Tommy got ready to thump his way down the stairs loudly, the way Henry was wont to do, but stopped himself and instead pussy footed part way down, careful to not make a sound. The conversation of his mother and brother drifted out of the kitchen.
"Mom," Henry was saying. "I wish you would listen to me... I'm in trouble here!"
Henry's voice was rising, and it was obvious that their mother was resisting whatever it was he was suggesting. Tommy tensed up, ready to dart down the stairs when Henry's anger inevitably exploded.
"You are always in trouble!" Mary wailed, "You are a grown man! When are you going to learn to stand on your own two feet without making some stupid mistake?"
"What kind of trouble are we talking about here?" That was Grandma May, come back to life after her overindulgence in wine and turkey the night before.
"Big trouble," said Henry with a solemness that caused an icicle of fear to settle in Tommy's chest.
This wasn't Henry's usual attention-seeking showboating. This was clearly serious.
"Big trouble," Eddie repeated back.
Tommy gave up his place on the stairs and came down to meet the waiting eyes of his family. His mother was looking at him desperately, as if he could fix whatever mess his brother had gotten himself into.
He felt rage began to rise up inside of him, much stronger than the usual annoyance he felt toward Henry. This was more than just an disapproving dislike, this was pure hate. He felt a strong urge to ask who this Renee was, and if this person had anything to do with this trouble that he had brought on his family.
"What's going on?" he said, his eyes set squarely on Henry.
Henry locked his eyes on his brother with the coldest look Tommy had ever seen since the look his father had given him on that fateful day when he told him that his perfect, educated son was not after all the son he had dreamed to have. The look held him captive in that one horrible memory, striking him mute before he could say more.
"This doesn't concern you." Henry said through clenched teeth.