Past Interlude #12
Only Alex ever talked about his mom. The rest of them never brought up the idea of moms in an implicit agreement not to create even more tension with a measuring contest. Remy already knew what kind of arguments could pop up-- whose mom was actually married to Dad, whose mom had been the mistress, and whose mom still called once in a blue moon; who was the prettiest, who was the nicest, who lasted the longest. He wanted nothing to do with those conversations. They were destined to end badly.
Alex didn't seem to care though. He kept a picture of his mom on his nightstand angled away from Adam. Remy didn't know if he did that to save Adam's feelings or to hurt it. Remy studied it once. Katherine Summers was one of those All-American types with a waterfall of honey-blonde hair, a spray of freckles on a tanned face, and a wide, dimpled smile. She was even wearing a vaguely country-style shirt in the picture. She kind of made Remy's stomach roil. He never looked at the picture again.
Alex tended to drop his mom's into casual conversation, too. Months could pass without the forbidden word and smack in a middle of an escalating discussion (read: argument) about report cards, Alex would put "Mom" and "science project" in the same sentence. No one could have been more surprised if he'd jumped on the table in a thong and sung "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend."
"Mom said she studied guppies in college, right, Scott?" Alex spoke around a mouthful of Hamburger Helper. Dad was between girlfriends and Scott had finals.
"Uh, I don't remember," Scott said diplomatically. "Anyone want more cheese?"
"I don't like white cheese," said Adam.
Remy reached across the table to stuff more Hamburger Helper on his plate so he wouldn't have to speak but Alex didn't get the hint.
"I can remember," he said. "We were watching something about whales and she said that she did an experiment where the male fish with the red nail polish on his stomach attracted more females than the one with the white nail polish. And then Dad said that was the worst argument for MTV ever."
"That was a really long time ago," Dad said, obviously discomfited. "I don't think I remember it either. Remy, how's chess club?"
"Fine," said Remy, declining to remind him that he'd quit the chess club after exactly one meeting. He still liked the game but hanging around with those losers was so boring.
"Can we get guppies?" asked Alex. "Everyone else is doing volcanoes or something stupid but I want to do Mom's experiment."
"Does my mom have a 'spermint?" asked Adam. "Daddy, can we call my mom for 'spermints?"
"Not right now, Adam." Dad sent Alex a glare. "Let's finish dinner and talk about the project later, okay?"
"I want to call my mommy about a 'spermint!" Adam insisted.
"Adam, hush about the stupid experiment," said Remy, seeing Dad's face flush and anxious to keep this from turning into a two-pack night. However, Adam, unused to Remy's sharp tone, pressed his trembling lips together and started to sob.
"Nice going," Scott hissed as he stood to take Adam to his room.
Remy flipped him the finger below the table's surface. "If Alex wouldn't shut up about the damned guppies."
"Don't use that language at the table," Dad ordered. "If no one wants to eat with some semblance on manners tonight, then everyone's going to bed early." He ignored all the protest, saying only, "I want the dishes cleared and arranged in seven minutes and God help you if you fight again."
"Nice going, asshole," Remy muttered as he and Alex gathered the dishes.
Alex smirked. "Well, Dad stopped talking about report cards, didn't he?"