I turned, shocked by the sudden shout. Everyone had been enjoying themselves; the party running smoothly. Cousins catching up, Mum and Dad sitting comfortably, watching their grandchildren run amok around the expansive country property. I couldn’t imagine what might have caused such an exclamation.
Once I saw who’d shouted, it all made sense. A serial attention-seeker; my brother’s wife, Shazza, was in tears, crouching over one of their dogs. My eleven year old son, Harry, was there too.
‘You can’t feed a dog chocolate, you idiot!’
Harry, who was also in tears, said, ‘But I didn’t feed him. I saw him eat the cake from the table.’
Seething that she’d called my boy an idiot, and that she clearly wasn’t listening to him, I strode over. ‘Shazza,’ I said, more calmly than I felt. ‘Please don’t speak to Harry like that.’ I whispered to Harry to leave us, go find his cousins and play.
She looked at me, rage flashing. ‘But he—‘
‘He didn’t. He’s already told you that he saw your dog helping himself to the cake from the table. It’s not his fault. You should be thanking him, that he came to you to tell you about it.’
My brother, Gerry, who’d seen the fuss unfolding, was now beside us both. I could see he was terrified; he knew Shazza had over-reacted and behaved badly, but to back me would only cause him a prolonged session in the metaphorical doghouse. He looked worried that if he chose her side, I would be angry at him. I rubbed his arm, in a gesture that I hoped he understood to mean something like, ‘Bro I get it.’
‘Shazza, it’s not Harry’s fault.’
She turned on him instantly. Screaming, arms akimbo, red-faced rage, vile words.
One by one, everyone left the party. It may take a village to raise a child, but when you’re married to a psycho, you’re on your own. Poor Gerry.