When she first moved into the Houston house, Becky was used to Tim beelining to the TV. It was a routine for him. Every day when he got off the school bus, he’d walk into the house, get a fruit punch juice box from the fridge, and sit down to watch TV. She never wanted to disrupt the routine. Some days, he walked in with an upset look in his eyes, and she immediately knew to give him space. Nine-year-old boys tended to blow up sometimes. That was her experience, at least, with nine-year-old boys in the pediatrics wing at St. Damien's.
She checked in on him one gray winter afternoon. She was getting ready to work the night shift when she heard him come in. She stuck her head out of the hall bathroom to see Tim, wiping his eyes a little hastily as he dropped his Star Wars backpack by the door. He kicked his shoes off and went into the kitchen. Becky stepped out and followed him.
“Hi, Tim,” She said cautiously. He looked up. His eyes were bloodshot and he had a bruise on his cheek. “What happened to your cheek, honey?” Tim almost looked nervous. Like whatever he was going to say would upset Becky. She opened the freezer and took out the Darth Vader ice pack. She wrapped it in a paper towel and gave it to him. Tim held it to the bruise, blinking back tears.
If anything, Tim Houston was an awful liar. He got that from his father. Becky just smiled kindly at the small boy. Then, he broke. Two little tears slid down his cheeks.
“Someone said s-somethin’ bad about you and Dad and we got in a fight,” He almost whispered the words like they were swears. “I didn’t a-actually hit him. I’m sorry.” He wiped his tears away and Becky took a deep breath. Then she calmly turned to her cell phone and Tim jumped.
“Please don’t tell Dad, he’ll be mad,” He was looking at her with wide, scared eyes. Like Tom would ever be angry with his son, his pride and joy. Becky shook her head.
“I’m not calling your dad,” She said, “I’m going to take the night off work. We can do something.” She watched his face. “Okay? How does that sound? Is that okay?”
“Okay,” Tim nodded. He got his juice box from the fridge and then went into the living room. Becky texted Tom.
Beck: Hi Tom, Tim’s having a rough day so I’m going to stay home tonight with him. Miss you <3
She made the call to St. Damien’s pediatrics wing and then joined Tim with a can of sparkling water. He was flipping through the book of DVDs Tom had for him. Tim had gone through a huge Star Wars phase, according to Tom, so he owned every movie and everything related to Star Wars that he could have gotten. The cover of the book was a map of the entire Star Wars universe. It was Tim’s favorite thing from that part of his life.
He pulled out a disc and popped it into the DVD player. The graphics for Tangled appeared on the screen. Now that was a surprise to Becky. Tim didn’t seem like he’d be the type for Disney Princess movies. After working with kids for so long, and knowing Tom, Becky assumed Tim would like Star Wars and maybe superheroes like Batman and Superman much more than a princess movie. But he looked over at her.
“Do you like Tangled?” He asked a little quieter than he usually talked. “I like it a lot.”
“I do,” Becky replied. “I didn’t know you liked it.”
“I like Rapunzel,” He said, picking at the fuzz on the blanket he’d snuggled up under. “She’s my favorite princess.” He started the movie and looked up at the screen. Becky watched the screen change as well. Her heart was growing at the thought of Tim showing her his favorite movie. He really trusted her to do that, didn’t he?
Halfway through the movie, he spoke again. Rapunzel was healing Flynn’s hand as he did. His voice was soft, almost like he never spoke at all under the sound of the TV. Becky heard him, though. Loud and clear.
“Dad and I like to watch Wall-E,” He said. “Dad says he likes Wall-E because it’s not as stupid as some of the other movies. I like Wall-E because he gets to be happy at the end.” Tim looked up at Becky. She knew which one was Wall-E, vaguely.
“I like that one too,” She smiled, taking a sip of her drink, “My favorite is Cinderella.” Maybe Becky Barnes saw something of herself in Cinderella. A woman treated terribly ending up with a wonderful man. She thought of Tom as her Prince Charming, after all.
Tom came home around 5. He’d picked up a carpenter job after school to make a little extra money. Tim was playing with his toys upstairs, some Minecraft figurines Toy Zone had gotten in stock. Becky had bought them for him for his birthday, but she figured maybe a little gift wouldn’t hurt. She was doing some paperwork at the kitchen table, a warm cup of tea next to her while she worked. Tom came over and touched her hand.
“Hey, Beck,” He whispered, pressing a kiss to the side of her head. “How’s Tim? I saw your text but I was super busy and-”
“He’s better,” Becky replied. “We watched Tangled and started Star Wars, then he decided it was time to go play with some Minecraft toys I got him.” She leaned up and kissed his cheek. “How was your day?”
“Fine,” He stretched, sitting dow with her. “Better now that I’m home with you.” He looked around as if Tim would pop out from around the corner, “What happened today?”
“I’d rather him tell you,” Becky said, “It’s not my thing to say.”
Tim told Tom later that night, and then the two of them sat down and put Wall-E on. Becky didn’t intervene; she just did her paperwork at the kitchen table, smiling at her two boys. That was their thing, just like Tangled would be her and Tim’s thing from then on.