he thought about his daughter, he realized she was still a spoiled little princess. She only concerned herself with what was profitable for her and rarely thought about consequences. Perhaps he needed to have a talk with her and paint an accurate picture of his situation.
Phoenix was eyeing him suspiciously. “Dad?”
“Yes, my love?”
“Are you wearing jeans?”
He smiled at her and continued to prepare for dinner. “I am.”
Susie groaned. “Do your neighbors always fight like that?” She addressed the landlord. “And can you do something about that?”
“Susie, let her work.”
“How do you live like this?”
“You get used to it.”
Tim walked in. “Hey.”
“What’s gotten into your neighbors?”
John sighed. “Look, can we all try to tune them out? We can’t do anything about it.”
They all sighed and went back to their salad.
“How old is this lettuce?”
Everyone laughed, and John appreciated the levity. The lettuce was mushy, damp and a little bit brown. Earlier he was proud of himself for putting together a salad, but clearly he hadn’t gotten the hang of perishable items. The kids joked about the salad and made digs about his lack of cooking skill. They wondered how he was still alive. It was a great moment. He thought they would be on the road to a great night, but the blasted neighbors got worse and worse.
Their voices were louder, and they used language he’d rather Phoenix not be exposed to. They even heard the clashing of something like glass shattering on the ground. It was bad.
“Dad,” Phoenix yelled. “If they keep this up, I’m not gonna be able to sleep tonight!”
She had a point. If his little girl was going to have a bad night, it wasn’t going to be because he didn’t try.
“Ok, ok. I’ll go over there and talk to them.”
John took his salad and banged ferociously on the door. “Hey! Open up!”
The husband stepped out, and he looked surprisingly calm and even cracked a smile. “Hi, John. What do you need?”
John knew what it was like to fight with a wife. It happened. Emotions were high and both parties are often out of control. He didn’t fault the guy. “Hey, Raj. Look, I know all about lady troubles, but does it really take all that? My kids are here, and they’re really upset.”
“Oh…I’m sorry. These walls are so thin! Please apologize to your children for me.”
The wife stepped out of the house in a state. She was in her nightgown, her hair was disheveled, and her eyes were puffy and tired looking. “Oh…excuse me.”
Her posture was stiff, and she walked slowly. Raj’s eyes narrowed just a bit and bounced between John and his wife. “Where are you going?” He had authority and a little threat in his voice.
“I need air.”
Something wasn’t right. John stepped closer to Raj so he could speak softer. “Please tell me you didn’t hurt her.”
Raj opened his mouth to answer, but the wife spoke instead. “Everything is fine, Mr. Jones. Please…go home.”
Fire rose up in John. His mother used to say the same thing after a night with one of her crazy boyfriends. His heart went out to the woman.
He stopped himself. Getting angry would solve nothing, and he still had to go back to his children. John stepped to Raj so close, their noses almost touched. He wanted to tear him a new one so he could feel the pain he inflicted on his wife, but that too would solve nothing. So, he stood there and held Raj’s gaze with all the disgust and disdain he could muster. “If this happens again, I will not hesitate to contact the police.”
Before returning to his apartment, John took a few deep breaths. There was no way he was going to completely recover in just a few seconds, but he couldn’t face his children with the fire still in his cheeks. The dream of a nice, quiet evening was ruined. It didn’t matter anymore if his news would be troubling or not.
He joined his children at the table. The girls looked sated yet concerned while Tim looked indifferent as always.
“Well…I had something I wanted to share later, but I suppose now is as good then.” He had their attention. “I haven’t quite figured out how to tell you this. I don’t want anyone to feel hurt–”
Susie gasped. “You’re getting married!”
He chuckled nervously. “Uhhh…no. It’s not that.”
All she ever wanted was his happiness. She was sweet in that way. Sometimes he felt it was a misguided sweetness, though.
“I have a mother.”
“Everyone has a mother,” she said flatly.
“I know. Mine is alive and well, and she would like to finally meet you.”
Phoenix’s face beamed. “Wait…we have a grandma?!”