OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES
Tim comes home to find Abby upset.
An established relationship story.
Written: October 2009. Word count: 1,540.
"Hey, Abby, I'm home," Tim called, shutting the front door behind him. Even after several years, it still amused him to call out that he was 'home', given all he'd done was walk from the converted garden shed he used to write in, up to the house.
Silence answered him. There was no Abby smiling as she came to greet him, nor were there three children all clamoring to tell him about their days. And it wasn't just the silence that hit him, he realized the house was chilled - which seemed strange as it was a cold fall and the heating should have been on for several hours. Then it hit him; it wasn't that the house itself was physically cold, it was the atmosphere: there was a distinct chill in the air.
"Abby?" he called again, now moving further into the house and pushing aside all kinds of negative thoughts. "Tommy? Benny? Evie?" Still no one answered him. His hand went to his pocket and he tugged out his cell phone. He always turned it off once he settled down to actually write, rather than answer emails, talk to his publisher, make notes, or all the other non-actual-book-writing tasks that took up a good proportion of each day. He flipped it open, half expecting to find a message from Abby. Maybe it wasn't her or the children; maybe something had happened to Ducky or Gibbs or - But there was nothing.
Now getting really concerned he took the stairs two at a time heading down to the basement and Abby's workroom. He stopped at the bottom or the stairs, not sure whether to breathe a sigh of relief to see his wife safe, or gasp to see streaks of black running down her cheeks, as she leaned on the table.
He hurried towards her, trying not to fear the worst, and put his arms around her. "Abby?" he said, trying to pull her towards him, but she wouldn't let him. "Hey, what's the matter? Is one of the kids sick?"
Now she stood upright, almost knocking him backwards. "Your son," she growled the words. "Your son," he repeated. "Has been fighting."
Tim blinked. "What? Which one?" he added.
"Thomas Jethro." The use not only of Tommy's full given first name, but also his second name, told Tim just how pissed his wife was.
"What kind of fighting?" Tim asked. After all they were talking about a seven year old boy.
"What do you mean what kind of fighting? Fighting is fighting, Tim. And your son . . . My little boy -" Suddenly she started to sob and fell into Tim's arms, making him stagger very slightly under her full weight.
He held her, gently pushing her head down to his shoulder, so he could stroke her hair and murmur nonsense into her ear.
After a couple of minutes, her sobs quietened and she lifted her head. "He hit another little boy," she said, her voice low, her tone flat. "He punched him. He blacked his eye and knocked out a loose front tooth." Tim just stared at her; 'surprised' didn't come near to covering how he felt.
"Abby?" was all he could manage. And then he asked, because it was after all his son, "Is Tommy all right?"
Abby shrugged. "He has a matching black eye and a scraped elbow."
"But he's okay?"
Abby nodded. "Yes."
"You sure? I mean did you call . . ." He trailed off.
Abby sighed and then gave Tim a very small smile. "I do love you, Timmy," she said, now giving him a quick kiss.
"Love you too, Abby. But why did Tommy punch a classmate?" To his horror tears once again welled up in Abby's eyes. "Abby?"
She sniffed and lowered her head. "Because of me," she said softly.
"What? Abby? Look at me." She did. "What do you mean because of you?"
Abby sighed, and pulled down the collar of her roll neck sweater. "Because of these," she said, putting her fingers on one of her black tats.
Tim frowned. "I don't understand."
"Apparently this other little boy has been teasing Tommy and Benny for a few weeks now about their mommy being strange. Well, today Tommy had had enough, so he hit the other boy."
"Oh, Abby." Tim once again pulled his wife into his arms and held her. He kissed the top of her head, which was still ebony black, although the color now, he knew, came partly from a bottle.
She sighed. "I'm over forty, Tim," she said. "Maybe I should get them removed."
"Do you want to?"
"No, but . . ."
"Nor do I want our children ashamed of me."
"They aren't!" Tim said, pushing Abby away slightly and frowning at her.
