He sighed, closing his eyes as he listened to his mother rummage around her hotel room looking for something.
She had been here for months now, yet Rebekkah had been oddly silent as to why she was in downtown Westfield in the first place. Last Zebediah knew, his mother hated coming into town; so much the country woman that the sight of crowded buildings and busy streets made her want to wrinkle her nose and complain in a holier-than-thou tone. It was her old-style Southern upbringing, he was sure; his Georgian Peach of a mother had always seen herself as superior to those she had no time for.
Cityfolk were folk she had no time for. So it was strange she would spend so much time willingly in the city.
"What are you lookin’ for, momma?"
"My prayer book - I’m goin’ to service tomorrow evenin’, and I don’t want to appear in church without it."
"Wasn’t it by your bedside, where you could read it ‘fore you went to sleep?"
The shuffling stopped. Rebekkah walked passed her son briskly, heading to her bed and snatching the book as if it had personally offended her. She didn’t even bother offering her son a thank you, but Zebediah was used to that; it was only in his later years that he got used to manners being used back at him.
"Don’t you have a house to get back to? You’ve been here an hour, now."
"You could always come with," Zeb offered, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms. He rolled his eyes as Rebekkah scoffed. "Meet Allen - see the house. Really, momma, I’d appreciate it."
He wouldn’t, but he would lie like he always did.
"I shouldn’t," Rebekkah said primly, sitting on her bed and tracing the lettering on her prayer book. "After all - your home is a godless one."
"No, no, it’s fine, dear," Rebekkah smiled up at him, expression brittle and cool, "I didn’t expect anything else from a house run by two men - and one of them a non-believer, at that. How do you stand it? That dirtied soul."
"Momma, watch your tongue - you can’t go judgin’ folk and you know better than to try."
Rebekkah shrugged, turning away from Zebediah. Silence hung over mother and son, and Zebediah wondered whether his mother was naturally this sour or if she merely suffered postpartum. It would make so much sense.
"Momma, why are you here?"
Rebekkah stiffened her shoulders, before looking over to Zebediah slowly, her hard eyes narrowing on him thoughtfully. She then smiled, and he knew he wasn’t going to like what he heard. He remembered that smile; she’d given it to him when she told him his daddy had left them.
"I’ve been watchin’."
"Mmmhm - seein’ how you raise that sweet child. Theresa’s girl, right?" Zebediah nodded and Rebekkah hummed, fingers drifting to the cross she wore around her neck. "She’s a good girl, Zebediah - and you raise her well. But in a godless home. With another man - teachin’ her that it’s okay.”
"She deserves better than that." Rebekkah turned back to Zebediah, her eyes fierce. "So I’ll be takin’ her when I leave."
"No!" Zebediah pushed himself off the wall, looming over his mother, and for the first time he realized how small and breakable Rebekkah Walker truly was. "You ain’t takin’ her; Aunt Tess trusted her with me.”
"She obviously doesn’t know your track record. I’m surprised the dear’s still breathin’.” Zebediah sneered and Rebekkah held her head up as proudly as she could. “Technically she should have gone to Abigail - but Granny’s so old and frail, she couldn’t handle her. Madeline and Malachi have their own problems. And Ezekiel ain’t old enough. I’m the best option.”
"I ain’t lettin’ you take her, you don’t have no right - you ain’t related to her by any kind of blood."
"You’re barely." Rebekkah sighed, rubbing her temple. "It’s not up for discussion."
"She only has a year ‘till she’s of age."
"And in that year I’ll raise her right. Better than I raised you - she’ll be a God-fearing Christian and she won’t have any funny ideas about how love works." Rebekkah stood, pushing Zebediah back towards the door. "Leave, now, Zebediah, we’re done talkin’."
"No we ain’t—"
"We’re done. Talking.” Rebekkah gave him a long look, and Zebediah once more shrank to a little boy of six, watching his momma drink away whatever pain she was in as her the bandages on her wrists stained red. “Go home. Don’t visit tomorrow. Goodnight.”
She shoved him out, slamming the door in front of him and locking it.
Zebediah swore, kicking the door and wishing for once he could fix things by just hitting it.