Friday, June 28, 2013

The Ultimatum

by Audrey L. Barclay

Bill Glover came leaping down the stairs, taking the steps two at a time until he looked up and saw his mother watching him, a speculative gleam in her eye. With only one more bounce to reach bottom, he stopped, laid the box of candy he carried on the newel post, and carefully readjusted his tie before sedately taking the remaining two steps.

He knew from her expression that his mother had something on her mind, but was hardly prepared for what was to follow. Finally, in sternest don't-you-lie-to-me tone of voice, Mrs. Glover asked her handsome, dark-haired son, "Where are you going all dressed up, Bill?"

Though it was but the middle of the week, Bill was dressed in his Sunday best for his date with the recently rediscovered playmate of his toddler days, Velma Denny. He knew his mother disapproved of Velma--she'd already expressed her disapproval as soon as she had learned Bill was seeing her. Nevertheless, he told her, "I'm going to see Velma."

Letting the paper she'd been reading fall to the floor beside her, she asked, "What, again?"

Considering a moment, Bill replied, "Yes, I am."

The words were spoken calmly, but inside the young man's heart was suddenly pounding wildly. The time had come, he knew, to declare his independence.

"Don't do it, Bill ... "

Bill interrupted, "And why not, may I ask?"

He had tried to be patient and respectful, but Mrs. Glover was beyond being reasonable. Her temper flared and she fairly shouted, "Because you know I don't like her!"

Bill countered with a flippant "So what?"

The angry woman seemed to have forgotten that her son was no longer a little boy; he was a man, with all the rights and privileges thereof. She knew she could no longer dominate him, yet she had to try once more. She began to sputter, "Bill Glover, don't you speak to me like that!"

Bill asked, "Mom, why don't you like Velma?"

The spiteful reply shocked him. "Because she's not good enough for you, that's why!"

"And I say she is." Bill remembered when once the two families had been next-door neighbors. He vaguely remembered how he had helped his tiny playmate learn to walk, helping her to hr feet when she lost her balance and fell, wiping dirt and ears from her baby cheeks. Then his father, an insurance salesman, had been promoted to a higher position in the company and Mrs. Glover had insisted they move to a location more in keeping with their new prestige. By stretching mightily to hang onto the higher rung in the ladder of success they had grown away from the old friends.

After a moment of speculation, Bill told his mother, "I happen to think she is. She's a lovely person."

Her voice rising another octave in her fury, the angry woman shouted, "She is not, and you're not to see her anymore!"

"If you'd only tell me why not ... " began Bill.

The only answer he got was a repetition of the statement that Velma wasn't good enough for him, to which Bill replied, "She is, and I'm going to marry her, if she'll have me."

Brushing his dark hair back from his smoky blue eyes now gleaming with bitterness in his pale face, Bill picked up the box of chocolates from the newel post and strode toward the door. He wanted only to put an end to the ugly scene.

Mrs. Glover, seeing her son about to shed his shackles, once more screamed to his departing back, "Don't you argue with me! I'm your mother."

Reaching the door, Bill turned the knob, then, speaking over his shoulder, he said, "I'm a man now, Mother, and old enough to make my own decisions."

Then, seeing Bill step through the open door, she issued her ultimatum: "If you go to see that girl again, don't bother coming back to this house."

Bill looked back at his mother for a long moment, unable to believe he'd heard the words she'd spoken. Then, raising his dark head high, he said, "Okay. If that's the way you want it. I'm sorry you feel as you do. I'll send for my things." He closed the door softly behind him and never knew about the bitter tears that drenched the cheeks of his heartbroken mother as she crumpled to the floor, as yet too proud to acknowledge her mistake.

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