Tourists in NYC
Joellen took Jamie and Noreen to all the standard New York tourist attractions. The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the show at Radio City, the Museum of Natural History, the Planetarium. When she told them she would let them buy one thing at FAO Schwartz, Jamie said he wasn’t interested in going to any toy store for babies. But when they got to the store, she couldn’t get him to leave. At the end of the day when they took the subway back to Brooklyn, they all fell into bed exhausted.
On their third day in the city Brent called. He said he wanted to talk to the kids. Brenda was close to Joellen’s cell phone and Joellen nodded to her to answer it. When she handed it over to Jamie, she gave her sister a piercing look but Joellen didn’t notice. She was trying to compose herself for when he asked to speak to her. Finally Jamie and Noreen finished telling him all about their adventures and Joellen took the phone.
“So, sounds like it’s going okay up there,” Brent was the first one to speak.
“Yes. They’re having a great time. Brenda’s been really sweet to let us invade her apartment,” Joellen said.
“Yeah, Brenda,” Brent said and then was silent for a few seconds, longer than a natural pause. Joellen felt her stomach tightening.
“Jo,” he started finally, “I wanted to say that I’m sorry about what happened. I know I said it before but I just wanted to say again how bad I felt about it. I hope we can put it behind us and move on.” He waited for her to say something but she didn’t know what to say.
“Is that a yes?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” Joellen said. “There are a lot of things to think about.”
“Like what?” he asked, sounding slightly belligerent.
“Don’t go off on me,” Joellen said slowly.
“Who’s going off? You are really turning into some bitch, you know that? I try to apologize, no, I do apologize and you say you have to think about it. What in hell is there to think about?” Now he was really getting aggressive, his voice so loud that she had to hold the phone away from her ear.
“Mommy,” Noreen came up to her, “why is Daddy yelling like that?”
“It’s nothing, Norey, go get ready for bed now,” she told her daughter. “Aunt Brenda will help you.” She raised her eyebrows at Brenda who nodded and led Noreen away.
“Brent, please calm down. Noreen heard you, you’re yelling so loud,” she was amazed at how calm she suddenly felt, at how smooth her voice was, at how she was withstanding his bullying.
“Listen, you’re a fine one to talk. You pick a fight while I’m two thousand miles away and then you tell me to shut up,” his voice was shaking.
“I didn’t pick this fight, you did,” she shot back at him.
“You go to hell,” he screamed and hung up.
Joellen stood there holding the phone, looking at it in disbelief. This was not how it was supposed to go. She never dreamed he could be such a lout. She felt a great wave of nausea sweeping from her gut toward her throat and she ran to the bathroom. By the time she got there she was gasping for breath and shaking, but after a while her stomach calmed down and then she just sat on the top of the toilet and held her head in her hands, thinking over and over, “What should I do? What should I do?”