Susan went to the bottom of the stairwell, calling upstairs. “Raz, I’m going out to look for Ryan!”
There was no reply. Raz was probably G-chatting and texting while he did his homework. She worried that he was rewiring his brain circuitry, being on electronic devices all the time.
Susan considered going upstairs to talk to him, but she didn’t want to have a fight. He hadn’t apologized for hanging up on her today, and his angry outbursts were becoming common. She’d been walking on eggshells around him and she told her therapist that Raz was turning into a bully. She texted him, I’m going out to see if I can find Ryan.
Raz texted back, wtf mom.
Susan didn’t like profanity. She texted, See you in an hour. Let me know if he comes home in the meantime.
Susan crossed to the console table and got her car keys out of the basket, her gaze falling momentarily on Neil’s. Her first thought was, Oh no, Neil left his keys, then her mouth went dry. She wondered when that would stop happening, if ever. She took her keys, turning around and half expecting to see him. He wasn’t there, but everything reminded her of him. The family room had a pseudocountry look made real by the greenish-blue end tables that he had painted. She loved old furniture, which Neil would refinish and paint whatever color she wanted, back when they were young and all about each other, before the kids. It made her feel like a bad mother to admit it, but she had felt more special then.
Susan’s reverie was interrupted by a noise upstairs, and the next moment she turned to see Raz coming downstairs, his expression predictably cross.
“Mom, what are you doing?” Raz reached the bottom of the stairs with a thud, his tread heavy. He was a good-looking boy, even when he was angry, his thick, dark eyebrows knitted together, dramatic against his long dark hair. He had his father’s big brown eyes, and his nose had a bump, also like Neil’s, but it fit his face. His mouth was big, in more ways than one.
“I’m just going out to look for Ryan.”
“Where? You don’t even know where to look.”
“I’m just going to look around at some of the places in town.”
“Houlihan’s. TGI Fridays. He could be at any of those.”
“He doesn’t go places like that.” Raz strode toward her, and Susan edged backwards, unaccountably.
“Where does he go then? Enlighten me.”
“I don’t know, that sketchy bar on Stable Road.”
“What’s the name of it?” Susan didn’t know.
“Oh God.” Raz rolled his eyes. “This is so dumb, Mom. He’s fine.”
“What’s the name of it? Where is it?”
“I told you. It’s on Stable Road. You don’t have to go out looking for him like he’s a dog.”
“I want to,” Susan replied, modulating her tone. “I can’t sleep anyway. I’ll just take a nice drive and see if I can see him.”
“He’s not gonna be at Houlihan’s.”
“Okay, I know, you said that. Then I’ll go to Stable Road and look for the bar there.”
“You won’t find it.”
“If you remember the name, I’ll find it. I’ll look it up.”
“It’s easier just to show you.” Raz stalked past, heading for the door.
“You don’t have to do that. It’s late.” Susan didn’t want him to go with her. She didn’t want to fight with him in the car. She would have preferred a peaceful drive through town, alone. She was officially the worst mother in the world, avoiding her own son.
“Let’s go already!” Raz stepped outside, letting the screen door bang behind him.
“Okay.” Susan left the house, locking the front door and following him to her car, a white Lexus sedan. She backed out of the driveway and left the cul-de-sac, with Raz texting. They traveled north, heading into town. Silence fell between them, making her tense. She hadn’t had a chance to talk to Raz since she’d been on the phone for the dinner hour. They’d had pizza delivered, again.
“How’s school?” Susan asked, after a time.
“Fine,” Raz answered, his head down, texting.
“How’s the season going?”
“Oh, sorry about that.” Susan tread lightly. “How’s your arm? Feeling good?”
“I looked at the schedule and your next home game is tomorrow, right? I was thinking that I could leave work early and come see you.” Susan turned right. Large homes lined the street, their warm yellow lights on, the families within safe and sound. The Sematovs used to be one of those families.
“You mean, watch the game?”
“Yes, of course.” Susan kept her tone light. Neil was the one who went to the games, not her.
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to.” Susan couldn’t see his expression. His hair fell in his face, lit from below by the bluish light of his phone, where the text bubbles were floating by.
“You have work.”
“I can get out early. I’d love to come.”
“No you wouldn’t. If you did, you would have come before.”
Susan’s mouth went dry. “I’d like to go,” she said anyway. “I know Dad used to go, but I’d like to go. I’d like to see you pitch.”
“I might not be pitching.”
“Why not?” Susan took a right turn, heading into Central Valley proper.
“I don’t know. I just might not pitch. It’s not, like, a given.”
“Who would pitch, if not you?”
“But he’s JV, isn’t he?” Susan knew Jordan Larkin, a great kid. Jordan and Raz were good friends. Jordan had even cried at Neil’s funeral, and Susan had been touched. Raz had cried, too, but not Ryan. Ryan kept it all inside. Now both of her sons were losing their way.
“Jordan made varsity. He’s gotten better.”
“Oh.” Susan knew it was bad news for Raz. “Well, even if you don’t pitch in the beginning, you’ll get in the game. You’ll play even if you don’t start, right?”
“Does it matter?”
“What do you mean?”