The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 25
“You idiot!” Rob kept his eyes on the road, too upset to even briefly glance at Matthew. Matthew sat slumped in his chair, staring out the window. He didn’t even attempt to respond to Rob’s insult. “What the hell were you thinking!?” Rob yelled.
“I wasn’t thinking,” Matthew quietly answered.
“Did you think that this pig-headed act would make Kristel trust you again?”
“I said I wasn’t thinking.”
“Man, she doesn’t even want to see you. She doesn’t want to talk to you. She probably wants nothing to do with you ever again!”
“Okay!” Matthew yelled. He turned quickly to look at Rob. “I get it, okay? I get it! Stop rubbing it in. I messed up. I know that.”
“Messed up is an understatement.”
Matthew turned his head again, accidentally banging his head against the window. Yet, he gritted his teeth and didn’t make a sound. Rob clenched his jaw to keep silent. He looked over at Matthew for a moment and opened his mouth to say something, but he changed his mind.
Rob continued driving. He glanced at the time: 1:07. “I got somewhere to be in an hour,” he told Matthew. “I hope you don’t gotta go anywhere, because I ain’t taking you.”
“Where would I go?” Matthew asked.
“Back to jail.”
“Oh, shut up, man. That’s not even funny.”
“I wasn’t being funny,” Rob retorted.
Matthew grumbled something unintelligent under his breath, but remained silent for the rest of the ride. Rob drove into the gas station to fill his tank, and then continued, taking backstreets to stay away from traffic. At last, he pulled up in front of his house, and pressed the automatic button to unlock the door. Matthew got out of the car and slammed the door.
“You’re welcome!” Rob called after him.
Either Matthew didn’t hear him, or he just ignored him. He stomped off to the house, but still had to stand at the door to wait for Rob. Rob shook his head again and slowly shifted his gear into park. He intentionally took as long as possible, to get out of the car and walk to the house. Then he took a longer time to open the door.
The whole while, Matthew stood aside, silently fuming. Rob grinned wickedly at him, but allowed him to walk into the house first. “You’re a lucky son of a gun, you know that?” he asked as he followed Matthew in. Matthew didn’t bother to ask why, but Rob continued. “Kristel didn’t have to call me. She could’ve just left you there. And her friend—the blonde, what’s her name?—she didn’t have to help you either.”
Matthew continued walking down the hallway and out of sight. Rob sank down onto the living room couch and turned on the television. “Too lucky to realise it,” he muttered to himself.
Kristel paced the carpet in her bedroom, Kezia in one arm, her cell phone in her other hand. “Yes, yes, thank you,” she said to the person on the other line. “Oh, he’ll be there. Thank you.” She disconnected the phone and tossed it onto the bed. Then she walked out of the room.
Hazel, Stephanie, Daniel and Hailey were sitting on the couch, watching cartoons. Kristel walked past the living room and into the kitchen, where Tori placed a steaming coffee cup on the table. “Sit, relax, have some tea,” she told Kristel.
“I can’t relax,” said Kristel.
Tori took Kezia from her mother’s arms and guided Kristel into the chair. “Sit,” she repeated. “Relax, have a cup of tea.”
Kristel sighed and cupped her hands around the mug. Tori walked out of the kitchen and went into the living room. She put Kezia on the floor and said to the children there, “Watch Kezi, please.”
“Okay,” Stephanie and Hazel replied. Hailey and Daniel immediately got onto the floor with Kezia.
Tori returned to the kitchen. Kristel was sitting there, with her forehead pressed against her hand, and the index finger of her free hand circling the mouth of the cup. “The trial is on Wednesday,” said Kristel.
“Don’t worry about that,” Tori told her. “Come on, get your mind off that. Tell me about work today. How was it?”
Kristel heaved a sigh. “Fine, I guess. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Matthew. I know he’s drinking again because of… all of this. I wish I can reverse things, but I—”
Yo Le Canto Todo el Dia
“Never mind that.” Tori concentrated on distracting Kristel. “What did you work on with the kids?”
“Staggered breathing, dynamics, Yo le Canto Todo el Dia.”
“Que?” Tori cocked her head and raised her eyebrows. “No habla Español.”
“It’s a chorale piece,” Kristel said with a sigh. She raised the cup to her lips and blew across the liquid before taking a sip. “Thanks for the tea,” she added.
Tori nodded. “Is it a difficult piece?” she asked.
“Well, the parts aren’t so horrible. It’s the rhythm of the clapping that’s complicated.”
“Clapping?” Tori leaned her elbow against the table and looked at Kristel curiously.
Kristel abruptly stood up from the table. “Oh don’t pretend to be interested,” she irritably said. She began walking away.”
“What? Kristel I—” Kristel continued walking away. “Hey, come back here and sit down,” Tori demanded. Kristel looked back at her, seeming ready to defy, but then she reluctantly walked back to the chair. She stared straight ahead, her face stony. Tori placed on hand on Kristel’s arm and said, “I know you’re upset about this, but—”
“So many things are happening at once, Tori,” Kristel flatly said. She shook her head and kept her face stoic, but Tori could see the slight tremor in her chin. “School, the kids, the baby, my health, my new job, Matthew…” She leaned forward and folded her arms atop the table before burying her face.
“You’re just overwhelmed.”
Kristel sat up quickly and flinched, placing her hand on her head. Tori squeezed Kristel’s other hand. “You okay?”
“Just a headache,” Kristel replied.
“How long have you had that headache?”
Kristel stood up from the table again. “Since last night,” she replied. Tori shook her head as Kristel walked out of the kitchen. “I have to get ready for my class,” she explained.
The patter of rain sounded loudly in Kristel’s ears, exacerbating her throbbing headache. She rubbed her forehead as the male professor drawled on, seeming to talk directly to the PowerPoint projected on the screen at the front of the classroom. Placing her pen atop her notebook, Kristal closed her eyes and leaned her forehead into her hands.
After a few moments, she turned to look out the window. It was dreary outside. She looked at the time on her cell phone: 5:00. There was still one hour and a half left of her class but the constant throb in her head won all her attention. The monotonous words of her professor were going through one ear and out the other. At last, Kristel gathered all her things, slipped them into her bag and exited the classroom.
The light in the hallway was becoming quickly unbearable. Kristel squinted as she made her way to the staircase. As she opened the door and began to descend the stairs, they seemed to shift beneath her. Kristel stopped dead in her tracks and held on to the banister. She was exhausted. She dropped her bag on the top of the stairs and the sound echoed throughout the staircase. Slowly and carefully, Kristel sat at the top of the stairs and leaned her head against the railing. She closed her eyes and took deep, slow breaths.