The Antagonist

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by Kathleen

Mrs. Dorcas likened the girl’s obstinacy to treachery.
She didn’t blame her son; she blamed the girl, who certainly wasn’t Greek. Pretty, wily, Kelly had failed to deter an eager young man—to her shame.

The day Corbin had first brought Kelly into their home, Mrs. Dorcas had explained that to the Greek Orthodox, Greek ancestry was sacred. Corbin would marry a Greek woman and enter the Greek Orthodox priesthood.

“The Orthodox rules are: A Greek man can marry before joining the priesthood, but not after.”

Corbin had said, “No one’s getting married, Ma.”

That remained even truer now, circumstances or not. No one was getting married. Instead, a funeral: Kelly’s mother had died of cancer. Mrs. Dorcas expressed sympathy. But Kelly’s mother dying did not alter Corbin’s future.

Several weeks after the funeral, however, Kelly, Corbin, and Mrs. Dorcas convened at the kitchen table.

“Hear us out,” Corbin had said. And no one spoke. Instead, the long, fraught silence confirmed Mrs. Dorcas’ suspicions.

She and Kelly stared into the other’s angry eyes and pursed their lips.

Corbin whispered to Kelly, “Just tell her.”

More silence—until Mrs. Dorcas briefly retreated to another room and they heard the TV. As if—Kelly almost sniffed—a CNN update might solve everything.

“Is it the Greek way,” Kelly asked Corbin, “that only women talk? Why won’t you tell her?”

“She demands that you tell her, Kelly. That’s the way she is.”

“Well, my mother didn’t boss me around, so no way I’m letting yours tell me what to do. And she can forget about shooing me away.”

Deciding that was quite enough, Mrs. Dorcas resumed her place at the table. With effort, she softened her voice. “Have you done something wrong, child?”

Kelly remained impenetrable.

“What do you want, if you won’t talk to us?”

Exasperated, Mrs. Dorcas suggested Corbin see Kelly out.

Before driving away, Kelly said, “If you can ever separate from your mother, Corbin, call me.”

Mrs. Dorcas telephoned her brother, a hotel manager in Athens, and Corbin arrived in Greece two days later.

In time, Kelly gave birth to a son. Keeping him close, she worked as a nanny, worked in day care, and went to night school, her father babysitting. Sometimes walking with Declan, Kelly spotted Mrs. Dorcas leaving a store. Within an instant’s recognition, Mrs. Dorcas crossed the street and turned around.

Five years later, Corbin phoned from town. He wasn’t married, wasn’t a priest, and lived with his mother.

“I didn’t name you as the father. You could prove it, I suppose. But your mother runs when she sees us.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. In fact, you can tell your mother she was right. It’s better this way.”


Mike French said...

Love it - always leave them wanting more seems to work here with these shorts :-)

Anonymous said...

yes, nice one.
Congratulations on your new president, by the way!

Paul Burman said...

Love the way you build up those tensions, Kathleen. Can almost see the friction at that table.

Stella said...

I don't know how you can keep coming up with these week after week and still keep up the level.