The plants were long and straggly with the cooler fall temperatures threatening to snuff the life out of them. His eyes stayed on the flowers for a few seconds while he wondered how different he was from them. Unlike the flowers, he had to protect himself from imminent death as opposed to simple seasonal change.
“What can I do to protect myself?”
His mother held open the screen door to allow them both inside. As they squeezed in past his mother, Nana chose to answer.
“I am not sure what to do to protect you from dying. I’ll ask your grandfather. He’s better about such matters.”
His mother sharp gasp alerted them she had overheard. Nana looked up briefly at her daughter, shook her head, and walked away muttering, “Not sure how a daughter of mine has no ability to see into the future.”
Ethan watched her hobble away, putting a little more emphasis on the hobble than usual. The woman literally threw him under the bus. He slowly turned to face his mother who had her hands fisted on her hips and her eyes so wide, they might pop out of their sockets. He remembered reading about some man’s whose did. It was rather rare, but his mother might be the second person to perform such a feat.
“Ethan Demetrius,” she started, but stopped when he held up his hand.
“That’s the second time since I’ve been home that someone has used my full name. Why did you name me Demetrius? I know Ethan is for an uncle that died.” He hoped his mother would not see through his attempt to change the subject.
Her face relaxed, as did her fisted hands. “Help me get the rest of the groceries and I’ll explain it to you.”
The two of them managed to secure the remaining canvas bags. A small dark bag decorated with a pentacle emitted a fragrant aroma. “I see you made a stop at Witches R Us.”
He made his ongoing joke as they walked inside. A small natural foods store close by also stocked herbs, candles, and essential oils for both medicine and potions. The store had a more ordinary name, something to do with earth.
His mother glanced at the bag. “Oh that, Nana decided we needed to stop. Said something about the dimensions shifting. Major change was about to happen.”
Ethan opened the cabinet door with two fingers while juggling the bags. He wanted to snort something about always being the last to know, but didn’t. He didn’t want to remind his mother. Instead, he continued distracting her. “You never told me about Demetrius.”
“Oh, that’s odd.” She placed her bags on the kitchen table. “I thought I did. Sometimes, I do that. I think of something and think everyone knows what I’m thinking. Half the time in this family, they do.”
His mother was so right. Psychic eavesdroppers surrounded him, but Orin had been the only one who could mentally communicate with him, making no sense. Most people thought telepathy didn’t exist.
Theo, Leah’s cat, began to wind around his legs as he unpacked groceries. Unlike most felines, she was not standoffish at all. It made it hard to put things away though. As he knelt, to put away the canned goods in the bottom cabinet, he scratched Theo’s furry head, earning a start of a full-throated purr.
“Demetrius is an old Greek name. You’ll find it everywhere in history, from kings to a lover in Shakespeare’s play Midsummer Night’s Dream. I didn’t name you for any of them, though. I named you after Demetrius in the Bible.”
Ethan’s head came up so fast at the mention of the Bible he bumped it on the cabinet opening. “Ouch!” He fell to the floor rubbing his head.
His mother knelt beside him and ran her fingers through his hair checking for bumps. He was sure she’d find one.
“No blood, but a possible lump later. Let me get you a bag of frozen veggies.” She rooted through the freezer, returning with a bag of corn to put on his abused scalp.
Sitting on the floor, clutching a bag of frozen vegetables to his head, he urged his mother to continue. “Try not to mention the Bible again, but what Demetrius did you name me after? The shock of hearing that word come out of your mouth so casually caused my accident.”
His mother laughed as he intended. Cradling the produce in one arm, she opened the fridge and continued her explanation.
“I doubt you know much about the Bible. Demetrius showed up twice, once as a disciple. We didn’t name you after him.”
Ethan managed a smile, knowing his mother was staring at him. “I figured as much.”
She placed the veggies in the keeper drawer as she spoke. “Oh no, there was another Demetrius mentioned. It was a very popular name at the time, almost as popular as…”
“Demetrius,” he reminded her. While he did want his mother to venture as far from possible danger to himself as possible, he still wanted to know the story behind his middle name.
“Oh yes, that.” She gave a small trill of laughter. “Demetrius is mentioned as being a silversmith who incited a riot against the Christians. He was a worshipper of the Goddess Diana. The Christians were big on tearing down all the Goddess temples to erect churches. Demetrius wasn’t cool with it. He was one of the few people willing to stand against a wave of aggressive conformation determined to wipe out all female deities. That makes him a folk hero of sorts.”
He bore a hero’s name. It made him feel a little different, proud even. A bag of corn on the head, however, did not make him look heroic. Standing up, he carried the corn to the freezer. He pushed his shoulders back and straightened his spine to reach his full height of five foot six inches. Even his sister, Nora, was taller than he was. He felt somewhat like a person who would always battle against the status quo with his father only five-nine.
His mother’s voice continued, detailing the story as she usually did. “Of course, we don’t know if there ever was a silversmith named Demetrius. Consider that most of the Bible is full of folk tales and myths rewritten with different names to support the new religion. Demetrius could have been a fictional character just to add conflict. He represented an obstacle for the new converts to overcome.
At least she didn’t say surmount, that was a plus. His shoulders dropped a little. Being named after someone who might have never existed didn’t do as much for him. In the end, it worked as a distraction. Now, he could go to his room and consider how he should act when he saw Brendon again.
His mother’s voice halted his escape. “Not so fast Ethy.”
Argh. She had even used his childhood name, how he referred to himself when he couldn’t quite pronounce Ethan. His mother and sisters thought it was so cute they begin using it. It took years of retraining to get them to use his real name. He lived in fear they’d accidentally use it in public.
He stopped with one foot in the hall and his head turned toward the basement door. His bedroom waited at the end of the basement stairs, a half-finished refuge of two by fours and dry wall. Heaving a sigh, he turned to face his mother.
She pulled out a chair from the kitchen table. Pointing to it, she ordered, “Sit.”
Talk about not catching a break. He dropped into the chair, slumping slightly and splaying his legs out. The scenario would consist of his mother fussing over him and telling him to be cautious and to watch his actions because it was all about perceptions. People tended to take the negative view of everything as opposed to the more realistic one.
Nana might lecture about great growth coming from trials, but his mother’s discussions focused on perceptions. He was tired of other people’s assessments of the Pagan lifestyle. Most assume they sacrificed children, caused accidents, and danced naked under a full moon. They didn’t know Jack, except for the moon part.
The scrape of the chair legs against the linoleum floor indicated his mother sitting. She rested her head in propped up hand and stared. It wasn’t an angry, condemning stare. Instead, it was full of love. He could almost see the love spilling out of her in waves.
“Ethan, you realize you’ll always be my son. I will always love you. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re gay.”