“So what do you do?”
Taking the offer, the guest settled back into his seat besides his wife, who was watching him closely. Crossing his legs, he took a quick sip of the cocktail before setting it on his knee.
“I actually stay at home.”
“Like you work at home?”
“I look after the children. But If you’re referring to what I used to do, I used to be a surgeon.”
Their hosts couldn’t help but stare. As liberal as they may be, they had never heard of the man willingly staying home. Perhaps if he’d been gravely injured at war or had some sort of terminal sickness, but so far in the evening, he had seemed perfectly healthy. Why, he’d even been a surgeon, a highly respectable position and one invulnerable to being fired. Unless, of course…
“It was one of choice,” he said. “We wanted someone to take care of the children, and Cera’s work was far too important to ask her to give up. So I retired.”
All eyes settled on the young woman who, uncrossing her arms, quietly said, “Medical scientist.”
“They conduct research to better improve today’s medicine.”
“Have you ever invented stuff?”
“Not exactly.” Her husband smiled with pride. “Although she is currently researching a synthetic alternative for blood. It’s proven to be quite groundbreaking.”
“Hey, congratulations! Man, if I’d known I’d have such high-class people over, I’d have bought some better wine.”
“Wine is wine. I’m not complaining,” quipped the retired doctor. And so the night wore on.
. . .
His mother had never once been drunk, but it took only a handful of drinks for his father to become incapacitated, so when his parents returned from the house across the street, Julius took his father from his mother.
“I’m not that drunk.” He tried to stand up. “I only had 3 drinks. Cera, I only had three. You were there. I only had three, didn’t I?”
They both stared as he struggled to put up only three fingers.
“I think it’s time we get you to bed. Julius, would you take your father to his room please?”
Hoisting him up, they started their way to the end of the hallway, where the double doors stood waiting. Opening them wide, the pair struggled into the spacious room before the older was set down quite roughly on the bed. Inhaling deeply, the teenager glanced around his parents’ bedroom – it wasn’t very often that he came in here – and saw the flowers from the backyard garden, the beautiful antiques, and the wedding photo that filled the space.
Groaning, his father reached to loosen his tie before giving up. Covering his eyes with his hand, he asked after the whereabouts of his wife.
“I think she went to check on Leopold.”
“And then she’ll come and check on me?”
There was silence, during which the boy wondered if he should leave, when he heard, “How would you feel if your mother and I had another child?”
“Um…” Flushing, he tried to push the thought of how another child would come about. “There’s already four of us. Isn’t that a lot already? Most families have two kids at most, and we’re already double that.”
“Yes, but, you see, Julius,” he struggled to sit up. “Your mother has always wished to have children.”
“Dad, I… I don’t want to make this weird or anything, but there are things that you can do that’ll prevent more kids.”
“Well, Julius, I’ll be honest with you.” He hiccupped. “Sometimes even if you do, they don’t work all the time, especially with a woman like-”
“Just, uh… Just do whatever you want,” he stuttered. Face bright red, he felt heat radiate from his cheeks as he eyed the door. “It doesn’t really matter to me. I have to go to bed now. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Rushing the hell out of the bedroom, he sped down the hall, only to nearly bump into his mother. Letting out a yelp, he stared with wide eyes as if he’d seen a ghost.
“G-good night, mother.”
“Good night, sweetheart.”
But it was anything but, as it took complete and utter exhaustion for him to finally forget those horrible, horrible nightmarish images of his parents so he could rest some before his younger siblings shook him awake in the early morning hours so that they could play.