So, Margie came over. Althea brought her children, and we did the momma and papa thing.
But the stress! The whole thing was so intense that it was far from fun.
Althea, smiling like hell, talked to those two children a mile a minute from the time they all walked in.
Do you want this piece of pizza, or do you want this piece of pizza? Do you want this kind of plate, or do you want this kind of plate? Do you want to eat over here, or would you rather eat over here? Do you want a fork, or do you like it better with your hands? This was like a five star restaurant, three waiters per table, with Althea playing all the roles.
So much talking that The Wimp (Rachel, Rachel – let me call her Rachel for awhile) Rachel and Margie, sat quietly and observed the spectacle.
Here was a mom with pent-up mothering needs.
The kids were quiet, overpowered by the service, the frantic words.
At one point, with both little mouths chewing, there was a brief lull in the noise; I interjected a comment.
“So,” I said. “You have them for the whole weekend?”
Althea snapped at me.
“I always have them for the weekend! They’re my children,” she said.
Then she flashed that smile again, not that the children returned the gesture. “Is it good, honey? Do you like that pizza, sweetheart? Is there too much cheese on it? I can pick a little off if you want. You don’t have to eat the crust if you don’t want it.”
I said, “Are you okay? You can relax, let them play with Rachel and Margie.”
Rachel and Margie sat on the couch, eating. They looked unplayful at the moment, but I knew they could spring into action if they were given the chance.
“No, I’m not okay,” she said. “I’m a little nervous right now. Something set me off. Why did you think this was such a great idea anyway? It was kind of a stupid thing to do. Your daughter is way too old to play with my children. You know, they go back to their father at noon tomorrow. Then I don’t see them for another week. This is precious time, precious time. Don’t tell me what to do with it.”
In the middle of a bite, Althea’s little girl asked The Wimp, “Do you have any toys?”
“A bunch of them, upstairs,” she said.
“I wanna go upstairs,” Athea’s little boy said.
Then Althea grabbed their coats, jerked their arms, began to whisk them away. She bid me a thousand thanks for the party, said she would have us over to her house next time.
“Stay awhile,” I said.
Althea turned, angry.
“This was a bad idea,” she said. Then she screamed, “a bad idea! Do you hear me?”
People four blocks away might have heard her.
It was a scream that froze you. The Wimp and Margie were frightened. They stopped chewing.
Althea’s little boy looked saddened but numb. The girl began to sob. “What’s the matter, mommy?”
Althea began to cry.
“Nothing’s the matter, sweetheart. Let’s go. Let’s go.”
And out the door they went.
The Wimp said, “Gee Dad, she’s not at all like you.”
“We’re all different,” I said.
Margie asked, “You met her in the hospital?”
“Yep,” I said. “Met her in the hospital.”