• Published 12th Feb 2013
  • 24,174 Views, 3,417 Comments

My Little Marriage : Mary is a Mare - MerlosTheMad



Stan has been married to his wife, Mary, for nearly fifteen years. They're happy and live a very normal, almost picturesque life. Sometimes... life has a funny way of pulling a one eighty when you least expect it.

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Chapter 2 : Where Were You

In spite of the delayed arrival of food, the Morris family had managed. Stan ordered a pizza by way of apology to the kids despite Mary's plea for another option.

After all, Mary was concerned with Bobby, who was supposed to be getting punished. Otherwise, the night went by normally, with the couple's two hellions providing the usual amount of chaotic racket from within in their lairs.

Around eight—unusually early for her—Mary donned her nightgown for some much needed sleep. Once settled, she let her head fall down swiftly onto the pillow, and languidly stared up at the plaster ceiling. The pitter-patter of the rain drowned out her son's blaring heavy metal music, but only a little.

"Huh, I didn't know it was going to storm tonight," Mary mumbled to herself, just starting to doze off. She remembered the weather report crystal clear; it was a distinct part of her daily rituals, which hadn't changed at all in some time.

Mary rolled over, putting the strange weather out of mind. So, tomorrow first thing, I need to check in on the truck at Mitch's. Then I need to go grocery shopping... After that, I should swing by the home appliances and check out a different lau— Somehow, she managed to yawn big enough to make her thoughts pause briefly. Laundry machine... she trailed off, her consciousness fading into an exhausted sleep; running through the list of chores had knocked her right out.

Overall, the day ended for Mary on something of an emotional low note.

Later on that night, after the family had settled in for the night, a foreboding little thunderstorm rolled in, perhaps marking the end of summer. Storm clouds gathered overhead, deep and thick, accompanied by fierce thunder, lightning, and rain.

The only member of the Morris household that lost any sleep from the noise was Mary.

From the side-table, the alarm clock gave its steady trumpet of beeps and buzzing into the room as normal.

Mary woke up, and the first thing she noted was Stan's absence. She leaned up on one arm as she always did, yawning. Today, however, the act was greatly sedated, mostly because her husband's absence did not require the extra noise just to get him up.

The ache of a restless night thrummed behind Mary's eyes. She already had the feeling she was about to zombie her way through Saturday, which should be her day-of-respite from the normal work week. Still tired, she dragged herself out of bed and headed to the bathroom.

A silence reigned throughout Mary's house. It went unnoticed by her as she tried to turn on the faucet tap. When nothing produced itself from the sink, she let out a resentful groan.

Oh, that's right, Mary reminded herself scathingly. The entire plumbing system went out yesterday morning. Annoyed, she trudged her way back out the door. I hope I don't have to shower again at Mom's place... She recalled that fortunately the plumber should already be coming about the upstairs shower later on.

Where is Stan? Mary went about making herself breakfast. All that was left after several days of shopping neglect was coffee and cereal, which she poured for herself in a melancholy state.

The sound of the backdoor opening and closing came from nearby and surprised her. She poked her head out the kitchen door in time to catch Stan walking into the dining room. He smiled back at her after making eye contact.

"Morning, Mar." Stan seemed chipper and devoid of any tiredness one would expect from somebody in the morning.

Mary was confounded as to how her husband was such a morning person, and yet so incapable of getting himself up. Perhaps, she supposed, the extra laziness saved up additional energy for him to use when awake or something.

"I've got good news." Stan walked in and draped his coat over the back of a chair. "The mechanic couldn't find anything wrong with the truck. Mitch called really early this morning and said it runs great for something its age. So I went in and picked it up." He leaned over the chair and smiled warmly at her from across the table.

Mary's expression hadn't shifted much from 'disparaging'. For her, all that 'good news' he'd given had done was confirm that her luck was indeed worse than below average. By that, she figured it was hovering around 'had walked under a stack of ladders' to 'shattered an entire fun house at the carnival’.

"That's great, Stan. So no more trouble then?" Mary asked.

Stan shook his head in answer. "Nope, plumber should be here soon too. Might wanna get dressed unless you plan on staying like that all day." He poked a finger at her pajama-encased form and smirked. The front door's bell rang. "Ooor you might not get the chance. I bet that's them now." The big man straightened up off the chair, and walked out of the dining room and into the living room toward the front door as it rang again. "Just a minute, hold on."

