“You promised me this wouldn’t happen again.
“I’m sorry mom, I did my best.”
The breeze lifted the report card gently off of the table, and shifted it only enough to put it in the sweat of the water glass.
“I just don’t understand how such a smart kid can bring home such low grades. I know that you’re better than this. I’d like to think that you know you’re better than this, too.”
The clouds parted and the sun warmed Alan’s cheeks right as all of the blood rushed into them. He dropped his gaze to the table, thankful that the rest of the chairs remained empty and his brothers stayed inside. Luckily this guilt trip wasn’t a group tour.
“I don’t know how it happens. Sometimes I know things, but when I sit down in front of a test it’s like my brain gets erased.”
“Excuses excuses,” she grumbled as she lifted the glass of water to her lips.
“I’m just explaining.”
“You’re just failing.”
His stomach sank and his mouth went dry. The silence between them left a cavern for the echo of birds chirping to bounce around in. Her panama straw wide-brimmed hat and oversized sunglasses left only the discontented purse of her lips to convey her disapproval.
“I spoke to your father last week and we decided that if you came home with marks like this again you would go live with him and Cindy in New York. Hopefully he can whip you into shape before these things go onto your official transcripts and you have a fighting chance at college.”
“What? Wait! I’ll try harder. Don’t make me go stay with him and that girl. She’s young enough to be my sister!”
“I didn’t ask for your input.”
“Mom, please tell me you aren’t serious!”
“I’m not kidding Alan. We have to get you into a different school before the start of the second semester up there or these grades go with you, so go pack your bags. You can come visit this summer if you really hate it that much.”
“Visit? This is my home! Why are you doing this to me? You really mean to tell me that Randy and Rob never came home with a crappy report card? Would you have sent them away?”
“Randy and Rob didn’t make things harder than they needed to be. Either way, your father was still here then, so I had some help. I think I’m overdue for a little break, don’t you agree?”
Alan felt the air leave his body, and for a split second wasn’t sure if he would inhale again. He pushed his chair out quickly and put his head down between his legs, focusing on the stone patio and counting down from ten, the way he had when she told him that his dad left.
She rose slowly, reaching for her glass of water.
“I’ll book your flight.”