Mom was yelling at me to show her dominance. But she is just raising her voice and not actually shouting — I shouldn’t falter.
“Mom, I don’t want to become a doctor… I don’t want to… Yeah, I can’t handle it, but there’s a bigger reason — I can’t handle this because I have no damn interest in becoming one!”
Mom clicked her teeth in anger.
“Sure, being a doctor has its merits… The satisfaction from helping a patient… The feeling of helping to save lives… Being one sounds great, but I just have no interest in becoming one.”
Mom stepped towards me and I slightly flinched.
“Shush! You are becoming one. You are going down the path that your father and I decided for you!”
“I don’t want to!”
“Stop it, it’s for your own good!”
“W-What do you know!? Why aren’t you listening!? Aren’t you supposed to be my mom!?”
Feelings were intense. I couldn’t think.
“I know what’s best for you because I’m your mom! I gave birth to you!”
“So!? I didn’t want to be born if I knew that I’d be around someone like you!”
I tried shutting my mouth. No, wait! I got too emotional and said something mean… Gah, I’m sorry, Mom! But she won't listen if I simply apologize.
Mom swiftly raised her hand in the air. She was going to hit me…
It felt like an eternity passed.
When I saw Mom’s hand move towards me, I flinched. I really braced for it… Of course, it was going to hurt — despite how she looked, Mom was strong — but I think it was going to hurt way more than how a slap at her full force would feel like. Is this really my mom? Despite her personality, she’s not supposed to be like this! She’s supposed to listen and be fair, but right now, she was being cruel…
My eyes were closed, my body was withdrawn, and my hands were in front of my face. I slowly opened my eyes, and… huh?
When my vision returned, a look of astonishment grew on my face. The first thing that I saw was… Ren. With his usual expressionless and serious-looking face, he was holding Mom’s wrist in his hand. Did he catch it? He’s so quick… He’s so strong… He’s so resilient… He’s… Ren Morales.
Mom was struggling, moving her arm around to break free of Ren, but he was unyielding.
“Gah, I forgot you were here… Get off of me, kid!”
Ren shook his head. He spoke in his usual blunt and monotone voice. But even though it was expressionless, I sensed his strong resolve.
“Mrs Boateng, please, it is not proper for a parent to hit their own child… Please calm down. You too, Valerie…”
I tried to do as he instructed, but I was shocked by the scene.
Mom was determined. She forcibly pulled her arm away from Ren and sharply turned to him.
“Shut up, kid, it’s called disciplining a child!”
“This is not the proper way of parenting…”
“What do you know about parenting!?”
“Mrs Boateng, I think I know enough to talk about parenting.”
Mom raised her eyebrow in confusion and annoyance again.
“As a child on the receiving end of a parent’s care, I am confident that I know enough about parenting.”
Mom clicked her teeth again.
“Mrs Boateng, I suspect that you are scared…”
W-What? Fear? I understand why I was scared, but how was Mom scared? Is Ren just spewing nonsense?.. No, that can’t be it. Looking at him now, I could tell that he was completely serious about what he just said.
“W-What!? Kid, what are you saying!?”
“You love Valerie, right? And that affection is the main source of your fear and worry.”
Mom slightly stepped back. What?.. What was happening? Mom… was losing her composure. Not in the way where someone who is completely calm would suddenly flip out upon hearing something offensive, but she was becoming unstable.
“Right now, you are acting like a megalomaniac that wants to seize control of Valerie by controlling her future. But you are not one, and you are doing this because you love her. But you are also scared.”
“T-The hell… So creepy, kid…”
“You are scared because of your past.”
I had the same reaction.
“By past, I mean the country you emigrated from. You are an immigrant, and it is clear based on the pictures on the wall.”
H-He’s right… Mom was not born in this country.
“And the country you came from… Sure, it is still great, but this country contains more opportunities compared to that one.”
“It was tougher for you back in your homeland, correct? And you think that work that requires a lot of knowledge is the only way that people can survive, correct? Since you want Valerie to succeed, you force her down this path of your choosing…”
Oh… I never thought about it like this…
Mom was still annoyed. She stepped towards Ren, but I had a feeling that her hard exterior was softening.
“G-Gah! Fine, I’ll admit that you are telling the truth and that you figured me out… But, whatever! I am doing the right thing… Valerie needs to become this in the future!”
“Is it to alleviate your own fears?”
“It’s for her own good!”
“However, you are not listening to Valerie’s wishes, so it is not for her own good. She does not like the path you chose for her, but you are still insisting.”
