TUESDAY: The Promise

BY ROBERT P. BISHOP

Copyright is held by the author.

AFTER WORK, Jeffrey stopped at the wine shop for a bottle of champagne then at the florist for a dozen red roses.

“Surprise!” Jeffrey said when he came into the kitchen and handed Samantha the roses. He put the champagne in the freezer before hugging and kissing her.

“Oh, my, what’s the occasion?”

“You are looking at the director of BBM’s new Seattle office.” Jeffrey stepped back, spun in a full circle and bowed to her. “Regional Director Jeffrey Thurman at your service.”

“That’s wonderful, Jeffrey. When did you find out?”

“Mr. Brown told me this afternoon.” Jeffrey laughed, grabbed Samantha and waltzed her around the kitchen. “We’re going to Seattle,” he sang in a falsetto. “The bad news is we are leaving in two days.”

“Two days? Isn’t that short notice?”

“Afraid so, but what could I say? No thank you? I want to keep my job, Sam.”

“You better let me do something with these roses.” Samantha broke free of his embrace and found a vase.

“Hello,” said a shrill voice from the living room. “You’re ignoring me.”

“Oh, Mother, I’ll be there in a minute. Jeffrey and I need to talk,” Samantha shouted.

“She never quits.” Jeffrey shook his head. “Let’s celebrate, go out to dinner. I’m in the mood for a big juicy steak. Newly appointed directors are alpha wolves. We need red meat.”

“Yoo-hoo,” said the voice from the other room. “I’m still here.”

“In a minute, Mother,” Samantha called. “Out to dinner? I like that!” Samantha clapped her hands gleefully.

“But first, the champagne.” Jeffrey opened the bottle and poured two glasses. “To us,” he said and clicked her glass with his. They looked at each other for a few moments then burst out laughing. “It is going to be great, Sam, I just know it. You get ready and I’ll make reservations.”

Samantha carried her glass into the living room. “Are you taking me to Seattle?” her mother asked.

“Of course, Mother. You know you always have a place with us. I’ve told you that so many times you don’t have to ask any more.”

“I just want to make sure. Sometimes I think Jeffrey doesn’t want me around.”

“Mother, you know Jeffrey is happy having you in our house. Jeffrey and I are going out for dinner tonight to celebrate his promotion. You’ll be fine without us for a couple of hours.”

“Why don’t I get any champagne?” her mother grumbled.

“Mother, you know you can’t drink.”

“I want to go out to dinner, too, but no, I have to stay home all the time. Sometimes I think you don’t love me.”

“Mother, you know we love you.” Samantha left the room.

“Oh, sure, ignore me, leave me at home like the old unwanted woman I am,” she groused bitterly.

Jeffrey finished his glass of champagne and was pouring a refill when he heard his mother-in-law call. “Jeffrey, get in here. I want to talk to you.”

“Oh, Christ.” He drained his glass in one long swallow and filled it again before going into the living room. “What do you want, you old snoot?” Jeffrey glared at his mother-in-law over the rim of his champagne glass.

“Ha! You got promoted so now you think you’re a big-shot alpha wolf. Alpha wolf, my foot, you’re more like the penis on a weasel,” she sneered. “You’re a miserable excuse for a man. I told Sam not to marry you. Some day she will dump you for a real man.”

“You old bicycle seat. I ought to chuck you out the door right now. It would be so easy.” Jeffrey took a swallow of champagne.

“No, you won’t. You don’t have the nerve. You’re lucky I haven’t convinced Samantha to toss you out.”

“Maybe we’ll leave you here, alone in an empty house when we move to Seattle. It would serve you right.”

Samantha came back to the room. “How nice. You and Mother are talking. We’re just a big happy family.” She twirled around. “How do I look?”

“You look fantastic, Sam, the way the wife of an alpha wolf should look.”

“We’ll be back in two or three hours, Mother,” Samantha said as they went out the door.

“Sure, leave me cooped up here, see if I care,” Samantha’s mother shouted.

***

They followed the hostess to a table in a quiet corner. A server appeared with water and menus. “Anything to drink?”

“A bottle of champagne, on ice,” Jeffrey said. The server hurried away. They studied the menu until the server returned with the bottle in an ice bucket and poured their champagne. Jeffrey ordered fillet, medium rare. Samantha ordered lobster.

They touched glasses. “This is wonderful, Jeffrey. I’m so happy for you.”

“Getting this promotion is a big deal. I get a 50 percent jump in salary, too. Now we’ll be able to afford kids.”

“I can’t wait to be a mom.”

“You’ll be a great mom, Sam. But what do we do with your mother?” Jeffrey asked, afraid of Samantha’s response.

