Sharon found being draped on a tedious business, at best. And hard on the arms, which had to be held out from her side for a long time. June was sympathetic and didn’t fuss too much as Sharon shifted. The two were chatting pleasantly when there was a knock on the door and Mark suddenly entered.
“June, have you heard from Matt?” he asked, then stopped. “Oh. I didn’t know you had company.”
“I was helping Sharon paint her office,” June explained. “We’re waiting for the paint to dry so I can paint a faux chair rail. What’s up with Matt?”
“Just haven’t heard from him,” Mark said softly. “We can talk about it later.”
Suddenly serious, June looked up at him. “What happened?”
Mark glanced at Sharon. “Got a bounce back. His web address mail box is full.” He smiled weakly at Sharon. “Probably not paying attention. We’ll talk later.”
“For sure,” June replied as she went back to pinning in earnest.
Sharon silently sighed her relief as Mark left the studio. June hadn’t seemed to notice Sharon’s fluttering heartbeat. In fact, June seemed distracted and sad.
“You okay?” Sharon asked, finally.
“Yeah.” June stopped and sat back on her heels. “No. I’m worried.” She looked up at Sharon and went back to pinning. “Matt is our nephew. Our oldest brother’s kid. We, uh, don’t get on that well with Harold and Shawna.”
“I’ve heard there’s some coolness.”
“That would about describe it. They have three kids. Mark and I, well, we’ve tried to be there for them. It’s hard because we don’t want to undermine their parents.”
“But you don’t like their parents.”
“Their parents are pretty obnoxious.” June shook her head. “They’re into appearances and as long as you look good, nothing else matters. The two older girls, Tracy and DeeDee. They bought into it. Matt. He’s sixteen. He’s a lot like Mark. Real thoughtful and everything. Only Matt’s a lot more introverted than Mark.”
“Doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who’d let his inbox get too full.”
June sighed. “He’s not. It’s Shawna. She’s… Controlling I guess is the way to put it. She wants Matt to hang with her idea of the right kind of kids. So she doesn’t let Matt connect with anybody she doesn’t approve of.”
“Including you and his uncle?”
“Especially us.” June jabbed a pin into the fabric with a particularly violent thrust. “It’s pretty amazing that she pulls it off, too. What with all the different ways kids have of communicating these days. But she’s got Matt totally under her thumb, not to mention control of his laptop and his cell phone. Has totally blocked all the addresses and numbers from folks she doesn’t like. And his school won’t let the kids use social networking sites or webmail. I suggested the public library, but apparently, they need a parent’s signature to let him on.”
“Can’t he borrow someone else’s laptop or phone?”
“There’s a little problem with that. Did you get an e-mail last summer with Mark’s private cell phone number and e-mail?”
“That was a hoax.”
“No, it wasn’t. One of Matt’s so-called friends figured out who he was e-mailing and calling.”
“Matt’s gotten so paranoid, he’ll barely e-mail my dad or grandma. Which is probably the biggest problem.”
“Poor thing.” Sharon thought. “I wonder if there’s a way to set up a false personality, maybe with the right kind of avatar or something.”
“That you’d have to get past Mark and I don’t think you will. He’s dead set against undermining Matt’s parents.”
“But his mother is-”
“I know.” June picked up her scissors, gazing at Sharon thoughtfully, but as though she wasn’t seeing her. “I think Mark’s worried that if we give Shawna any real ammo, she’ll take it out on Matt.”
“That would make sense.” Sharon thought. “You know. I’ll have to think it through and do some checking, but I think I can arrange a work-around. Maybe if your brother gets worried enough, he won’t be as concerned about undermining.”
“I can only hope.”
June was done just before dinner time. Sharon declined to stay for the meal, not wanting to see Mark again.
The next morning, she was surprised to see the whole faux chair rail painted in. It was done in a complicated criss-cross pattern in orange and yellow with a dark gray background. Sharon wondered how long it took June to do it, and how much of June’s work had to do with her worry about her nephew. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much Sharon could do about it at that moment, so she moved her new furniture in and hung the art work.