Ren did not sound like he was feeling any intense emotions… He just sounded like he usually does. But regardless, he was still managing to intimidate Mom.
Ren averted his eyes and looked at the floor. He also put his left hand over his right shoulder.
“Um… I-I am sorry Mrs Boateng, but could it be that you did not raise Valerie properly?”
Mom got mad again, but Ren was not scared.
“What!? Kid, are you provoking me on purpose!?”
“Sorry, this is rude, but it makes sense according to what you are saying…”
Mom was giving Ren opportunities to talk. She usually cuts off the opponent in an argument, but not this time. Was it because Ren was staying calm?
“The dictionary definition of raise is to increase the amount, level, or strength of something. I have a feeling that you are pushing Valerie into this career path because you do not feel that she is strong enough to survive. You believe that Valerie’s choices will lead to failure, so you are trying to prevent that.”
I looked at Mom and saw that her fingers were tensing up. If she was getting nervous, is all of this true?
Ren looked at me and signaled for me to go to him. I stood beside him. He then started bowing. While looking down, he signaled for me to do the same, so I did.
“Mrs Boateng… Please have more faith in your daughter. She is being tortured because you do not, and it should not continue. And Valerie cannot endure the hardships…”
“P-Please, Mom! I swear, I won't disappoint you with my choices.”
I could not see her face.
“P-Please, have faith in me! It’s certainly a risk, but I’m willing to take it! And you don’t have to worry about me!”
“And you can’t afford to look after me all this time. I’m getting older, and that can’t be stopped… P-Plea-”
We raised our heads when we heard Mom suddenly scream. She had a look of pure acrimony on her face.
She fiercely pointed at Ren.
“You, get out of here!”
I was stopped when Ren put his hand in front of me.
“Kid, get out of my house! Now!”
Ren nodded and walked towards the exit.
“Thank you for having me…”
I stood dumbfounded as Ren exited. Why did he leave so readily? And why was it so late in the argument with Mom? Why did he stop me from rebutting? Why?..
After a while, Mom spoke again. She was still annoyed, but her voice was low.
“And you… Valerie, go to your room…”
I stopped when I remembered what happened earlier. Ren stopped me from defending, so maybe he would want me to do the same now…
I started walking towards the exit of the living room. When I got to it, Mom called me again.
“And Valerie… Your friend… He brought up some good points and I think I realized something… Sorry, but could you give me time to think? I also need to discuss this with your father…”
My back was turned to Mom, so she did not see my eyes widen in surprise.
“Hey, Ren Ren! So, what do you think of Sakura from the other class? Pretty cute, eh?”
It was the day after Valerie and my confrontation with her mother. Connie and I were sitting in the cafeteria.
“Sakura… She is around one hundred and sixty centimeters tall, has marks that make her a suitable candidate for Laurent’s Top, and she-”
“H-Hey, stop, stop, stop! C’mon, I meant your opinion of her, not her diagnostics — and please tell me that those pieces of info weren’t real…”
As we were talking, a familiar girl sat at the seat in front of us.
“Hey, Ren. Hi Connie.”
“Ren gets a hey while I only get a hi? What’s up?”
I noticed that Valerie was different from how she usually is. One, she seemed happier than usual. Two, her appearance improved — the shadows under her eyes were gone and they were no longer red, her skin was clearer, she did not smell of sweat and perfume, and her uniform was not wrinkled.
Valerie leaned closer to me.
“Hey Ren, thank you for yesterday… Seriously, the situation greatly improved for me.”
“Oh, that is good to hear…”
She bowed her head.
“Thank you so much, Ren…”
“Oh, p-please raise your head, that is not necessary…”
Valerie did so and chuckled at me.
“Hey Ren, you’re super modest, you know that? Ah…”
Valerie assumed a relaxed position where she leaned her head on her arm close to the table and crossed her legs.
“Ren, thanks to you, I can change my career choice. My parents are still a bit wary of me pursuing starting a business, but they’ll let me do it. See, I am going to request course changes for next semester — of course, I’ll take the courses relating to business!”
“Oh, that is good…”
She turned to Connie.
“Hey Connie, can I sit here?”
Connie smiled and chuckled.
“What? We constantly ask you to sit with us and you think you aren’t welcome? Of course, you can sit here!”
“Really? Ah, I was thinking that you’d be mad since I always reject you when you ask… Sorry.”
“Hah, are you crazy? No, that ain’t how we operate!”
And with that, the three of us ate lunch together. And I’m guessing that Valerie will accompany us for the rest of our time together.
As Valerie told me about her business plan, I caught a glimpse of Connie’s relieved smile.