The first time Andrew clashed with his mother’s boyfriend, Randy, was when he was late coming back from a date with Sophie. He couldn’t help it, the bus was late, but Randy took it upon himself to express his disappointment on behalf of the both of them.
“A curfew is not a random number,” said Randy.
“I didn’t know you were a mathematician,” said Andrew, who sat at the kitchen table eating leftover spaghetti out of the pot. Randy worked for airport security.
“Sweetheart…” said Andrew’s mother. Who she was addressing was anyone’s guess.
“Your mother was worried.”
Andrew twirled a perfect forkful of the spaghetti, and turned to his mother, who was still in her work clothes. “Sorry about that.” He stuffed it into his mouth.
“It’s ok,” said his mother.
“It really isn’t,” said Randy.
“I think it really is,” said Andrew. He startled himself. He had never spoken to an adult like this before. Not his mother, not anyone. It felt strange, somewhere between a tickle and an electric shock. He had been brought up to be respectful, no matter what his personal feelings. His newly found granddad had fortified the belief that respect was important, because Bernard earned respect. Randy? Their relationship was quietly amicable. No real respect issue, either way. Nothing wrong with him really, Andrew thought, until now.
His mother picked up the now-empty pot and took it to the sink, then ran hot water in it to soak. She stood there, facing the sink, her back to Randy and Andrew.
Andrew wondered if this was a test, or if this was how it was going to be from now on. Would his mother withdraw, as she just did, and let Randy tell him what to do? That made no sense.
“Well,” said Randy. “Just be sure—“
“Big yawn,” said Andrew, standing up and stretching. “Tired. Church tomorrow. Night, mom.”
He left the kitchen and took the steps two at a time to his bedroom.
There was no church tomorrow. That was a joke between Andrew and his mother.