“Wait.” The youngest of the three siblings, Owen, looked worried. Only four years’ difference was between them, and Owen was clearly the baby.
The older brother, Walt, held up his hand to his younger sister, Anne. She put the phone down.
“What,” she said.
Owen continued, “Maybe we should discuss this first.”
Walt sighed. “There’s nothing to discuss. We did a wrong thing, and Mom has to know.”
The three of them stood around an ornately carved antique wood desk in one of the offices of their parents’ law firm. The tall stacks of books along the walls dampened the single lamp’s glow. The heavy curtains blocked out a bright, sunny day. It was hard to breathe.
The siblings looked at each other.
A friend gave them a ride to the office from court. This friend wasn’t an old friend of the family’s, to be sure.
This friend was from the party.
Anne explained, “Look. I just want to get this over with. I don’t want Mom finding out what happened from someone else. Yeah, she’s going to kill us. Worse, she’ll probably disinherit us, but she has to know.”
Owen, understanding, nodded and mumbled agreement. He checked his fingernails.
Anne picked up the phone again. The dial tone hummed from the receiver. Walt pressed the button for the speakerphone. They all needed to hear their mom once she processed the news. Anne put the receiver back down.
Anne dialed the number of their childhood home.
Walt cleared his throat.
The line rang. Once, then twice. Three times.
Owen felt faint. He pulled at his sweaty collar.
Someone picked up.
“Hi, Mom. It’s me, Anne. I’m with Walt and Owen. We’re at the office.”
Walt took charge. “Hey, Mom. We have to tell you something.”
Their mom answered, “What is it? What’s going on? Are you all right?”
Walt said, “Yes, we’re fine. We just wanted to tell you that we got arrested. There was a party. Police came. They booked us. We spent the night in jail and the judge sentenced us this morning. We’re okay, though. Embarrassed, but okay. We wanted to tell you before anyone else did.”
The siblings held their breath. They avoided looking at each other and only stared at the phone.
Their heads dropped. Walt wasn’t prepared for this. Anne knew they did the right thing. Owen kept holding his breath.