Mary rolled her eyes and walked back to the bedroom. She'd change and then eat. "Hey, Stan." She stopped by the bedroom's entrance.

The tall man paused at opening the front door. "Hmm?"

"Are the kids still asleep?" Mary rapped her fingers on the door frame absently.

Stan shook his head again. "No, I took Anna into practice this morning. Bobby's still in his room, but I think he's up..."

Mary slapped her forehead. I forgot about Anna's ballet practice; she has a recital coming up too! Groaning, she shut the door to the bedroom with a bang. Mary had been surprised her daughter had still gone, but the frustration she felt at that moment drowned the thought out completely. She heard Stan call out from behind the door after it had slammed, but she didn't answer. I need a vacation... she thought tiredly.

Mary put on jeans and a long sleeve shirt—it was getting chillier as the year went on—while Stan let the repairmen in. She stood in the doorway as the two men worked, at least until it became apparent they were going to take quite a while.

One had asked, "I ain't ever seen a system abused this badly. How old did you say it was?" Of course Mary didn't know, Stan had bought the house and moved to Idaho to be closer to his parents only a few months ago. The rutty building itself had been built in the sixties, so it wasn't an ancient place by any means... They had also mentioned, "Oh, and we're not electricians by any means but... we saw the pipes downstairs leaking on your electrical there. Ah think it might be why the lights won't work, probably."

Well, that's a big help. News that I need to get more 'professionals' to come poke around the house. Mary thought she could already feel the money flying out of her pocket book. "Why couldn't Stan have figured that out?" she asked herself, then paused and decided that probably wasn't a fair thought of her to have.

Mary opened the back door and stepped outside. I'm glad Anna still went to practice after her complaints yesterday. Honestly, she's worried about something as silly as being considered effeminate? I need to talk to Bobby about the way he's been acting... She passed her two flower beds, giving them a passing glance as she did; they flanked the house, and were mostly bare except for a couple varieties of flower still stubbornly clinging to their stems even this late in the year.

The gate that she opened led to the outer yard. Their home had two yards, both of which were bordered by chain link fence. The larger of the two was also surrounded by another tall green board fence, which gave it a casual sense of privacy. The town they were in had very few homes making it up. Only a few dozen at most, but they had their own volunteer fire department despite the small size. Of course, their house lay a ways from any other by at least a mile or two anyway.

Mary walked briskly to the garage’s door, unlocked it with a pocketed key, and pulled it open.

After a flick of the nearby switch, the lights aggravatingly didn't come on. Right. These are out too. If water damage had broken the basement lights, maybe the garage had a leak somewhere? Mary walked in the dark of the garage over to the truck, which had been parked in its usual spot. She carefully stepped over and around a few random objects and garden tools that lay leaning against the wall and in the aisle. Beginning to cough from the cold stale air, Mary hastily opened the door and looked inside...

Mary's goal wasn't to take the truck shopping or to get Anna; no, she had to find her cell phone still. "It's too dark, great." She pawed around with one hand while leaning in to try and find her phone.

It's gotta be in here somewhere, Mary thought she felt her hand brush over the top of it just then. Ah-hah. The phone was under the seat after all.

"Yeeowch!" A pinch against the palm holding her wayward phone had turned into painful shock without warning.

...

Mary leaned out of the truck and stared at her hand, despite not being able to see it. All right, what shocked me?

"Everything all right?" A gruff, older man's voice asked cheekily from out of sight.

"GAH!" Mary half jumped into the truck's driver seat. An earthy chuckle reached her ear from outside the vehicle. She leaned out to match the voice of Herbert to a shadow leaning over the hood of the truck in the garage's darkness.

"Dad, what the hel— heck." Mary stammered the words, the sensation of her heart beating from the surprise keeping her from trying to give him a well deserved smack. “What the heck is what I meant.”

"Still having trouble not cussin', I see." Herbert grinned in the dim light across the vehicle's front.

Mary harrumphed. "What? No! Well, recently, I’ve been slipping... I don't know why." Mary leaned back over into the red truck again to where she thought her phone had been.

Herbert hummed and called out to her from around the truck, echoing his voice slightly in the empty garage. "Weeell, I think I might. You're stressed out, Missy."

Finally, Mary managed to close her hand around the little cellular device that had been so unruly to her. The troubled mother pressed down on the power button with one thumb, thankful to see its typical blue light bathing the truck's interior.

