The soft scratching of graphic against sheets of paper backed by wooden desks brings an almost meditative ring to his ears in those final moments of the exam, his eyes glancing down at a watch which, if only because of just how stretched time seems to be in such moments of silence, seems to have stopped. He gives it a small tap with his pointer finger, a wiggle of his wrist to jostle it about with suspicion that it needs to be wound, but it is neither of these things that finally push the hand into place as if it had been drawing out the last seconds of that final minute, cuing Connor out of his seat behind the desk at the forefront of the room to address the class in front of him.
“Time’s up. Please put your pencils down and pass your papers up to the front,” he says to audible groans and the smack of both pencils and palms on the desk, some students perhaps proud of the work done on the math exam whereas others, as signaled by the furious erasures that have eaten away the pencil erasers and left a mess of shavings across their work, could have used more time - time that, had there not been rules in place and a deadline in place nor the option for further tutelage at another time to improve, Connor might have been inclined to give; but as it stood, there was the shuffle of papers to the front where those dutiful enough to stack them did so and those, passing them off to him as he crossed the room.
“If I can ask you to refrain from jumping up for a second - just a second since I know you’re all eager to get out of here - I just have one announcement on behalf of the Science Department,” he said to the further groans, many of which only bring a knowing smile to his face, papers set down on his desk.
“Don’t forget the deadline for the school Science Fair is approaching and those who have signed up will need to complete their projects by the end of the week for consideration--” he further explained before the bell sounded, interrupting everything in the room and all but exploding it in a choir of high school students more than ready to throw their books aside for whatever they had going on after hours - be it extracurriculars or something far more social with less lingering authority as the school staff would have been or, as it was with many of the families that had been in the area who thought not of a future in sports or sciences or educational pursuits, talk of futures not so readily etched in the stars.
“--to the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, but that’s okay, don’t listen to me at all.”
When one was stuck inside, especially for something that wasn’t of their own personal interests, Connor knew it was hard not to have one’s head in the clouds, and escape, when it was found, was quickly snatched. It was a notion that he could understand as he looked down at the math exams in his hands, flipping through them as if resigning himself to the time it would take to not only grade said papers, but mark and otherwise address whatever issues there might have been among certain students; but that was all in a day’s work - one day in the midst of years and years of teaching - and at the end of it, at least there was a warm welcome to be had at behind the door of a quaint and quiet family home.
“Tabitha, I’m home,” he called out once he walked through the door, the autumn sun already setting on the city behind him. It took him a moment at the door to take off and set his shoes aside, loosening his tie which had seemed to only choke him more and more throughout the day as he moved through the living room, bag set aside on the couch while en route to the kitchen. It was simply the first place to check in the hours approaching dinner, Connor stopping by the phone to check on any messages that might have been taken down while he had been gone only to stare intently at the names he didn’t recognize and words that didn’t look quite right on first appearances, twisted and convoluted and not at all the lettering he would have anticipated on something like a shopping list or a scribbling to call the doctor once he had a chance.
Tired - maybe he was just tired, the notepad dropped rather unceremoniously.
Yeah, that had to be it.
Mothers groomed their daughters with such discipline and finesse, a transatlantic tone to show proper upbringing, and a list of duties to make it easier for their husband to come home to. First and foremost, a wife should have dinner prepared on the table. It lets them know that they have been on your mind all day and gives him a warm welcome home. Secondly, she should groom herself properly before he arrives home. The lady of the have should have no messy makeup, no loosened ribbon, and her apron on at all times except after dinner. Also make him more at ease at home because work can leave a body haggard down and tense from a stressful day at work. Excitement shall enter when the time is right. Always have peace and tranquility in every room of the house because he should not have to hear problems and excuses as he enters the house.
The pinnacle of her life instead of slaving away in possible corporate affairs. Guidelines that every housewife understood and followed.
Gossip swarmed during brunch after the children were off to school. Life had gotten carried away with all the cans of hairspray, ribbons, aprons, and polka dots. A duster in hand in the early hours and opening the curtains brought joy to have breakfast on the table with fresh milk and the newspaper. If a man's day always started out easier, work would be welcoming one's arms.
Linen out of the washer and clipped to the line, her gals came over for tea, filling the back patio with heavy smoke. Tabitha never part, only nodding and sharing about her trip to the market. Someone always watching. Privacy became a dream. After every afternoon brunch, her body wanted to give out for a nap. A man would not know what to do around the house without the woman around. She truly deserved a break, but the nagging of her mother's voice crept in the back of her mind.
Anger only enhanced wrinkles. No sense in getting aggravated over something so little.
