He looked up at her, but kept on chewing, not speaking to her. Cerys plopped down in the chair adjacent to him and took a handful of crackers. He glared at her and pulled the plate closer to himself.
“Do you want to talk about what happened at school?” she asked him.
He shrugged. “I heard you got in trouble with the math teacher.”
“Not my day, Peter,” Cerys replied, half-laughing. “I meant, you’ve been grumpy ever since the walk home.”
Peter pushed around the crackers on his plate for minute, and sighed before saying anything. “I hate high school,” he grumbled.
“You’ve hated it since day one,” Cerys said, trying to sound sympathetic. “Being a freshman is the hardest year.”
“You said being a senior is hard because of the AP classes.”
“That’s different,” she told him. “That’s academics. You can do academics easy, just like I can. It’s those other boys again, isn’t it?”
“So what if it is?”
“I told you that I could get them to leave you alone.”
Peter only scoffed. “Have my sister help me? That would probably make it worse.“
His comment made Cerys frown. “At the very least, stick up for yourself, Peter! I don’t want my brother taking crap from a bunch of ruffians.”
“Language, Cerys,” she heard a voice call from the doorway leading to the living room. “We’ve talked about this before.”
Cerys found it uncanny the way her mother could walk into the room right at the moment when she let her tongue slip. She wondered how her mother would react if she used a stronger word, seeing as how she did not allow substitute swear words or even impolite words like ‘stupid’ or ‘shut up.’ She supposed that was what happened when you raised five children and tended toddlers for several of the neighbors while the older ones were at school.
“Okay, mom,” Cerys told her mother, trying to sound appropriately ashamed of herself. She did not see the big deal about language, whether or not she ever wanted to drop the f-bomb, but knew better than to argue.
“Hey, mom,” she added as her mother pulled a container of freshly-cut strawberries from the fridge, “those bullies at the high school are bothering Peter again.”
This earned her a scowl from her brother that would have frightened off a werewolf. As their mother set the strawberries on the kitchen table and began serving them the fresh fruit, she looked over her son.
“Was it words or fists?” she asked him.
Peter shrugged and slumped down in his chair.
“If you don’t tell her, how can any of us help you?” Cerys prodded, hoping that he would open up about it and stop trying to act so tough.
“They were calling me names,” he muttered. “I’m sick of their teasing.”
Their mother sank down in a chair across from him, a defeated look on her face. “Words hurt as much as fists, don’t they? Listen, Peter, You can’t make them understand you. You’re too complicated, and if they won’t even try–”
“What mom is trying to say,” Cerys cut in, “is that you’re smarter than them, and they don’t have the brain power to understand you.”
One look from her mother stopped her words right in their tracks.