Mary sighed and pushed herself up off the floor of the vehicle. "Dad, I'm no— Okay, I'm terribly stressed. It's not like I can do anything about it, though. I just need to wait for all of these… moving pains to get fixed and run their course. Hey, so what are you doing here, Dad?" Hopping out of the truck, she started for the door with him leading the way. He coughed his answer back to her over a shoulder.

"I'm sorry, what was that...?" Herbert asked back at her for confirmation.

Mary raised an eyebrow at him, detecting that he was going to try and play dumb. Dad doesn't really think that's going to work, does he?

"Dad..." she began to say in a warning tone.

"Oh, well you know, Stan mentioned you were going shopping, and that you were getting some steaks... So I thought maybe I could coerce a barbecue, even if it is later in the year—"

Mary stopped him there. "No, Dad, it's not a good time."

Herbert gave her a sulky frown. The taller man knew what that would mean: he also wouldn't be allowed to hang around and drink either. Stan and Herbert had a tradition of getting together whenever they could and enjoying a nice, quiet evening together. At least whenever Mary couldn't stop them from it.

Herbert groused immaturely, folding his arms. "Party-pooper," he murmured, puffing out his bushy mustache for emphasis. "Well, I'll just step inside then and say hello if that's all right. I was just on my way back to the house anyway."

Likely as not, that had been the excuse to drop by, Mary thought to herself dryly. "No beer." She said the words with firmness in her voice, strolling past him.

Herbert reacted quickly and appropriately. "What? Aw," he moaned, then stared after Mary as a kid who'd just been told he wasn't getting a new toy might.

Mary called back without looking as she walked out to the driveway from the garage's side door. "You heard me, no beer. Also, don't give Bobby any of your random gifts. He's grounded right now for picking fights again, and doesn't deserve them." She wasn't too worried about that, knowing from experience that Herbert usually needed a few in him before he'd give her son random early birthday presents, like cash. It never hurt to not chance it, though.

"Well all right, Mary, you take care driving! The roads are still wet from this morning's left over drizzle." Mary waved back halfheartedly and climbed into her car.

Mary noticed that Herbert's car was there too. Stan must've worked something out with him to return it and get the truck this morning. The car started and she backed up out of the driveway onto the mostly gravel road. It ran alongside their house, connecting it to the main road. It had probably been paved at one time, but Mary doubted it had been in recent memory.

She headed into town, admiring the changing colors of the autumn season. Strange, it was usually her least favorite season as well. The thought of plants half dying to survive an unforgiving barren snowfall were her usual thoughts on the time of year. Spring and its colors and flowers in full bloom were her heart's favorite. But all the colors of fall were nice too after all.

Mary parked her car next to the grocery store's entrance. Hopping out, she felt like her body was going to wake up after all for the day. She walked down the store isles after obtaining a cart and set out to gather things as normal, and then face-palmed momentarily, realizing she'd forgotten her own list somewhere. Likely as not, Stan still had it in his own wallet.

Mary sighed. Oh well, I'll just wing it. After all, I know what we need anyway. In most cases, she just preferred having a list to go off of.

In twenty minutes of shopping, she'd gathered her bounty of grocery goods: cheese, microwavables, vegetables, fruit, more cereal, and Bobby's breakfast sandwiches.

Mary decided not to get more chicken. Or fish. Nor ham or steak. She hadn't felt like getting any this shopping trip. Stan would probably throw a fit, but he needed to eat healthier, anyway. She had, however, retrieved bacon; she couldn't say no to bacon.

With her groceries gathered, she put the various soups, snacks, grains, and other food groups onto the conveyer at the grocery checkout and hummed to herself quietly.

A voice addressed her from behind the counter. "You seem chipper today, Mary. What's up?" It was Margaret; she went to her quilt meetings on the weekends occasionally. The upbeat older woman didn't show up very often, though; even less than Mary.

Mary looked over her way for a split second, then sucked in a breath to speak. "Oh, not much. Though I guess things have been worse than ever lately. At least, it always seems like that." She regarded her purchased produce briefly after finishing. Hm, I hope I didn't buy too many greens. Be a shame if some went to waste or spoiled.

"Really?" Marge tilted her head and smirked, busily swiping items over the bar code scanner. "I don't know, dear, your demeanor says otherwise. You're a Capricorn, aren't you?" she asked. "Your horoscope was an interesting one today, you know."

