“Are you well?” She was angry. If the straight-to-voicemail treatment for the last week hadn’t tipped me off, her tone now was a dead giveaway.
“I’m great,” I lied. “And how are you?”
I laughed, silently. If she heard me laugh, she’d have my balls.
“Did you get my messages?”
“Yes. Thank you for calling.”
I waited for a minute, for her to say more. She didn’t.
“I leave you twenty-one messages, three calls a day, and that’s all you got for me?”
“I’m not going to apologize for needing some time to cool off and I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Who do you think I am? Willy Wonka? You missed my birthday.” She sniffed. And these weren’t crocodile tears either. I’d hurt her feelings.
Ahh, there it is. The acrid taste of guilt.
“Ma . . .”
“I don’t ask for a lot. I love you. I love my children. I want you to call me on my birthday.”
“I know.” I was clutching my chest so my heart didn’t fall out and bleed all over the grass.
“What could have been so important that you couldn’t spare a few minutes for your mother? I was so worried.”
“I did call you—”
“Don’t shit on a plate and tell me it’s fudge, Daniel. You called after midnight.”
I hadn’t come up with a plausible lie for why I hadn’t called on her birthday, because I wasn’t a liar. I hated lying. Premeditated lying, coming up with a story ahead of time, crafting it, was Seamus’s game. If I absolutely had to lie, I subscribed to spur-of-the-moment lying; it made me less of a soulless maggot.
“That’s true, Ma. But I swear I—”
“Don’t you fucking swear, Daniel. Don’t you fucking do that. I raised you kids better.”
“What was so important, huh?” She heaved a watery sigh. “I thought you were in a ditch, dying somewhere. I had Father Matthew on standby to give you your last rights. Was your phone broken?”
“Did you forget?” Her voice broke on the last word and it was like being stabbed. The worst.
“No, I sw—ah, I mean, I didn’t forget.” Lie. Lying lie. Lying liar.
I grimaced, shutting my eyes, taking a deep breath and said, “I’m married.”
Complete fucking silence.
I thought maybe she wasn’t even breathing.
Meanwhile, in my brain:
. . . However.
However, on the other hand, I was married. I am married. Not a lie.
Yeah, we hadn’t had the ceremony yet, but the paperwork was filed, and legally speaking, Kat and I were married.
I listened as my mom took a breath, said nothing, and then took another. “Are you pulling my leg with this?” On the plus side, she didn’t sound sad anymore.
“No, no. I promise. I’m married. I—uh—was getting married.”
“Wait a minute, you got married on my birthday?”
Uh . . .
“Uh . . .”
“No. We didn’t get married on your birthday.” Shit. Fuck. “We’ve been married for a month, and Kat had an emergency on Wednesday.” Technically, not lies.
“That’s her name? Cat?”
“Kathleen. Her name is Kathleen.”
“Like your great aunt Kathleen?”
Kat wasn’t a thing like my great aunt. “Yeah, the name is spelled the same.”
“Last month? You got married last month?” She sounded bewildered, like she was having trouble keeping up. “Is she—is she Irish?”
“Oh. That’s okay. Catholic?”
Oh jeez, I really hadn’t thought this through. Maybe it was time for me to reconsider my spur-of-the-moment approach to lying and just surrender to being a soulless maggot.
“No. She’s not Catholic.”
“Oh.” My mom didn’t sound disappointed, just a little surprised and maybe a little worried. “Daniel, I—you were married last month and I’m only hearing about it now? How long have you known this woman?”
I winced. “Two and a half years.”
“Two and a half years?” she screeched...