The table was prepped, along with his glass of bourbon with a sugar cube, cherry, and orange peel. A sliced brisket, two on each plate. Squash casserole which she had to thank Susie for the recipe. Every plate needed a carb, so a baked potato was still flowing with steam. Tabitha would have greeted him soon, but she noticed it getting windy outside and the clothes needed to come in. Patti Page played on the station, Tennessee Waltz which made her want to glide across the room every time it aired.
As she slipped out of her house shoes and back into her heels, "Honey, do sit down. Your drink will go stale if you don't drink it. Don't worry about the messages, I already handle everything. Johnny down the road is picking up the glass bottles, isn't that just nice." The wife always took the stress off of her husband. As the timer went off, she pulled freshly baked cookies from the oven. The aroma fills each nostril, bringing a smile to her face. "Perfect."
Before taking her place at the table, she finished unraveling his tie and unbuttoning his top button. The back of her pressed against his forehead, "Are you alright Connor? You seem like you just saw a ghost? Shall I ring for a check up?"
Everything about the household had been welcoming when he stepped inside, leaving any weight that he could have dragged in from the world outside at the door in hopes it would stay put and wouldn’t disturb the hard work that Tabitha had put into maintaining the home - a job well within itself even among two individuals, constantly cycling and ever-present since the weight of expectation never ceased. Men were expected to be the hardworking bread winners of the family, to provide with the return of being provided for, and women were stuck in that role of homemaker with a veil of subservience to not only their husbands, but the gossip mongers and nosy neighbors who would have found reason to make them the next topic of conversation over a cigarette brunch; and for a moment, it seemed to tick in his head, a small snap of something that suddenly felt wrong and made him feel out of place in those moments before Tabitha had all but physically ushered him away from the notepad that, as soon as she had mentioned what it was, seemed to fix itself.
It wasn’t Matt McGinnis from down the street who was going to pick up the bottles, someone Connor was sure didn’t live in the neighborhood when everyone knew everyone and was constantly in everyone’s business. It was Johnny, someone familiar who, at one point or another, might have very well delivered the newspaper in the morning before the route went to someone else. “That is really kind of him,” he said, ticking off a mental note to extend his thanks in a quarter or two thrown his way, never mind the notion of change earned from recycling them.
“No, I’m okay. I think it is just the day catching up with me,” he said, flicking his eyes up for a second as she felt his forehead and when it had dropped again, he pressed a firm, but tender kiss to her forehead. “Nothing I’d say that something delicious I smell couldn’t fix,” he added with a smile, intent in making sure that Tabitha didn’t worry too much about what may have been going on - if anything was going on at all. Always strong, always prideful - that was man and anything less would have been found unacceptable. Had there been a worried inkling in mind about his health, something that had always been steadfast, Connor was quick to brush it off in lieu of a drink and dinner, settling down in his seat at the table.
“How was your day?” It was perhaps odd to be the first to ask, but even in a world of such inequality, it felt right to Connor who took a draw of the bourbon she had set out for him with all the fixings, stomach cast wide in his eyes when he looked at the full plate of food in front of him. “This looks absolutely delicious, honey, and I know I say that every time, but I’ve never been wrong about it,” he said with glowing appreciation of a warm mean at the ready. It was perfect, just like she was perfect, radiant in perfect make up and pressed clothing, no strand of hair out of place which only spoke of just how much more there was to her expectation than his.
When two adults fall out of touch with one another, they can seek counseling or part ways. The housewives had a code about sticking together no matter the cause. Disobedience and unfaithful caused her cheek to turn the other way. The Kerr family had only been a part of the neighborhood for several months, and Tabitha became close with Eunice. All the wives knew Hugo worked long hours due to his profession, a profound doctor. Shaming a young boy for his mother's infidelities was unjustly. "I wanted to make sure he had money because now Eunice has to find employment with the divorce and all. It is a shame that Johnny Kerr is going to have to be in the middle. I could have him do the yard on Saturday, so we can take a drive to the seaside or go to the drive-in and watch that new Elvis movie, Jailhouse Rock." She caught herself getting overly excited about the possibilities of attempting to do whatever attractions were happening. Clearing her throat, her hand took the glass stem into her grasps and waited for him to sip.