Mary rolled her eyes. She'd just been reminded that Marge was one of those, as far as believing in the superstitious and the occult. More often than not, she would try and encourage all the girls to buy into or take part in her strange interests. At least she did a good job of not being pushy about it.

"No, Marge, I didn't read it. You know I don't believe in that stuff." Mary paid the Margaret and accepted her card with a friendly tone.

"Well, it spoke of some stormy waters for you; not to mention that nature is more your friend than ever today! Also to be sure and keep your family close." Marge smiled at her and helped her put the bags into her cart as she relayed her message.

Mary gave her a smirk and raised an eyebrow. "That's pretty vague and normal sounding for a prediction, Marge." She started for the door. "Really, if I needed a fortune teller to remind me that the sun would rise the next day, I think I'd have to commit myself."

Marge gave her a nervous laugh. "Well, still; you should watch out! Have a good day, Mary!"

Mary rolled her eyes with her back turned to Marge, but waved back briefly to be nice. After she had rolled her shopping cart outside, she headed for her car to pick up Anna.

"Sooooo," Mary began.

Anna looked up at her mother from the passenger seat.

"What made you change your mind?" Mary gave her daughter a winning smile without looking away from the road. In truth, it was a smile of triumph over Anna changing her mind.

Her daughter huffed quietly and crossed her arms. "I didn't..." Mary's smile faded a bit. "I'm going to finish the recital, that way at least it wasn't a total waste of time." Her smile had become a straight line by now. "I mean, I don't hate ballet; dancing's kind of fun... kind of, but Dad said since I don't want to do it anymore, he'd sign me up for karate!"

Mary's face was stark consternation while she drove in their home's direction down the interstate. Karate...? Terrific. Now she'll grow up to be a violent hooligan. She took a slightly shaky breath. "W-well if that's what you want to do, sweetie... Are you sure you wouldn't rather take up singing lessons instead, though? Or maybe a sport." She tried to give her an encouraging grin from the driver's seat in an attempt to sway her daughter.

"Moooom watch the road, please!" Mary jerked the wheel to the right a little. She'd been going over the line.

"Sorry, it's fine, but don't you change the subje—" Squinting her eyes shut, Mary took another deep breath. This conversation's already lost.

Mary and Anna carried the groceries in together. They felt rather light despite how much had been bought; it must have been from not getting as much of the usual. All the same, where are the boys? They should be helping right now; not goofing off or ignoring that two girls are carrying all the— Mary grumbled and set the bags down at the family room doorway.

"Anna, go ahead and take those into the kitchen and put them where they belong." Her daughter nodded up at her. The three boys in the family room turned around at the sound of her voice from where they sat on the couch. She raised her eyebrows at all of them and drew her face in a fake smile that didn't touch her eyes.

"Oh, Mar, sorry. I didn't hear you come in." Stan grinned at her warmly from where he sat on the furniture.

"Or pull the car in it seems." Mary bent and picked up a bag of the groceries again. "Stan, Dad, help me put these away please?"

"Sure." Stan answered. Mary left for the kitchen, leaving the three to look at one another in front of the frozen television screen. "You too, Bobby, come on." Stan set the remote controller for the game console down and headed toward the remaining groceries in the doorway.

His son set the controller down with a sigh before responding. "A’ight."

Herbert tossed a hand toward the TV in protest. "Awww, but we're about to get to level six! I've never seen past five before..."

Stan paused at the door long enough to chastise his father. "Herbert, we'll get right back to it. Let's go help Mar, she seems like she's in a mood."

Bobby crossed his arms as he followed behind his father. "Dad, she's always in a mood. I don't know how you put up with—"

Stan hid his brief scowl, staring straight ahead. "Bobby," he started gruffly, "don't talk about your mom like that, all right? When you're a parent, you'll understand how stressful it can get, and your mom's had a double dose of it recently."

Herbert, bringing up the rear, laughed aloud. "You mean a triple," he joked. "She puts up with you two after all, doesn't she?"

In the kitchen, Mary spotted them as they came into the room with the remaining groceries. She turned toward Anna briefly. "You can go ahead, Anna, they'll finish it up. Oh, uhm." After a thought, she quickly looked around the kitchen for a distraction. She hadn't anticipated Bobby coming in as well at all, and pulled her car keys out from her purse on the kitchen counter. "Bobby! Please go lock the car, would you? I forgot."

