The temperature outside was chilly; one might even describe it as frigid. Inside, there was warmth, love. They looked at each other from across the room as Bryce played on the floor with his LEGOS and his mother Veronica sat kneeling on the worn area rug near him.
“They’re young for such a short time,” North said.
“Too short, I think,” West replied.
Veronica smiled and snapped a brick on the top of a wall Bryce had erected.
“That doesn’t go there,” he said, promptly removing it.
“Oh! I’m so sorry,” she exclaimed as she chuckled to herself.
The slamming of a truck door outside brought everyone to attention, except Bryce, who was still focused on whatever construction his little mind was creating. Veronica’s smile quickly faded. She looked down at Bryce with an expression of worried expectation. The front door opened and shut behind her and she closed her eyes as the temperature inside the home changed very quickly.
“Hey, Eddie,” she said as pleasantly as she could force her voice to emote. “How was your day?”
The bang of his metal lunch box hitting the floor was followed by his surly response: “How do you think it was?” The question didn’t warrant a response, so Veronica remained silent.
“Oh, great,” West said. “He’s in a bad mood. Not surprising.”
North sighed sadly.
Veronica began gathering up the LEGOS and putting them into the bucket.
“I think we should finish your building in your room,” she said.
“Make him pick them up himself,” Eddie bellowed from behind her. “He needs to learn some responsibility. Pick ‘em up, boy.”
“He’s nothing but a bully,” West said derisively.
“You have too many opinions,” North said. “Most of which you should keep to yourself.”
“So you agree with what’s going on here?” West retorted.
North remained silent for a moment. Then quietly said, “I just don’t like conflict.”
“I want to play here,” Bryce whined.
“Do as your father says,” Veronica commanded sternly with a tremor in her voice. She got up from the floor and turned toward the kitchen. “Do you want a glass of iced tea, Eddie?” she offered, hoping to distract him from their son for the moment.
“Get me a beer,” Eddie mumbled as he lumbered his way to the kitchen table and scraped the chair across the worn hardwood floor. He slumped onto the chair and kicked off his shoes.
Veronica took a bottle from the refrigerator, opened it, and set it in front of Eddie. She stole a quick glance into the living room, where Bryce was almost finished picking up the LEGOS. She was relieved that he dutifully obeyed this time.
“What’s he doing?” West inquired. “I can’t see him.”
“Just drinking his beer,” North replied.
Veronica slipped into the living room and whispered to Bryce, “Now, take them to your room, honey.”
Bryce stood with a sad look on his face and carried the bucket down the hallway to his room, shutting the door behind him. Veronica returned to the kitchen and quietly sat down at the table across from Eddie. She intended to try to start a conversation with her husband, but when she opened her mouth, he stood and turned to go to the living room. Veronica sighed and looked down at the table. Then she heard a loud yell from Eddie. She looked up immediately and saw him take a hop away on one foot.
“Damn it!” he exclaimed. “I told that brat to pick up his LEGOS!”
Bryce had apparently left one of the bricks behind. He looked toward Bryce’s bedroom and Veronica quickly got up and moved to put herself between her husband and the hallway. “It’s my fault, Eddie. I told him to go to his room. I didn’t know he wasn’t finished picking up the bricks,” she pleaded. “Just have a seat in your chair,” she said as she pressed gently on his chest.
He looked down at her hand and then smacked her across the face. “Don’t you push me,” he threatened as he pointed a finger in her face, “And don’t you tell me what to do.”
“Please don’t hit me, Eddie,” she said through gritted teeth. She refused to cry, to show him that he hurt her.
He turned and grabbed the first thing he saw, which was a small ceramic piano sitting on the end table. He threw it in Veronica’s general direction, but his aim was inaccurate and it hit North.
“Ouch!” she cried as the piano broke and fell to the floor in pieces.
Eddie stormed down the hall to their bedroom and slammed the door.
“Did you see that?!” North complained. “Look! I’m going to have a scar!” There was a rip in her flowery vinyl and a gash underneath.
“Oh, hush,” West said as they watched Veronica crumple to the floor. She allowed the tears to flow as she carefully picked up the pieces of the ceramic piano given to her by her aunt.
“What am I supposed to do?” Veronica asked between sobs.
“Just leave him,” North said.
“If I could,” West piped in, “I’d just crush him; flatten him like a pancake!”
Veronica sighed, dropped her shoulders and looked around her in sad reflection. “Hmph. If these walls could talk …”