Another rule all women were taught, let the head of the house start in taking the first sip or bite of each meal. The wife had to go follow. There were always precautions to how she handled each agenda on her daily activities. Her top priority was him currently, but she could see the uneasiness in his eyes. "If you insist, but mock my words Mr. Hwang if you become ill, I will personally drive you to the hospital," though moments after she had to hide her cheeks from the redness spreading from side to side. "All right you." A small sip of her martini before handing a hand cloth. Stains were one of the very few things she could not handle. The darker they were, the harder to remove. No make was supplies she used, the clothes either went to the cleaners or the trash. Everything could be replaced quite easily now.
Her very own cloth in her lap before preparing her own plate. "Well I went to the post office to mail a letter to your mom about sending me her recipe book. I hope I can make her proud, but it might be harder to find some of the ingredients here. I want you to enjoy something other than potluck or meatloaf. A little bit more spice and flavors. You know nothing bland but new," deep down something told her that she needed to stay poise and firm, stay conservative. It was hard to control it as soon as she thought about going out.
As she waited for him to take a bite of dinner, she got up and placed the cookies on a plate. They sitted towards him, oddly shaped. "That's peculiar, some of them are shaped like a bat. I don't know how that could have happened. But as I was saying before, after the post office I got more film for the camera. I hope you don’t mind."
His personality was what sparked her, people could whisper about age difference. There was nothing ever negative about it coming from him. So she did her best looking young, hiding any blemish on her face. Heaven forbid if she did not wear any makeup, her nothing would have her neck. "How is dinner?" The little things were always the most memorable and cherished, such as propping up against him as they listened to the news.
“That’s a real shame they couldn’t find ways to make it work,” he said, shaking his head a little bit as he started with his first bite of food. That they hadn’t suggested there was something more to it that wasn’t hitting the airspace of afternoon brunch with the ladies or nights out with the boys - not that Connor was particular about that facet of keeping up appearances; but, of course, he had forgotten mentioning the child as his name rang in his head, echoing like some sort of strange laughter that would have made his gills turn green if he thought about it too much. Something so strange and familiar, but not in the way that poor Johnny Kerr, stuck in the middle of his parents’ divorce, had been.
He was sure that Johnny down the street hadn’t been the one to put firecrackers in everyone’s mailbox one year, wrapped up in green with a gaudy purple bow.
“And that,” he nodded as he shook it off, sure there would be some unfortunate recourse for Johnny with his parents bickering over and, at times, likely about him, but so long as they could help it, giving him some extra work for some extra change was something they could do help - be it get him out of the house or give him something to do to take his mind off things. Connor, in his effort to do the same, focused more intently on the meal in front of him, letting his stomach do the driving after a long day at the high school while his brain handled the conversation at hand. “I don’t imagine Johnny would mind, just like I wouldn’t mind a drive down to the seaside or the film for the camera. We’ll have to have something to remember the trip, and I think the album has just the right amount of space for some good ones.”
There was a smile as he continued his meal, a pause here and there to take a sip of his drink even as she got up to collect cookies from the oven. With eyes almost childlike in response to something as soul warming as cookies, he watched the plate pass by him and onto the table from over the rim of his glass, drink aside as his brow furrowed in curiosity. Reaching forward, he picked up one of them to spy it more closely, flipping it over in his hand. “I’m not even sure they make cookie cutters like this,” he said, speaking of the designs he usually saw around October. The cookie was set back down, Connor sitting back in his seat and, once more, he found himself thinking far too much about it.
But dinner - “Dinner is wonderful, and I am positively stuffed,” he said, looking down at his plate to collect whatever last bites and morsels might have been left, finding that little bit of room he still had for a few more bites of something delicious. “I’m sure you’ll make my mother’s recipes proud once she sends you that book,” he said, settling back in his seat with a cookie in tow that, again, he flipped in between his fingers slightly before taking a bite.
“Gotham University will be having a museum benefit Friday night... In attendance are said to be Gotham socialites Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle…” The newscaster’s voice sounded light through the room, just loud enough to reach their ears and not intrude on conversation. “In other news, mysterious air objects have been seen in the skies above San Francisco leading the U.S. and other nations to believe there is more to Russia's Sputnik 1 project than initially thought…”
It was all of stark contrast to what was quiet, family life, the events that played out through the news; and it was something that instilled a restlessness he couldn’t explain, Connor getting up once Tabitha was done with her meal and he was done with his cookie - one of many, he could be sure - to start gathering plates against the notion that it was ‘woman’s work’ to take care of the dinner table and clean up the kitchen.