Bobby looked up flatly, then shrugged and walked back outside of the kitchen without any other response.

Mary and the two men began to put the produce away until Mary heard the backdoor close. Glancing at the other two distracted adults, she took a deep breath, then slammed a block of cheese on the counter.

"Really!" Mary shouted abruptly.

The men were caught by complete surprise by the nearby eruption.

Mary set them both with a stare and continued, "Stan... Bobby's grounded. Do you know what he did at school yesterday? And here you both are playing video games with him? Video games," she repeated, waving the block of cheese around in the air like a scepter. "Really? Also, unless I'm mistaken, I saw beer out there. Am I mistaken?"

Stan began to explain as calmly as though he were a placid water brook. "It was my beer Mar, we'd never give any—"

Mary's arms became stiff as rods at her sides as she interrupted Stan. "I would hope not! I told Herbert no beer, Stan. It's barely two in the afternoon anyway!"

Herbert made calming motions with his hands and bravely stepped toward what was in his eyes: the level twenty raging house wife.

"Now, Mary, be reasonable. I didn't pass that along to Stan, and it's his day off too. I mean, he has his one weekend a month next week, right?" Herbert glanced at Stan, who vigorously shook his head up and down. "Right! So he should enjoy himself a little this weekend." Mary made to speak again, anger still painting her face, but Herbert was a step ahead of her. "And! About Bobby, he's just at that age. Grounding him and keeping him indoors is one thing, but taking away any sort of distract—"

Mary huffed loudly and broke back into the conversation. "He could be doing his school work! Goodness knows he's behind enough in it to need to spend a couple weekends studying. All he does is goof off, and you both facilitate it! You two are the worst role models imaginable when you come over on the weekends and drink alcohol!" Her fists were firmly planted on her hips as she berated them.

Stan glanced over at Herbert, who had backed away again. "The last time you came over was the barbecue in July I think... right, Dad?"

The older man hummed, then nodded while trying to look away, absently scratching his chin. "I think so; I don't come over every weekend after all..." Herbert replied back.

Mary threw up her hands, unable to believe what she was hearing, then stormed out of the room.

Mary idly flicked a spool of thread across her work table in the den connecting the family room and her bedroom. She'd picked it as hers for the big sunny bay sized window that faced the sunset and the open field beside their house.

"Are you alright, Mar?" She hadn't heard anyone come in; it was Stan. The man could move around surprisingly quietly, despite his bear-like size. He was an even mixture of his mother and father as Mary saw it, Herbert's height and Agnes' wider frame. It certainly came in handy in his line of work as Mary understood the situation. Now that she thought of it, his job had her producing gray hairs a great deal as well— "Herbert's sorry, love. I am too... Mar? You have that face on again, like you're thinking of things to bug yourself with... Come on, talk to me."

Without moving her head, she peered up at him with just her eyes from where her head rested on her arms upon the work desk.

"Well, that's a start. Come on, cheer up some. After all, the water at least got fixed while you were out." He grunted a forced laugh. "That's one thing off your list." Smiling weakly, Stan sat up on the desk's corner so he could at least half make eye contact with his grumpy wife. "I've never seen you like this, Mar; not this much anyway. I dunno, maybe it's a big mistake on my part for even coming to you about it... You should just know that..." He paused and leaned forward in front of her. "Thur do be a time, lass, when ye should spehk yer true feelings to tha' world an’ yer loved ones. Onley when tha' world or them ignore yah ye'll truly be sure yer fooked fer sure!"

...

She couldn't suppress the snicker with his face grinning inches from hers. Sliding off the desk, Mary hid her head in her hands. "Cheater, your fake Irish accent is terrible, you know that."

"I can’t believe you'd accuse me of a fake accent. That was my best Scotsman by the way, not the Irish. Although I'm sure you'd also confuse that with the cockney English accent somehow as well, dear." He raised an eyebrow and smirked down at her. "I have Scottish and Irish on both sides of the family don'cha know! Now quit dodgin' me reasonin' fer bein' 'ere. What be the trouble?"

She leaned back in her chair and folded her hands behind her head. I'm not sure if I even want to talk to you about it if you need to ask, Stan. The look she gave him was tired and flat, the momentary humor already gone.

