Bob and Stacy Maith looked at each other for thirty awkward seconds. He folded his arms in exasperated resignation, while she rested her chin against her right hand. The dimmed lights reflected the somber mood within the garage.
“Well, at least he didn’t punch me,” Bob half-heartedly quipped to his wife.
“Can you please tell me why your nephew just cursed you out and why there’s debris everywhere?” Stacy demanded.
“Did you see the blood on his face?”
“He took a big hit late in the game tonight.”
“I don’t recall…”
“He’ll be fine. Let’s go inside. I need tea, myself.”
Bob passed his wife and climbed the stairs and entered the vestibule. Stacy, meanwhile, remained deep in thought as she rested on the garage steps, feeling skeptical and confused. She eventually joined her husband in the kitchen despite her misgivings.
After they poured each other cups of tea, they stood silent in front of the marble counter, unable to verbalize the recent events. Bob took a petulant slurp of his tea, took a deep breath, then befuddlingly looked his wife in her curious green eyes. “I’ve failed, Stacy,” he quivered. “I can’t teach Jesse.”
“Why do you feel that way?” she placidly inquired.
“He’s too angry. He will let his talents go to waste. The kid is smart enough to be Ultimate Minister, but he has no clue what he wants to do with his life. Worse yet, I suspect he’s turned Matthew and Mary against me. I’m trying my best, and they don’t see that. It’s my fault, Stace.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“Because they can’t handle discipline?!” Bob pled. Seconds later, his ultraphone buzzed. He checked the holographic message appearing from his screen:
CALL ME ASAP, the message read.
“Look no further,” Stacy backhandedly replied.
“No further than what?”
“What’s more important to you? Your career or your children?”
Bob remained silent.
“Exactly!” Stacy continued. “The fact that you can’t answer that question tells me all I need to hear. Robert, they don’t respect you because you devote more time to your den than your family! You’re married to your job! When did you last spend quality time with Jesse? Or Matt and Mary? Have you gotten to know them?”
Bob, head tilted towards his tea mug, replied, “I’ve been meaning to, but… I guess you’re right.”
“You know something else, Robert?” Stacy sternly continued. “Have you considered how it has affected us?! How it’s affected our goals as a family?”
A frightened Bob stared into his wife’s eyes, unprepared for such a confrontation. “Goals?” he stammered.
“Take one guess what I mean,” Stacy snarled.
“I’m too drained to talk about this tonight.”
“You wish to know what the difference is between you and me? I found a work-life balance! I take the time for our children, especially Jesse! The military may have taught you respect and loyalty, but you sure as hell didn’t retain it! I did, Bob! So, you know what? The next time you want to cry to me about your failures as a father and a mentor, I won’t be there to listen. I’ll be going to our children to listen to them.”
Bob folded his arms and silently walked away.
“I suppose you’re going to the den?” Stacy angrily asked. “You don’t even want to talk about our problems?”
Bob ignored her, then entered his fortress of solitude and slammed the door.
“Figures!” Stacy shouted. “At least I don’t need a hiding place!”