A powerhouse couple who seemed to share some compassion to each other only to let it fade away and never to work it out. wilted like a rose, it was difficult to see a marriage fall apart especially when it also involved a child. Tabitha only could sympathize for what they were going through, and it was hard to even imagine what would be going on with Johnny. So it was only certain to preoccupy the child with work just to be helpful for his sudden misfortune. even the other wife's were getting involved. she disapproved of the infidelities but could not hold her nose in the air. what kind of person would do such a thing? make a new member of the community an outcast. devastating to even witness, it tore her stomach into knots. "I do not ever want to think about that sort of emotion. Something tragic, and it is the strangest thing that I have never experienced it when I think about it," her lips stayed glued to the rim of the glass while staring at him eat. When a man enjoyed the food prepared, it made the cook feel at ease. In that exact moment, Tabitha pressed her hand on his forearm. Thankful for him enjoying every bit of of her food. "But thank you Connor. I mean it."
Growing up with a sister who was hardly around but wanted around more often, she pushed herself to achieve to be the ideal woman. Though her sister had no man in her life because he disappeared, here she was being the perfect wife. "Together, we will always be ready. To take on everything that life has thrown at us. I enjoy it beginning every day taking care of you and making sure you have nothing to worry about. The little moments, I enjoy capturing. to me, every day is the biggest part life has to offer." Strange that other's problems made reflection roll around.
A plate finished off with a little of the potato not finished. Hearing the news made her cross her arms, those Tussian spies attempting to get what knowledge was going around the city. When would they give up? another war might take place? The world was suffering enough with soldiers dying, family losing loved ones. such anger towards a power house. She stepped closer to the device, "fo you think we will end up going back to another war if they keep this up?" She looked over at him while raising a brow. A husband never really helped out with cleaning. She understood the thought and the appreciation was there. She helped put the food in containers just so he was not doing all of the work. Her mother would be yelling at her, she felt her breath against the back of her neck. "I could get this honey. You just worked long hours on and off your feet." The butter and sour cream containers, any sort of tupperware. Leftovers went a long way especially making a goulash.
She grabbed one of the cookies as the wrapped the remainder of what was left. The plate was nearly devoured just as she knew it would, but he was right. it was strange that it looked like a bat. It would be a nice investment. Her cleaning surprisingly brought joy. It was planned out for her and many others. Sure it might be nice to have an office job, but she was not ready for that sort of future to change. So much of the world was changing. She had been barely catching up with it now. Too many focused on the future but life was happening now.
Walking over to him, she placed the plate out of his hand and looked over his face. Her palm greeted his cheek, "Come and dance with me. we can accomplish the kitchen together afterwards since it seems like you want to take it away from me."
“I don’t think we have anything to worry about there,” he said, speaking of such troubles that plagued the Kerr Family. It was foolish to suggest it could never happen when the only constant there ever had been was change, and that included emotions, but as he saw it in such immediacy, the horizon was clear and if something did happen, he trusted they would have the resolve to work it out before anyone considered the notion of giving up. Granted, there were no children involved - not beyond the students that would inevitably hear about it from their parents while they talked about town, something he expected the Kerrs were going through now which was just one more strike against Johnny without the child having done anything wrong. It was unfortunate, but children were cruel, especially to those different, perhaps less fortunate, and all it took was one kid to start jeering before the rest followed such an example.
“That though - I don’t know,” he said. “It wouldn’t be out of line to say that’s a possibility, but hopefully Washington can step in before anything like that happens.” Whether it would do them any good or not was anyone’s guess since Russian could have surely denied any request or appeared to follow while continuing operations in secret, but it was always best to try reasoning and non-combat tactics first and foremost before putting troops on the ground again.It might have been a decade and some change since the last time, but like many Americans who had been old enough to recognize the troubles of the world at the time, he didn’t care to see it happen again. He continued to clean as he thought about it, arranging the dishes orderly in the sink until she had once more pulled him away from doing something that was already in capable hands.
“Wouldn’t want me to break anything,” Connor joked, guided easily enough away by the prospect of dancing, something he couldn’t say he was particularly good at, but one didn’t have to be good to have fun. What little knowing he had came no account of weddings and other social functions where it served well to have a left foot and a right foot, and not two left feet as he so often felt he had. At least in the kitchen, there wasn’t an audience, Connor wrapping an arm around the small of her back while the other took her hand in his, nearing closer to close any gap that could have been between them as he took to the simplest of sways, the radio chiming in at the right time with music.
“You know I can be found sitting home all alone. If you can't come around, at least please telephone…”
Around the kitchen and dining room, he led them to the tune of Elvis Presley’s “Teddy Bear”, steps light and upbeat to match, Connor throwing in the occasional spin or dip here and there once he had gotten the hang of not stepping on her toes, a sure way to end a moment of fun. It was idyllic, absolute paradise, to share those small moments, and the last thing he wanted it to end in was aches and pains though truth be told, he had no idea how she had been able to wear the heels she did at nearly all hours of the day while taking care of the household.