"Aren't they? Tim. I'm not like the other mommies. I see them looking at me sometimes and they stop talking when I get near."
Tim stared at his wife. "You've never said anything."
Abby just shrugged. "It wasn't important. Not to me. But it is for our children. I won't have them laughed at and mocked just because their mommy is -"
"The best mother any child could hope for." Abby and Tim both jumped and turned around at the sound of Ducky's voice. Moving carefully, one hand gripping the banister, the other holding Benny's hand, Ducky led the way down to the basement. Behind him, carrying Evie, who proudly held Ducky's cane, in one arm and firmly holding Tommy's hand with his free hand, came Gibbs.
Abby hastily wiped her face with a handkerchief pulled from Tim's pocket. "Hey, Ducky. Hey, Gibbs," she called in a falsely-bright voice. "What are you doing here?"
Gibbs reached the bottom of the stairs and put Evie down on the ground; at once the little girl trotted over to Ducky and handed him his cane. At seventy-six, Ducky still didn't look his age, nor did his age stop him from having an active life. However, following a fall on the ice two years ago which had resulted in a broken hip, Ducky now used a cane whenever he left the house. Tim suspected that was mainly down to Gibbs 'bullying' him, than to Ducky choosing to do so.
Before either Gibbs or Ducky could answer, however, Evie spoke. "It's pumpkin carving night, Mommy. 'Member, Grandpa Ducky and Grandpa Jethro promised Tommy, Benny and me, they'd come and help us?" She smiled.
Tim and Abby glanced at one another. Tim could see that like him, Abby had forgotten the arrangement. Normally, it would be perfectly fine, a great treat for the children, but tonight . . . ?
He opened his mouth to say something, but Gibbs spoke first.
"Go on, Tom," he said, gently, but firmly pushing Tommy towards his parents. "Go and tell your mommy and daddy what you told me."
Tim wondered idly just how long Ducky and Gibbs had been in the house.
Tommy came towards them. To Tim's eyes he looked pale, and the bruise around his eye really stood out. "I'm sorry, Mommy. I'm sorry, Daddy," he said, his voice very small. "It was wrong to hit Eric."
Tim squatted down in front of his son. "Yes, Tommy," he said. "It was wrong. Very wrong. I know you were upset because he was being unkind about Mommy, but that's no excuse for hitting someone. Is it?"
Tommy shook his head. "No, Daddy. I won't do it again. I promise. Besides, I won't need to hit him." Suddenly his voice brightened and he grinned. "I won't need to because Grandpa Ducky has told me what I should say to him instead. Shall I tell you?"
Tim glanced at Ducky, remembering only too well the convoluted stories Ducky used to tell and how long they went on for. "You know what, Tommy," he said, brushing his son's hair back. "Let's leave it for now. I'm sure Grandpa Ducky and Grandpa Jethro would like to go upstairs and sit down. You can tell me later," he added, when Tommy's face fell.
"And then we'll carve pumpkins?" Evie cried.
Abby and Tim again glanced at one another. "Well," Tim started to say.
But his son spoke. "Don't punish Benny and Evie, Daddy. Let them carve pumpkins with Grandpa Ducky and Grandpa Jethro. I'll go to my room and read."
The next second Tim was pushed aside as Abby gathered her son into her arms and hugged him.
"Mommy?" Tommy said, his voice muffled by Abby's body. "Why are you crying? I'm sorry, Mommy, I'm sorry."
Abby shook her head and pushed her son away from her. "Never, Thomas Jethro," she said, glancing swiftly at Gibbs. "Never do anything like that again. Promise me?"
Tommy glanced over his shoulder, also at Gibbs, before looking back at Abby and nodding furiously. "I promise, Mommy. I really, truly, truly, really, really promise."
"And you'll apologize to Eric tomorrow and to your teachers?"
Tommy nodded. "Yes, Mommy."
"In that case," Tim watched Abby again glance at Gibbs and saw Gibbs's 'what me'? look as well as Ducky's half smile. "In that case, it would be a shame to waste the third pumpkin, wouldn't it?"
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