A flinty look glossed over her eyes. “I promised my mother she could stay with us as long as I’m alive.” Samantha’s warm and friendly tone turned cold. “I don’t want to discuss it, Jeffrey.”

“Mr. Brown wants us to leave for Seattle day after tomorrow. We don’t have much time to decide.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little quick?”

“Things move in the advertising world, Sam. It’s competitive. BBM can’t afford to waste time waffling. Besides, the company is going to take care of all the details, including packing and moving our stuff.”

“Oh, Jeffrey, I don’t know. Two days! It’s all so sudden.” Some of the joy over his promotion seemed to evaporate.

“Sam, if we are going to have kids, your mother has got to go. She can’t be around them.”

“Then we won’t have kids. I told you, she stays.”

The server brought their food, filled their champagne glasses. Another celebration turning sour, he thought as he slipped away.

Jeffrey couldn’t let it go. “Sam, you know how she is. Do you want that for the rest of our lives?” He sliced off a chunk of red meat and popped it into his mouth.

“No, I don’t, but she is my mother. I’ll talk with her.”

“I try to be nice to her, Sam, but it doesn’t do any good. She’s always nasty to me.” He refilled their glasses but the champagne tasted flat.

“I know. I really appreciate your patience. You are a wonderful husband. I’m so lucky.” She raised her glass to her lips and sipped.

“When you were getting ready she called me a weasel dick.”

“She didn’t.”

“Well, it was actually weasel’s penis,” Jeffrey admitted.

Samantha laughed. “She certainly has a way with words.”

“So, you’ll think about putting your mother some place?” he asked, pleased by the slight crack in her armour.

“I’ll think about it. Now let’s enjoy. When we have kids, we won’t be able to do this very often.”

Jeffrey leered at her. “We can start having kids tonight.”

“So, you’re finally home. About time,” Samantha’s mother grumped when they came in the house.

“Now Mother, complaining isn’t going to change anything,” Samantha said soothingly. “We’re back, so you’re going to be all right.”

“Yes, Mother,” Jeffrey said, “we’re back now.”

“I’m not your mother, you testicle,” she snapped. “You may call me Mrs. Rolfe. In fact, I insist on it.”

“Very well, Mrs. Rolfe it is,” said Jeffrey through gritted teeth.

***

Jeffrey sat on the bed and took off his shoes. “Sam, surely you see how obnoxious your mother is.”

“I leave the television on for her. Maybe that’s where she hears the things she says to you.”

“Imagine what she would be like around our kids. It would be unbearable.”

“Oh, all right. I’ll see what I can do. Now about those kids we want to have. You want to start tonight?”

Jeffrey grinned and turned off the light.

***

Jeffrey pushed his breakfast plate away and poured a second cup of coffee. “The movers will be here at eight.”

A stricken look crossed Samantha’s face. “Jeffrey, I can’t do it. She’s my mother.”

Jeffrey twirled his coffee cup on its saucer, trying to find the words. “Yesterday we agreed to leave her in the house, let the realtors deal with her. You said that worked for you.”

“You’re asking me to abandon my mother.” She stifled a sob and slumped in her chair.

“We’ve already discussed this, Sam. We want to have kids. Think what she will be like around them.”

Samantha stiffened her back and sat erect. “Very well, that’s what I will do.”

“You won’t regret it,” Jeffrey reassured her.

***

The movers arrived on time. Sam and Jeffrey stayed out of their way. Samantha’s mother remained quiet. Within hours the movers had packed the Thurman household onto the van and were pulling away, bound for Seattle.

Jeffrey put their travel cases in the car’s trunk and went back in the house. Samantha stood by the mantel, talking with her mother. “I’m sorry it has to end this way, Mother, but it is best for all of us. We’re not taking you. You’re staying here.”

“You’re leaving me here, alone in this empty house?” her mother shrieked. “I don’t believe it. My own daughter is abandoning me. What treachery! Oh, God have mercy on me!” she wailed.

“Come on, Sam, we’ve got to go.” Jeffrey took her by the arm and guided her to the car before guilt made her change her mind. “Buckle up,” he said as he slid behind the wheel and started the engine.

Samantha sat, the car door ajar. “I can’t do it, Jeffrey, I just can’t.” She leaped out of the car and ran into the house.

Jeffrey fought back tears of anger and disappointment and pounded his fist on the steering wheel.  “Please, Sam, no. Don’t do it,” he moaned.

Samantha came out of the house carrying her mother in her arms. She got into the car and held her mother on her lap. “I’m sorry, Jeffrey, I couldn’t do it.”

“I knew you wouldn’t leave me,” her mother’s voice cackled triumphantly from the urn.