“Don't be cruel to a heart that's true. I don't want no other love. Baby it's just you I'm thinking of…”
Lip synching with the song, he pretended to sing the words as if the crooner himself, stopping short of any hip twists and shimmies that would have been of proper place knowing the King himself was famous for it; and when it all came to an end, he dipped her in his arms, leaning in to steal away a kiss before popping her back up onto her feet.
This whole journey filled with mixed emotions, learning right from wrong, only gave her this family and roof. Two pieces that other's idolized. The words tugged on her heart because she knew it was true, and Tabitha had to keep her role up. Admiration to the one's who could keep themselves on their toes all while she grew to come into her own. A style being rambunctious but careful, never holding one back, traveling to new heights only to have him to catch her when she falls. With all joking matters aside, every part of this home, being up-kept, tidy and clean with no specs of dust on any furniture. With him helping, it brought out something new and lost. "Are you trying to dirty up everything that I have worked on today my dear?" Simply asking out of amusement all in while her hand complacent against his, a gently and steady grip. One dance always seemed like the very first, filling stomach with knots and butterflies. It was a rare and beautiful emotion that seemed to develop in this lifetime, disappearing and coming back to make something of itself. No one truly learned to love without words, but for those who accomplished such a way--truly lucky.
Music always had a way of setting the mood, keeping everything vibrant and sensual. A new meaning when dancing was added to it, a new characteristic took place, letting both parties to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Memories that should never be bottled up and kept away. Laughter spread throughout the room all while she kept up with him. The turns to the dips, her eyes enamored on his movement. For moments there, she forgot to even know how to breathe. It all caught her off-guard by a kiss. A realness behind it which triggered passion and comfort.
"Terry," she spoke though in her mind she spoke Connor. Her heart felt like it jumped out of her chest when her arms settled around his shoulders. "You know how to sweep a girl off her feet by those moves." She slipped out of her heels and pushed them aside all while looking up to him. She pressed her body against his, letting her head rest against his shoulder only to close her eyes. Just to calm herself from being too spontaneous, she gave his neck a small peck. "I truly cherish all of these moments, thank you for dancing with me." Her hand slipped down to his chest playing with the pocket.
Static on the radio began to cover the music which caused her to slowly snap out of her daze that she partook in. Breaking her small embrace would only mean that the chores needed to be finished. Or they could wait. She knew that everything needed to be done before bedtime. Though she wondered it if was another attempt of the gangs taking over the radio station again. The crime seemed to be increasing each week downtown which was probably one cause of them not going to see any films lately. "I will let you help me in the kitchen only if you won't break anything. We have a deal?"
"I wouldn't dream of it," he said in response, shaking his head. He could very well make sure things were kept clean, something he attempted to do as much as possible given the work that went into maintaining the household day-to-day; even if something had been clean, there was no reason not to go over it again with some cleaner in the instances some nosy neighborhoods or chatty Cathies decided they would make a fuss about the smallest bit of dirt or grime that might have been seen. Breaking a plate was hardly in his intention, but if it happened, it happened and Connor would have been happy to clean up the mess made on account of it; but dancing, for the moment, took center stage to cleaning, and he was equally happy to indulge in that instead -
- until another name came out of her mouth.
While it didn't instill any sort of suspicion that there was something foul afoot, that there was some infidelity to be concerned about, it did bring about a moment of pause mid-step while he tried to process why he would have been called by another name. It was hardly the first oddity to happen in the night between the jumbled writing on the notepad and the bat-shaped cookie with no particular origin, but he tried to subdue his curiosities went he felt her head against his shoulder, swaying slightly in the quiet to come with the broken static of the radio that seemed particularly foul-fitting, perhaps the work of malevolent parties or just a change in the weather that cut through broadcast transmissions.
"Yeah, sure," he nodded, breaking himself out of that daze of uncertainty as the focus shifted to the tasks at hand - the dishes, whatever may have remained of them, and making sure the kitchen was spotless in preparation for the next day's meals. He could feel it again, the flush that suggested he had seen a ghost, and his heart continued to pump at a rapid pace, harder and harder in his chest to a point where he was sure it would break right through his ribcage if given the opportunity. It was then that he felt the world tilt on an axis, his eyes settling on Tabitha while his vision blurred and crossed before they all but rolled into the back of his head, body collapsing on the ground with a single utterance of her name - not her as she was now, but that which lied on the other side.