#52weeks52stories “Left Behind”

left behind photo

#52weeks52stories: Week 23

Word prompt: suicide

Word count: 1496, Reading Time  – 2 mins, 19 secs

~~~~~

The watched hands of a clock are not supposed to move.

But Teddy Carver had seen the hands move for every one of the last twenty-four minutes.

Five minutes remained before the three o’clock bell rang signaling the end of history class and the end of the school day.

Time to go home.

Nervous jitters caused his knee to bounce while his fist tightened around the pencil he was holding. It snapped, breaking into pieces Teddy laid on the desk without taking his gaze from the clock.

He knew his classmates were staring at him. Some, out of curiosity but most were because they pitied their young friend. Teddy appreciated their kindness and concern. The school sent a beautiful wreath to his mom’s service and the GoFundme donations helped to pay for the service and more… since there’s no payout for suicides.

But he could live without the pity.

The bell sounded and any thoughts of Teddy Carver and his troubles faded into the chaos of the mass exodus from the classroom.

When the last student was out the door, Teddy eased his six and a half foot frame from the cramped desk.

Slipping his textbook under his arm, Teddy approached the door with slow steps, in no hurry to ride the wave of students crowding the hallways.

Two steps away from his goal, Teddy’s path was blocked by Barry Cook, his history teacher.

“Teddy? A minute, please?”

The teen towered over his teacher but his slumped shoulders decreased his stature.

“Yes, sir?”

The older man slipped his hands into his front pockets, trying to hide his discomfort with what he was about to say.

“I was so sorry to hear about your mom. My wife’s been ill, and I didn’t find out until I returned to work yesterday.”

Teddy shuffled his feet in place, eyes downcast. “Thank you, Mr. Cook. And I hope your wife’s better.”

Barry Cook reached behind him and pulled the classroom door closed. He sat on the desk nearest to him and motioned for Teddy to do the same.

“You know, this school is one big rumor mill and teachers hear things—who’s dating, who’s pregnant, whose parents have split—and we have to decide what to ignore and what to act on.”

He stumbled, trying to find the right words.

“I know you had some… tough times before your mom died. But I also knew you were on the basketball team and had a good relationship with Coach Ramos. I know he takes an interest in his team and talks about more than just sports.”

Barry Cook appeared exasperated… and frustrated.

“But I didn’t see you in the third home game and Coach told me you had to quit to help out at home. I should have reached out to you then, Teddy. I should have been there for you.”

The boy’s brows knitted in confusion.

Barry scrubbed his hand over his jaw.

“I lost my mom when I was nine.”

Teddy stiffened, but remained silent.

“My dad walked out on us when I was five. I was too young to understand it all or how my life was going to change.

We had to move a short time later. We left our big yellow house and moved in with Grams. I cried for a week because we couldn’t take my swing-set. Grams didn’t have a backyard. But it wouldn’t be long before other things would shade my world.”

Teddy was mesmerized hearing his teacher’s story.

“One day, mom stopped going to work. She stopped coming by my school at lunchtime or to evening events… she stopped doing everything.

Grams took care of me. Mom’s sister, Gwen, moved back to town with her family. She had a son and daughter close to my age and they would pick me up for long weekends of family barbecues, trips to amusement parks and museums… all the fun stuff I couldn’t do with my mom.

Aunt Gwen took me home one Sunday and as soon as we got inside, she rushed me off to put my things away. She’d never done that before and I knew something was wrong. I left the room but stood in the hallway to listen to her and Grams.”

“Is she sleeping… or drunk?”

“No, this time’s she high.”

“Mom, what the -”

“Calm down, it’s legal. Something new her doctor says will help with the depression.”

“Pills? But with her drinking -”

“There isn’t a drop of anything in this house. I even got rid of the mouthwash, and I warned that friends of hers, Patty, to not sneak anything else in here or she’d no longer be welcomed or allowed in.”

“What’s going to happen with her, mom? Barry needs his mother.”

“I know, dear, and I agree with you. But depression isn’t something that can be cured with a quick fix. I’m just trying to be there for her… and keep her away from alcohol. And you’ll never know how much I appreciate you and Dean moving back to help with Barry. I could never give him what he needs and be there for his mom.”

“That’s what families do, momma. Speaking of which, has the scum-sucking dog been around?”

“Gwen! What if Barry heard you? You shouldn’t call his father names.”

“Well, has he?”

“Gordon moved out of state right after the divorce papers were signed. Teresa cried for days.”

“I hate him so much.”

“Just when she was getting back to her old self, we saw Kim, Gordon’s cousin at the cleaners. She told us his “new wife” was expecting. Your sister changed that day and hasn’t been the same since.”

“That piece of crap snaps up a new wife and starts a new family without a thought to the beautiful son he already has? Barry deserves better.”

Barry Cook closed his eyes as though he could still see his aunt and grandmother.

“That was eleven days after my eighth birthday and the first time I learned of my mom’s depression and drinking problem.” He shrugged. “I had no clue what depression was just that it kept my mom in bed. I got a crash course sooner than I wanted.”

“That was also the first time I knew my dad was never coming back.”

The pain Teddy Carver saw in his teacher’s eyes caused his chest to tighten even more.

“The pills worked for a while. There were days when mom was like her old self, laughing and telling bad jokes. But there were still bad days. She would sit in one spot and cry without making a sound… just big, fat tears streaming down her face and soaking her clothes. She’d cry so long she would fall asleep from exhaustion and wake up and start all over again. To this day, I still don’t understand the depth of mom’s pain, but it had a strong hold on her and never let go. Four days before my tenth birthday, my mother died of an overdose of pills and alcohol.”

Barry Cook fixed his gaze on Teddy. “And it wasn’t an accident. Mom had just picked up a refill of her pills earlier that day and told Grams she was going to rest a while. Grams found her unconscious right before I got home from school. She called 911… but there was nothing they could do. We found out later she’d taken the entire bottle of pills with a glass of whiskey.”

Teddy winced. Mr. Cook’s mom had wanted to die… just like his mom. He saw a shadow of something pass over his teacher’s face. More pain? Regret? Grief?

The teacher schooled his features, walked over to Teddy and reached up, squeezing his shoulder.

“Son, I won’t insult you by telling you I know how you feel or I’ve been in your shoes. I’m not going to say remember the good times or the pain will get easier…because none of it is true. But what I can tell you is those left behind often are consumed with guilt on top of their grief. Did they miss something? Did they do too much? Too little? But there was nothing you could have done to change this outside of never leaving your mother’s side. And even then, she still could have found a way. So don’t take on the guilt. None of this is your fault.”

Teddy opened his mouth to respond, but choked sobs escaped instead.

“Teddy? It’s gonna be okay, kid… I swear.”

The teen leaned over with his hands on his knees, gulping for air. After a harsh exhale, he raised his head to his teacher.

“You don’t understand. My mom’s gone and it’s my fault.”

Barry froze. His racing pulse made him light-headed and he leaned on the desk as he tried to understand what his student was confessing to.

“My mom is dead because of me.” He gulped for more air. “We argued and I told her I wished she was dead and now she is.”

~~~~~

The conclusion to Left Behind will be posted next week. Thanks for stopping by.

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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