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Spilt Milk
by Jennifer-Oksana (jenniferoksana@yahoo.com)
website: http://www.imjustsayin.net/jennyo
rating: PG-13
spoilers: Pre-Angel
archive: lists, others by permission.
summary: No use crying over it. Best learn to move along.
disclaimers: Not mine. Over it.


One clear and windy October morning, Clarissa decides that she wishes she'd never become a mother.

The entire experience had been part of her bargain with Edward--he'd let her carry on privately with whomever she pleased as long as she produced one son for him to present to his mother and his sainted Wyndham-Pryce brothers. Besides, what sort of woman doesn't have children?

It wasn't a terrible bargain, Clarissa admits. She's paid well for it, and being Edward's wife has been mostly enjoyable, so Clarissa doesn't mind preserving the pleasant fiction of their happy marriage for him. For the both of them, if she wants to be totally honest, which isn't often.

Wesley, however, is a constant reminder how wretched life can be for the casual mother. For instance--and only one of many--Richard is in town and he wants to take her to Bath for a weekend. Edward is up-country for the week visiting his mother, whom Clarissa has never liked. But the very presence of Wesley renders any chance of a romantic holiday completely impossible.

Wesley reminds Clarissa of an owl with his oversize glasses and very pale face, saying little and watching everything. Also, the boy asks too many questions. He takes after all of those wretched Wyndham-Pryce uncles who talk on and on about nothing at all that makes any sense. It had recently been a near-disaster when Marcus had spent twenty minutes explaining the ins and outs of demon-hunting to a smart young friend of Clarissa's. Fortunately, Diane had been smashed and remembered nothing of it.

Clarissa gets the boy breakfast. He seems to be staring at her, wheezing asthmatically, and blinking far more often than anyone normal should blink.

"What's wrong with you?" she says irritably, pouring him a glass of milk. "You've got the worst habit of staring, Wesley. If you don't snap out of it, everyone will think you're rude and you won't have any friends at all."

"I'm sorry, Mummy," the exasperating child says into his toast and marmalade.

"Of course you are," Clarissa replies, thinking of Richard. He would be ringing her soon, pleading with her to go to Bath, not understanding that motherhood required women to make perfect martyrs of themselves. "Sit up straight. If your grandmother saw you with that posture, she'd slap you silly."

Wesley gulps as quietly as he can and sits up straighter.

Clarissa goes back to thinking about Richard. He's an investment banker who's quite cheered about the election and Margaret Thatcher. His wife is a neurotic bitch who threatens to divorce Richard on a weekly basis and then move back home with her mother, a terrifying old battleaxe who rivals Mrs. Oliver Wyndham-Pryce (Clarissa's own despised mother-in-law) for sheer castration anxiety. Besides these trivial facts, he drives a Porsche and knows to find the trendiest bistro within fifty miles as if by magical instinct. He's also a rising man in the bank; he's expecting to be promoted to some vice-presidency any day now.

"Mummy?" the boy asks, diverting Clarissa from memories of taking the Porsche out to the country for a picnic. "When's Dad coming home?"

"Next Monday. Don't ask so many questions, it's rude."

Wesley nods and completely disregards anything Clarissa has just said.

"Dad said that next time he visits Grandmother, I could come along with him. Do you think I can?" he says, his hands trembling a little bit.

"Don't be silly," Clarissa says curtly. "Your grandmother's house isn't suitable for little boys."

And especially little boys who have a tendency to say things they shouldn't in front of old cows who distrust Clarissa already, she thinks but doesn't say.

Wesley swallows heavily a few times and Clarissa realizes he's about to cry.

"Oh, lovey," she cries, jumping to her feet and impulsively throwing her arms around the little darling. "Don't cry. Big boys don't cry. Come now, darling, you don't want to go to Grandmother's house. It's dark and frightening and she has a closet just under her staircase where she puts little boys for fun. You don't want to go there at all."

Wesley wails, his cheeks immediately covered with tears. Clarissa, quite gripped by a sudden moment of maternal sentiment, comes to a simple conclusion for all of her problems.

