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Here in the Silence

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Kathleen is angry with her, of that Maureen is quite sure. And honestly that’s fair enough. If their positions were reversed, Maureen would be angry as well. The drive out to Newark is just such an unholy pain.

It’s not like she’d planned to push off the airport pick up duty on to Kathleen. She just hadn’t fought particularly hard to get out of her conflicting responsibility.

If she’d been called into work, she’s sure her sister would be far less annoyed, but even Maureen can admit that her excuse is a fairly thin one. When her son had showed up at the front door with three friends in tow, she could have easily said no, told them to go home, and dragged Logan off to Newark with her to pick up her mom and brother.

But she hadn’t, because the drive to Newark is such an unholy pain and she’d been looking for any excuse to get out of it.

So now Kathleen is stuck with the drive, and is ranting at her through the phone as she makes it – though they both know that there’s no real venom in her anger, and that all will be forgiven once Maureen has paid for her gas and bought her a fancy coffee for her troubles. It’s a trade-off that they’ve done countless times, and at this point Kathleen’s rant is more out of habit than anything else.

“Are mom and Eli staying with you again, or am I taking them to a hotel?” Kathleen’s question interrupts Maureen’s attempt to hear whether the roughhousing in her basement has gotten too out of hand.

“They’re staying here,” she responds, deciding that the noise is within the normal range of children playing, “Dave’s just finished the basement, so there’s plenty of room for them both.”

“Dad’s not coming, is he?” Kathleen’s voice is tinny and interspersed with traffic noise, but Maureen can still hear the misplaced hopefulness in her sister’s tone.

She sighs. Their father hasn’t stepped foot in New York since the day they’d left for Rome, some ten years ago now.

“No, not as far as I’ve heard.”

There’s silence but for car horns before Kathleen speaks again, obviously disappointed. “Yeah, guess I should have figured.”

Maureen understands why their father has decided to exile himself – perhaps far better than he’d care for her to – but is still annoyed with him for it. They all miss him, but none more than Kathleen. Her middle sister has had such a rough go of it, and has worked so hard to build a good life for herself. Maureen is angry that their father isn’t here to see all the progress she’s made – that she is now a thriving and accomplished adult, in spite of her challenges.

She shakes her head and tries to put the thought away. It won’t do anyone any good right now.

“I’ll bug mom about it when she gets here,” Maureen promises, “and if that doesn’t work, I still say we should do Italy this summer. Really take advantage of his hospitality, lord knows we’ve earned it.”

Kathleen laughs on the other end of the line and Maureen smiles.

“While you’re at it, see if he’ll pay for the airfare,” Kathleen laughs, “court appointed therapist only pays so much.”

Maureen chuckles at their running joke. She knows full well that her sister does alright for herself in private practice, but they both like to needle their therapy averse father with the fact that three out of his four grown children now have careers in mental health.

She hears a crash from the basement, followed by total silence, and sighs. “Alright Katie, I’ve got to go, the kids are destroying things.”

She hears Kathleen’s laughter again before she ends the call, and is reasonably sure she’s been forgiven for making her sister drive to New Jersey.

--

The four boys look so guilty and penitent that she almost considers just waving the whole thing off.

Almost.

The bookshelf is knocked over, and books are spilled across the entirety of the basement – all fixable, if tedious. The hole in the drywall will be a much bigger pain to deal with, but it’s hardly the first time her accident-prone son and his goofy friends have brought chaos and destruction into her home. She’s never been one to yell or blow these things out of proportion, but Maureen does fully intend to let them stew for a bit and then give her best ‘not angry, just disappointed’ lecture – and perhaps inform their parents if that’s lost its impact.

Judging by their already down turned faces, and the fact that not even Logan can meet her eyes, she’s fairly confident that all they’ll need is a lecture. And of course, she’ll make them clean up the books themselves.

Before starting in on the lecture, she takes stock of the four – making sure nobody has injured themselves in the mishap – and realizes that she doesn’t recognize one of the boys. There’s Logan – of course – and two of the usual suspects, Darren Chen and Ryan Villanueva, but she’s never seen the fourth boy before in her life.

Cursing her inattentiveness, she zeroes in on the new boy. Slightly taller than the other three, he’s got a mop of dark, curly hair and a deep tan. What she notices most about him, however, is that he seems to be bleeding from a cut on his forehead.

“Oh damnit,” she mutters, pinching the bridge of her nose. “You, boy I don’t know, come with me. The rest of you, start cleaning up these books.”

She ushers the new boy up into the kitchen and has him sit on a stool while she digs out the well-used first aid kit.

“What’s your name?” she asks, running the tap to wet a cloth.

“James,” the boy practically whispers, seeming nervous. She makes a point to soften her tone.

“And do your parents know you’re here, James?”

She turns to face him with the wet cloth in time to see the boy shrug, seeming unsure. “I got dropped off at Darren’s, but I didn’t call my mom when we came here.”

Maureen nods. Darren’s house is only one block over, so she doubts this boy’s mother has sent out a search party, but they still ought to call her – especially now that her son is bleeding in Maureen’s kitchen.

“Okay, well why don’t we give her a call, huh? Do you have her number?”

The boy nods. “Yeah, but she’s at work. I don’t want to bother her.”

Maureen has started cleaning the blood off the boy’s forehead and frowns at how deep the cut seems to go. They will definitely need to call his mother, work or not.

She knows better than to tell a child this though, and only shrugs. “Well, I know I would want to know where my kid was, even if it meant being bothered at work. I can phone her if you’d prefer?”

“Sure,” he shrugs, wincing as she continues to dab at his forehead, “or I could call Lucy, she was supposed to pick me up from Darren’s.”

Maureen has no idea at all who Lucy is, but given that she’s now quite sure that this boy will need stitches, she’d really rather speak to one of his parents.

“Ok,” she starts, “how about we try your mom, and if she’s busy then we’ll call Lucy?”

The boy nods, wincing as he does so.

“Does your head hurt?” Maureen asks.

He nods again, effectively making up her mind. They will be calling his mother.