"Mom,” Elizabeth said, and it occurred that she didn’t just use ‘Mom’ for the times when Dez needed to hear her speak sharply. She also used it when Dez needed reminding that ‘mom’ was who she was to more than just her, her only child.....
A nurse whose moral compass is set to her own immobile dial, Dez McBrien in heroine Elizabeth's biological mother - and yet she is also everyone else's de facto mother, and that's why it strikes Elizabeth as monstrous when she learns that, years ago after Andrew was orphaned and left as an underage guardian to his younger sister, Dez abandoned him...out of spite:
'...“You ‘understand’ that a social worker helped Drew? Dez, hadn’t you been checking on Andrew and Shaynie then too?”
Dez turned her bottle. Turning, turning…“No.”
Bone-weakening compassion made Elizabeth sag. “Dez, how—” ‘could you’ she swallowed. She understood. Kind of. Still—“How Drew felt about me never should have impacted how you felt about him.”...'
Still, it did, and Dez, (though she's loathe to admit she was wrong), has lived with regret and guilt over that decision ever since. That's partly why she goads, pleads, and forces Elizabeth to reconnect with Andrew...although, there are some lines she's not willing to have crossed. Not under her roof, at any rate:
In the morning, Dez handed Elizabeth a mug of coffee. “New rule.” Her mouth moved, tight and sour. “Next time you have the Corporal over, please remember this house has thin walls.”
Elizabeth gaped. The dream! “I…I was alone last night,” she said.
She squirmed. “Honest, Dez. You must have been dreaming. Or maybe there’s some rowdy tourists in the B&B next door.”
Her mother executed a long look from over her mug. “Elizabeth,” she said. “I heard the front door open after—just like I heard it every time you had any liaison with him.”
Elizabeth knew her face could not get any hotter. “Last night wasn’t Drew,” she blurted.
Dez’s jaw dropped.
“I mean—oh, my God—I mean last night I went walking alone. Audition jitters,” she lied.
Dez looked thoroughly skeptical.
She is judgmental, quick-tempered, opinionated, and cannot 'fess up to making a mistake, and yet Desdemona McBrien (who Andrew pithily says is "Always just a fat suit away from being Buddha") is wholly loved - and deeply respected - by all in her charge.
Maybe especially Andrew:
“Here.” Dez affixed the mask over his nose and it was sweet, really, how she combed his hair off his forehead. A mom. And he loved her like one, yet lacked the strength to lift his hand, squeeze hers.
Still, she knew it. There was a wobble in her voice when she said “Just rest, son.”
Dez McBrien. A force to be reckoned with, and a woman who may tell me a story of her own one day. But for now, meet her here