"Stan... it's..." Mary ran a hand through the top of her long hair down the back of her head, reaching for the right words. Or even the right topic. "Well, it's you. It's Bobby, and it's Anna. It's everything that's going on in our lives right now!" Looking off to the side of the desk, she looked for something subconsciously to distract her from meeting his green eyes. "It's me... I can't pin any one thing down. The quilt guild, Anna wanting to quit ballet, even Church tomorrow! Not to mention everything else arou— uggh I sound like such a broken record. You have no idea..." She slapped a hand over her eyes while fighting off the déjà vu from saying the same things to Herbert the day before.

With difficulty, Mary continued. "You know, there's a lot going on that's been a hassle for us. These things just never get a hard conclusion; it's always one more thing, I guess. Most of it, though... Honestly, it's always been your pursuing a military career, and ever since you started in law enforcement..."

It was Stan’s turn to bare a strangled and struggling look. "But you've always been supportive about that stuff; you never even once said... Hell—heck, I mean—you even told me I'd be stupid not to on more than one occasion." One of his hands found its way to scratch the back of his head.

"I know! I know... But there it is. I guess I didn't think I would mind then. I suppose I was getting more emotion than I bargained for when I decided I could handle that about you. Same thing with the kids... don't take that the wrong way, darn you, I see that look. I love them with all my heart; I always have always will. It's just worry... Lately it's been worse." Mary sighed and leaned forward on one arm looking up at her husband who towered over her sitting on the desk's corner. "I guess it'll seem a lot less so when they're older and we're worrying about licenses and college tuition, huh, Mr. Viking?"

"I'd rather not dwell on that this early, thanks..." Stan shook his head, and smiled, trying to dislodge the thought of Anna wrecking his vehicles. Stopping, he removed himself from the desk.

Mary took his hand in hers as he did so. "Stan, we have to crack down on Bobby, you have to take things more seriously! You need to think about this stuff ahead of time. You do great by them and me by planning it all out financially, but you need to be more hands on." Her frown deepened as she spilled her concerns to him. "Joking around with him and acting more like his big brother than his father isn't the answer. I know you see it; you live it every day." This hadn't been her first talk about this with Stan, but she was pulling out all the stops to make sure it would be the last. Relenting, she let go of his hand and rested her head on the chair's arm, sighing.

"Don't be weepy now, lass, yer faithful Thane's here to keep true to his word after all,"

"Stan, don't you dare make this a joke." She felt a smirk creep up the side of her face.

"I swear by the sun, stars, and the moon, your desire most deep is my pleasure to fulfill fer yeh,"

"This is serious; I'm not kidding!" Unfortunately, her darkly set idiom was failing her. Laughing, she tried pushing him away as he picked her up by her arms out of the chair.

"Oh aye and no joke am I making of this at all, my lady love, this is a pressing concern after all. To be addressed at once certainly, right after..."

Mary hummed to herself quietly with a smile on her face as she stirred the boiling pot of mixed vegetables slowly. She added some light seasoning to it. Not that her kids would even notice, assuming she would even manage to get them to eat them in the first place. Bending over, she opened the oven slightly to look at the lasagna she'd started cooking. It wasn't the fanciest dinner, but it was easier to make and made for an impressive show once on the table despite having come in a cardboard box. Plus the lasagna she had bought was the largest the grocery store carried, promising to feed six. Or in her family's case three and one hungry bear.

"Stan!" She called out over stirring the mashed potatoes. "Hey! Go get the kids! Supper's almost ready!" Mary walked across the spacious kitchen to the drawer with dinner ware and grabbed four plates. Understandably, Herbert had gone earlier during her... admittedly rude and sudden overreaction. Though she didn't like admitting it. Still, she was glad that Stan had agreed in her conceding the point she'd made. He knew, for whatever reason he's just been avoiding it.

Problems like this won't fix themselves, though, Stan, you gotta grab your son by the scruff of his neck and shape him up! I swear, if I ever end up dealing with him knocking up some poor girl... Or worse, breaking the law and ending up in jail! Mary pulled her thumb out of her mouth from chewing it nervously. Frowning from the oddity of the new nervous twitch she continued setting the table. She realized that during her worrying Stan hadn't answered her. Wasn't he just in the den?

She looked around the dining room nervously and listened. Something was missing... Something very blatant too. Calmly she strode through the dining room, living room, and into the den that her husband practically lived in during his off time.

