The living room was dimly lit which was exactly how Amber liked it in the evenings. She idly thumbed through a scientific journal as she relaxed on the couch. She was looking forward to Lawrence getting home, but she was soaking up the few minutes of peace now that she had put Riker to bed.
She tossed the magazine on the coffee table when she heard the doorknob twist and was to the door before Lawrence was through it. His face was tired, nonetheless happy to see her. He dropped his over the shoulder bag and kissed her. Amber followed him into the Kitchen. He began to open the fridge, but she stopped him.
“Sit down,” she said, but then added. “I’ll handle it.”
She took his place at the fridge door, and exhibited more expertise than he would have been able to manage. She felt his eyes on her as she pulled a container of stew from the lower glass shelf. She let the refrigerator door swing shut on it’s own as she prepared his dinner.
“Did you work the guys until dark?” she asked as she pulled at the microwave door.
“Yep. Someone’s got to crack the whip.”
“So, is it all framed up?” She said. She was no construction guru, but she’d learned enough lingo to have an intelligent conversation.
“Plumbing and electrical is in. Drywall’s up next.”
He cracked his knuckles and then rubbed at his tired eyes. Rather than ask any more questions she just waited for his soup to be ready. When the microwave dinged she retrieved it and set it on the table. She sat down across from him and took her turn relaying the days activities.
“We got a really great image of an astroid today. The team was super excited.”
“Oh, wow. I’d like to see it,” he said between bites. She believed him. He was always enthusiastic about her work, even in the early days when it meant her sleeping schedule was totally bonkers.
“Ok, I’ll go get my laptop-“
“Wait,” He said before she was to her feet. “I want to see it, but right now, the main thing I want to see is you.” He smiled reached out for her hand across the table. He had a knack for making every moment they had together matter. She held his hand, feeling a little like she was sixteen again. She continued her report of the day.
“Riker played space man for a while. I just put him to bed a bit ago.”
Recall registered on Lawrence’s face as if he had just remembered something important. He finished his bite and met Ambers eyes. She felt as if there was some bad news waiting to be spilled. Lawrence put his spoon down on the table and wiped his mouth with his sleeve.
“What?” She asked, knowing that look. Lawrence seemed reluctant to tell her. She wondered if he had wrecked his truck, or maybe someone died. A hundred morbid thoughts ran through her mind before he spoke a single word.
“Yeah,” she said. The question was implied in her tone.
“They offered to take Riker to their church.”
Amber’s eyes narrowed as if she was trying to unravel a mystery. A lump began to rise in her throat and she felt a wave of heat wash over her. Amber had tried to be patient with Lawrence’s parents, but it was always a touchy subject. She felt sorry for her loving husband who always seemed to be caught in the middle.
“She offered? As if indoctrinating our son with antiquated fiction would be a gift.” More to her self this time she repeated, “she offered.”
Lawrence still held her hand gently. She glanced at their hands and then back to his face. He did not meet her gaze. There was more. She could tell.
“What?” She nearly barked. Calm down, she thought. It wasn’t fair to punish Lawrence for his mother’s affinity for fairytales. Lawrence spoke soft this time.
“I told her that she could.”
“You what?” She was on her feet before she realized it. The chair hit the tile with a startling crack. Lawrence tried to hold onto her hand, but she yanked it away with as much force as she had. Something deep and powerful was boiling in her stomach now. She kept her voice low in order not to wake Riker, but she knew Lawrence didn’t need to hear the volume to know how mad she was.
“What did you do that for?” She didn’t let him answer. “They’ll fill his head with ideas of a maniacal deity, whose chief end is to torture souls who deny him. It’s all about being physiologically manipulated into subservience. Do you realize what kind of damage that does to a pre-developed mind? He’ll live the rest of his life unable to shake the idea that there is some cousin of the flying spaghetti monster that will smite him if he doesn’t follow ancient orders.”
She was breathing heavy now. She thought it would be a good time to let him speak. She tried her best not to verbally steamroll him, but she could hardly contain herself on this subject. She hoped Lawrence couldn’t see the smoke coming out of her ears. He paused, no doubt to make sure she was finished, and then he spoke calmly.
“I know how you feel about it, Honey.” He took another moment before he stabbed her with his words. “I’m asking you to respect my decision on this.”
She could have spit fire. She could have buried her hand in his chest and retrieved his beating heart. What she did, however, was much less impressive. Tears streamed down her face uninvited. Betrayal built a home in her fluttering stomach. She clinched her sweating palms and considered what she would do. Her words came out in a shriek, although she meant them to be strong.
“Oh my God!” She paused considering the irony of invoking the name of a deity that she didn’t believe in. She went on. “I can’t believe you just said that. What is this, the 1700’s. That’s it then? You’ve made your mind up and that’s that.” She slammed her hands down on the table hard. She didn’t care if she woke Riker. She was fighting for his life now. She could not allow him to be twisted into one of those bible thumping idiots.
“Let’s just calm down.” Lawrence said, still sitting and still calm. How did he do that? How did he stay calm in a fight? She knew immediately. It was because he knew he could win.
“Not this time. I give and give and give. All day long I take care of him. I know what’s best for my son!” She was howling now.
“Our son,” Lawrence corrected.
“Can you prove empirically that dogma training won’t leave him with deep psychological scaring?” She said.
“It’s not like that-” He was trying to say, but she cut him off.
“Honey, You swing a hammer for a living. I’m the scientist and I’m telling you, it’s not going to happen.” She knew she was going too far, but she didn’t care. She stepped toward him as she spat her words like poison. “He can either grow up smart or he can grow up scared. Which would you rather?”
She searched Lawrence’s face for signs that he might be cracking. She saw an image of a rock being battered by the waves. He stood his ground as solid as a stone. Although, he said nothing, she could see that his silence spoke as loud as any of her words.
“Tell me, do you worry about my soul?” This felt off topic, but she was realizing that she had some pent up frustration that had been waiting to boil over. “You have to admit that it twisted your mind.” He gave no response but simply stared at her stoically. She continued.
“How is it possible that, after three hundred years of science, anyone is still having this conversation? Don’t you get it? The gaps are closed. There is no longer any need for the concept of God. We’ve outgrown it’s usefulness.” She stopped for dramatic effect, but then leaned on him with her words. “How can you possibly think that letting someone do to Riker, what they did to you would be a good thing?”
“Why does it matter what I think? I just swing a hammer for a living. Remember?” His words cut deep even though they came out in a simple whisper. She suddenly felt silly. She had wounded him. She was wounded herself, but she felt ashamed of her words. She thought she should apologize, but if she did she feared it would undo her defenses.
She turned on her heal and gushed out of the room. Tears were streaming down her face, and her throat felt like she had swallowed an apple whole. Before she knew it, her keys were in one hand, and the front doorknob was in the other. She wasn’t sure where she was going, but she knew she was going there mad.