JEFFREY AND MY mother were together for three years. I lived with them for their final year, when I was sixteen. Before that I lived with my father and stepmother, but my stepmother didn’t like me so I had to get out of there. Jeffrey wasn’t enthusiastic about me moving in, but what could he say? Their break-up was bad. Jeffrey was driving south to spend the weekend with his daughter, and my mother somehow got him to admit he’d made arrangements to stay with his ex-wife. It was a Thursday morning and I was dressed for school. We were running late when the shouting started. I slipped off to the kitchen to give them privacy. I kept checking the clock on the wall as I had a history test in my first period. But as the intensity of their argument grew, I forgot about school and started listening to see if my mother needed help.
My mother rarely yelled. If she wanted to wound you, she’d do it with a remark. To hear her screaming was terrifying. From Jeffrey I heard not a whisper. That concerned me. He was the quiet type, and I was worried my mother’s energy might push him across a threshold. When I thought about what Jeffrey was capable of, it made me shiver.
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