Oliver slammed the door and marched into the living room. “We need to talk.”
Phyllis, seated on the sofa reading Maclean’s, looked up and smiled. “I’m so glad you’re home. It’s been horrible having no one to talk to.” She tossed the magazine onto the coffee table. “Tell me all about your day.”
“Mom, I’m not seven years old,” Oliver said brutishly. “I don’t want to talk about my goddamn day.” He lowered himself onto the sofa, clasped his hands together on his lap and locked his gaze on his mother. “Don’t you realize what you’re doing?”
Phyllis bristled. “All I did was ask my son about his day and he bit my head off. I didn’t raise him to speak to me like that.”
“You don’t think you deserve it?” he asked, unable to check his surprise.
“I most certainly do not.” Phyllis stood and went to leave the room.
“Sit down, Mom,” Oliver said, almost shouting.
Phyllis spun around. “I won’t stand here and let you talk to me like I’m … a two-bit hussy.”
Oliver bounced off the sofa and charged across the room, grabbing his mother by the arm as she started again for the door. “I’m not talking to you like a ‘two-bit hussy.’ I’m talking to you like a…” He censored himself before he could say the word that would have taken them to a point of no return. He shepherded her back to the sofa and forced her to sit. He drew in a deep breath, held on to it a few seconds, then pushed it out violently through his nose. “You’re my mother, and I love you. I don’t know if you’re being like this because of what’s going between you and Dad, or —”
“Being like what?” Phyllis interrupted.
“Insufferable!” Oliver said with emphasis. “You’re being mean, and the things you say … I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but you keep hurting me.”
“Hurting you?” Phyllis’s voice pitched high with disbelief. “How am I hurting you?”
“Really?” Oliver ran his hand down the side of his face. “Are you going to sit there and play dumb?” There was a silence. “I love Trevor. He’s my light. When I’m sick, he makes me homemade soup. He makes me laugh by hogging the blankets when we climb into bed because I steal them in the night. Or so he tells me. When I lost my job two years ago because of cutbacks, he said, ‘Don’t worry … I’ve got this.’ That let me take the time I needed to find the next right thing. He’s been … he’s good to me. I thought you of all people would appreciate that.”
“I don’t know…” Phyllis, dodging Oliver’s gaze, reached for the Maclean’s magazine. “I don’t know how you ever got mixed up with those people.”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” Oliver barked and snatched the magazine away. “All you see is the colour of his skin. I see who he is.” He dropped his head and bit down on his lip. “This isn’t just my home. It’s Trevor’s, too. That’s why … you can’t stay here.”
“Where am I supposed to go?” Phyllis asked, indignant.
Oliver rose. “I don’t know and, frankly, I don’t care. But you being here … you’re tearing my home and my world apart. It has to stop.”
“Oliver, I’m —”
Oliver raised a hand. “Please just pack your things and go.” He strode out of the room and down the hall to Trevor’s office. He stood in the doorway and waited to hear the clickety-clack of his mother’s high heels against the hardwood floor. He’d finally stood up to her — stood up for his life and his worth.
As his gaze fell on Trevor’s desk where the laptop used to be, he felt the tears pooling in his eyes. He could still hear the savageness in Trevor’s alto voice. “I’ll make it simple … it’s either her or me.” Oliver had said nothing, watching as the rage in Trevor’s camel-brown eyes turned to disappointment. And he remained silent when Trevor sprinted up the stairs. He thought it was a bluff until Trevor appeared at the front door with his suitcase and satchel. He knew Trevor waited for him to say something, but he just stood there with his mouth agape. Then Trevor slipped out of the house, and the life he’d imagined was in pieces.
A loud bang made Oliver jump, and he looked up at the ceiling. “What’s she up to now?” He pulled out his phone and dialled Trevor’s cell number. After the fourth ring, it cut away to voicemail. He hung up without leaving a message.
Then came the thud of the front door closing. He raced into the living room and stood in front of the window. He watched as his mother got into her silver Volvo and felt, for the first time in almost a week, relief. He pulled up Trevor’s number again on his phone and dialled. Still no answer. But this time, when prompted to leave a message, he said the only two words that mattered, “She’s gone.”
Was it enough to convince Trevor to come home?
God, he hoped so.
And when his phone rang five minutes later — Trevor’s name lighting up the screen — he was about to find out.