"Darling, don't cry," she says, hugging him tightly. "Mummy has a wonderful idea, an idea far better than going to mean old Grandmother's scary old house."

"What?" the boy whimpers, sniveling loudly.

"You and I will go on an adventure together, just you and I," Clarissa says loudly, hugging him again and kissing him on the top of the head. "We won't tell anyone. It'll be a secret, wonderful adventure and we'll have more fun than any mum and son have ever had together. All right?"

"A secret?" Wesley asks, curiosity stemming the tide of tears. "You mean that I can't tell it?"

"Well, silly, that's what a secret is," Clarissa says, quite proud of her stroke of genius. Richard rather likes the boy--says he's a smart little bugger, anyway--and it won't be a bit of trouble to slip over to the next room at night. "But you must swear to me that you'll never tell. If you tell secrets, your tongue falls out."

Wesley's eyes go as wide as platters.

"I p-promise," he stutters.

"Cross your heart?" Clarissa asks implacably. If she's not careful, this could be a disaster in the offing. But Wesley is a conscientious and impressionable boy and empty threats still hold a touching and slightly sad power over him.

"Cross my heart," he parrots back at her.

"Good lad," she says cheerfully, ruffling his hair. "Finish your breakfast and then go to your room and we'll pack for our adventure, all right?"

Wesley nods, obviously much cheered up. Clarissa feels a tiny pang of guilt at how much a little thing like this does for her son's attitude. She's been a perfect beast to the child in her fit of pique about Richard--as if they couldn't have had a perfectly lovely time in town, really! Richard had just wanted to drive her mad and he'd succeeded.

Clarissa promises herself, not for the first time, that she will stop being such a selfish creature. The boy is not, after all, to blame for the vagaries of her lovers, or Clarissa's dislike of that dreadful old witch who forces Edward to dance attendance on her.

"I've finished my toast," Wesley announces proudly, holding out his plate. "See, Mum? See?"

He holds the plate out a quarter of an inch too far. It knocks into the milk glass, which tumbles over and covers the kitchen table with milk, as well as Clarissa's housecoat. She leaps from the table angrily, dripping wet.

"You clumsy little twit!" she snaps as Wesley sets the plate down, his dreams of mother-son adventure fading as fast as they'd blossomed. "Weren't you looking? This is unacceptable for a boy your age."

"I'm sorry, Mum," he says earnestly, the fear evident on every feature of his face. For some reason, the fear makes Clarissa angrier than the split milk. Why is her own boy afraid of her? It must be something Edward is telling him, some poisonous thing the old bitch told him to tell Wesley. How dare that woman try to turn Clarissa's son against her?

"Of course you're sorry!" she shrieks, panicked at what Mrs. Pryce has been saying about her. "You're always sorry!"

"Mummy, I'm sorry!" Wesley cries, trying to hide behind his chair. "Please don't yell."

"I'll yell if I damned well please!" Clarissa replies, though she doesn't yell. "Clean this up and then go to your room."

Wesley manages not to shed a single tear as he starts mopping up the milk as fast as he can before running to his room and closing the door. Clarissa sighs heavily and sits back in her chair. Something has to be done about the boy. When Edward got home, they'd have to have a discussion. Wesley needs to be taken in hand. He's simply too sensitive and too talkative. But for now, Richard would still want to go to Bath this weekend, and there was no sense ruining a perfectly good holiday because the boy was incorrigible.

Clarissa, still feeling resolutely cheerful despite the setbacks of the morning, gets up from the table and sweeps into Wesley's bedroom. The aggravating creature is sitting on the bed, staring at the wall. But Clarissa pretends not to notice. She has good news for him.

"What are you doing?" she says with a cheerful smile on her face. "Aren't we going on an adventure, darling?"

Wesley looks at his mother and smiles. His smile is as false as hers.

"Of course, mum," he says, pretending with all of his heart that he believes her. "I can't wait."

The End


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