He wasn't in his office chair, and was otherwise nowhere to be seen. Mary realized with a start what she wasn't hearing: Bobby's heavy metal racket from upstairs. That's... sadly a first on a Saturday afternoon. Unless... She knew what no music usually meant. It meant no Bobby. Today though that also meant he was out and about, not being grounded.

Mary began storming upstairs, before stopping after a thought and taking several deep breaths. "All right," she started to say to herself. "I really need to take a step back and stop acting like such a b-bad mother." She pulled her hair over her shoulder so it fell down her front and calmly composed her emotions. Afterward, she finished walking up the stairs, and was pleased when she found it had been cleaned, as had the stairs themselves. Well... that's lovely. Did Bobby do that?

Mary walked the length of the hall and reached Bobby's door. Quietly, she listened for anything making noise inside. After not hearing so much as a peep of noise, she knocked. "Bobby, supper's about ready!" she called out, but there was no response. She squinted her eyes shut but forced them open and smiled. He must be sleeping. Yes, that's it. She pushed the door open.

Suddenly, the room beside Mary, Anna's door, exploded open and banged against the wall.

Anna looked around briefly, wide eyed. "FOOD?" she yelled at, then charged past Mary as if she were an invisible phantom.

Mary was plastered against the far wall, her body rigid from shock. Slowly, she let go of her heart and blinked until she had regained her bearings.

"Hi, Mom," Anna said.

"AH!" Mary jumped and spun around, gasping.

"Dinner's ready?" Anna smiled innocently.

"Ah..." Mary swallowed hard and exhaled shakily. "Y-yes, dear, we've got lasagna ready to be put on the table. Why don't you go set it out while I wake up your brother?" She gave Anna a weak, but kindly smile beneath her shocked and twitching eyes.

Anna nodded, then stopped abruptly while turning around. "Wake up?" she asked, her face looked confused. "Who, Bobby? He went to Corey's house, Mom." Without waiting for a response, she began thumping her way downstairs.

Mary stood there for a moment, certain her ears had heard Anna wrong, then ran to the stairwell railing. "Are you sure, sweetie?" she called down them.

Anna paused at the bottom of the stairs and nodded quickly. "Yup!" she called up, before then letting out another happy cry for her dinner.

Mary moved back from the railing slowly, then turn toward Bobby's bedroom, which seemed very likely to be empty. In that moment, the color red she was seeing painted the room a lovely shade for her.

The table was completely set, and Mary had doled out her family's food portions before she heard Stan's truck roll back into the driveway. She got up from her plate. Anna gave her a questioning look.

"Mom?" Anna put her fork down and made to follow her.

Mary turned to her smiling sweetly. "Finish up, Anna, and leave a happy empty plate, all right? I'll be right in with Daddy and Bobby."

Anna looked back at her plate full of vegetables, frowning. Her head filled itself with schemes of how to do away with the torture devices being forced upon her.

After waiting at the backdoor for a moment Stan poked his head in. "Oh, Mar... Hello, is supper ready yet?" The door opened all the way, and Bobby walked in behind him with a couple bags of groceries. He made to go around his mother, but she side stepped in front of him, arms crossed.

"What gives, Mo—?" He flipped obscuring locks of dark hair out of the way of his eyes.

"Don't," Mary interrupted curtly.

Stan blinked. "Mar, what's wrong?" he asked.

Mary took in a deep breath and shifted her gaze towards her husband. "I said don't, I meant you too." Her husband looked back at her uneasily, but didn't move other than to set down his own groceries.

Stan spoke up again, however. "I took Bobby out to get some stuff you hadn't bought this morning; you forgot the fish, steak, roast be—"

"I said don't, Stanley!" They both flinched back from her and Mary swallowed hard. "Bobby is grounded, right? So why was he at a friend's house? In fact, a better question might be why on this Earth are you trying to help him hide that he disobeyed us— No, that he disobeyed me."

Bobby gave his mother a wild eyed look and scowled. "Anna told you, didn't she? I don't believe it. I don't fu—"

Before Bobby could even finish the sentence, Stan leaped over and cut him off. "Upstairs, young man, we'll talk later." Stan began pushing him away, not allowing even the slightest rebuttal. "No, not another word. Just go right this very moment if you ever want to have a hope of leaving the house again."

Bobby stumbled over his own words until he was out of dining room. He glared back for a split-second, and then turned to run upstairs.

When the footfalls faded Stan sighed and turned away from the doorway he'd pushed his son out of. He spotted Mary, who hadn't budged from her spot.

"I'm not mad," Mary declared sullenly. She wanted to yell again right then and there too, but didn't.

Stan couldn't see his wife's eyes from where he stood, but he imagined what they looked like right at that moment. "Mar," he began quietly, which wasn't a volume suited to his deep voice. "Look, he's young and a lot like me at that age. I was just trying to—"

Mary spun around and interrupted him. "You were covering up for him is what you were doing." Her frown felt a lot deeper than she wanted it, but it couldn't be helped; she was too upset. "But it's fine; you obviously know what you're doing or you wouldn't have gone behind my back and snuck out to get h-him." The sentence took on a quavering undertone, and her voice weakened at the end. "Like I said, I'm not mad."

"I didn't say you were, Mar... I..." Stan's sentence floundered, unable to form the right sort of sentence he knew he needed; the Hail Mary kind that came out of the left field during a blue moon and a simultaneous solar eclipse.

"Dinner's on the table. We've got church early tomorrow. Sleep on the couch tonight. I'm going to bed." He stood aside while she walked defeatedly past him.

Stan knocked on the door. "Open up."

After a moment of waiting, Bobby's door creaked open. The darker haired boy looked at his father through a mess of longish hair. He wore a t-shirt a size too big for him with some 'screamo' band on it that Stan never recognized. He pushed the door open slowly, and backed his son into the dark room.

Stan took a seat in the recliner in one corner, and his son collapsed onto his own bed. "You had to go and try to blame Anna didn't you?"

Bobby glared back at his father. "But sh—"

Stan raised one finger and his son fell silent immediately. "Boy, let me finish. Beyond that, it's specifically the way you tried to blame her which did you in. The F-bomb? Really? I know we just talked about swearing and curse words two weeks ago." Stan leaned on his knees lazily from the chair, his son's stare locked with his own. "You need to learn better control of yourself or you're in for a long difficult float down the real life rapids, son." His emotionless face fell into a sad frown.

Bobby fell back on his bed and sighed. "I'll apologize to her," he relented back, though his tone was flat.

Stan studied his son a moment before he spoke. "To who?" he asked solemnly, raising one eyebrow.

"To Mom..." Bobby muttered back, not meeting his father's eyes.

"You darn right you will," Stan answered back without pause. His hand scratched the stubble that had allowed to grow over the weekend in thought. "And, boy, you had better make it good. I was going to inform her all about you sneaking off, but the way she found out combined with how you set her off has screwed the whole family's pooch. You're in deep water no matter what. So if you don't want to drown, you'll be on hands and knees tomorrow." Stan paused a moment as a thought occurred to him. He stood up slowly. "And you had better be on your best behavior at church tomorrow too. I don't doubt even the Lord knows He couldn't save you from your mother if you slip up again with the way she's been stressed out lately."

Stan strode out of the room and pulled the door behind him.

Bobby called out from inside the bedroom. "Dad, wait, what about dinner?"

"No dinner tonight, Robert. Starting today, you earn your supper around here, understand? There's gonna be some changes." Stan stopped and looked at his son. "If I ever catch you giving me or your mother that look right there ever again, you'll earn something else too. I mean it, boy. You're on thin ice on the edge of a cliff balanced precariously over the frying pan and the oven. You understand me?"

Bobby's face finally took on a submissive quality. He also muttered something too quiet to hear.

Stan inclined his head slightly. "What was that?" he asked.

"I said yeah, Dad... I'll fix things." Bobby turned, moving his face mostly under the curtain of scraggly hair he'd worn for years.

Against his willpower, Stan smiled at his son. "Good to hear. Bed early tonight; we're up at dawn tomorrow."

Mary fingered a lock of hair carefully in the dim light of the bedroom. It looked to her like she could almost watch the gray hairs forming on her head. Sighing, she let her hand drop and stared up at the ceiling. That was becoming a routine for her. Stare up at the ceiling and think and mope and fume.

"Tomorrow, I'm going to apologize. This has got to stop."

Author's Note:

I'm still deployed fellas but I'm walking a few miles each night to update as I write! I'm so happy that MLM has been liked by so many already, my other stories were certainly much shakier premises, I tend to lean towards more action and comedy. I decided to focus on the latter this time rather than combining them!

Thanks all for the great and helpful comments also! I'll try my best to answer as many as I can with the time I get online! Cheers

-Merlos, The Mad Miser of Magic