#My52 “The Price of a Life, Part V”

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#My52: Week 6

Word prompt: swing set

Word count – 632

Reading time – 2 mins, 4 secs

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Part V

Dexter Morgan touched the heavy, dust-laden drapes.

Who hung these? Did dad ask them to? Was he trying to hide or block out the world he was no longer part of?

He pulled the drapes open, flooding the room with light.

Like the front yard, the backyard was well-kept, but the empty pool resembled a large bathtub and his swing set was gone.

The swing set had not been a simple toy but more so a covenant between father and son.

During a quick phone call home sixty days before Proctor returned stateside, he’d promised Dex a new swing set.

True to his word, after all the pomp and ceremony of his unit’s return to the base and the fallen were laid to rest, but before the upcoming celebrations with parties, cookouts, and tributes, Proctor made good on his promise.

Waking his son early on a Tuesday, Proctor and Dex enjoyed breakfast together at IHOP. The swing set was never far from his thoughts, but Dex was happy to be with his dad and thrilled when he learned he wasn’t going to school that day.

After breakfast, Proctor drove the two short blocks to Meijer’s Toy World.

Dexter’s heart was in his throat, but his excitement faded when his dad didn’t pull into a parking space.

His disappointment soon mixed with confusion when Proctor pulled up to a door behind the store. A large sign over the door read WILL CALL.

A young man sitting in a windowed office looked in their direction and came outside.

“Pick up today, sir?”

“Yes, for my boy.” Dex watched his dad hand the attendant a slip of paper.

“Whoa. I’m gonna need help with this. Open your truck gate while I grab a couple of coworkers.”

Without a word to his son, Proctor stepped from the truck to open the gate.

Dexter’s young mind tried to process what was happening. He was about to take off his seatbelt and join his father at the back of the truck when a large metal door opened next to where the attendant has been sitting.

The young man and three of his coworkers carried cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes to the truck.

Dex flipped the seatbelt loose and got on his knees staring out the cab’s back window.

“Sure you don’t need assembly for this, sir?”

“Thanks, but we got this.”

Nothing made sense to Dex until two of the men lifted a large box into the truck bed. One of the men jumped into the truck and pushed the large box all the way to the window Dex was staring out of.

That’s when he saw it.

A large, colorful label showed the box contained the main beams and swings for the Gymboree Playland Swing Set.

The noise of his clapping and cheering sounded like a classroom of eight-year-olds instead of just one. The men stopped loading the truck to enjoy the child’s happiness as Proctor walked around the truck to open Dexter’s door.

He leaped from his seat locking his arms around Proctor’s neck.

“You remembered. I thought you forgot, but you didn’t.”

Proctor squeezed his son tight then pulled back to see his face.

“It’s all I could think about. It helped get me back home to you.”

With their eyes brimming with tears, Proctor and Dex leaned their foreheads together, not noticing the four attendants clearing their throats and looking away, moved by the love of a father for his son.

That was the best day of my life. She stole so much from me, but she can’t touch my memories.

Dexter’s jaw hardened. Mr. Gaffney’s simple inquiry into his dad’s VA benefits to find help with Dex’s tuition opened a floodgate of lies and coverups and showed Verna Morgan’s true treachery.

To be continued

Part I     Part II     Part III   Part IV

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

#My52 “The Price of a Life, Part IV”

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#My52: Week 5

Word prompt: knees

Word count – 496

Reading time – 2 mins, 4 secs

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Part IV

Dexter Morgan pleaded with his counselor for several minutes to not call for the school nurse or dial 911.

Jerome Gaffney relented, but only after insisting Dex explain how having to apply for financial aid almost made him pass out.

Dex was reluctant and anxious but knew he had no choice. He had to divulge at least part of his shameful home-life. “We live with my mother’s boyfriend and I don’t know what he does for a living… legally. Simon, my mom’s boyfriend, gambles, I think. I know he’s always looking for high stakes poker games… and always loses.”

He averted his eyes at the scowl on Gaffney’s face and continued.

“She left… we left my dad when I was twelve and I haven’t seen him since.”

The counselor scrubbed a hand down his face. “I’m sorry, son. I wasn’t aware of that. However, he’s still eligible to file for your financial aid. What does he do?”

Dex tilted his head to one side, working up the resolve to speak the words for the first time.

“He died three years ago.”

“Oh, Dexter! I am so sorry, kiddo. I must sound like a heartless troll asking these questions. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you.”

“Not your fault, Mr. Gaffney. You didn’t know. And thank you.”

“May I ask what he died from?”

Dex waved his hand through the air. “Your guess is as good as mine. Ma’s not big on details.”

He leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees. “But it had to be because of his injuries. He was in a wheelchair and the doctors said-”

Gaffney cut him off. “Injuries? Wheelchair? Was he in an accident?”

The boy tried to school his features, but his pain was obvious. “He was wounded in combat. Afghanistan. There was a firefight, lots of wounded. My dad was trying to get a buddy to the medics and took a bullet. It did a lot of damage… and left him partially paralyzed.”

He took deep, measured breaths to fight off the anxiety which always threatened to consume him when he thought of the father he was forced to abandon.

His counselor hadn’t responded and was flipping through file folders on his desk.

“Mr. Gaffney? Is something wrong?”

“You just told me your dad was a veteran, Dexter, and I don’t recall seeing that in your file.”

Dex frowned.

“Ah! Here it is. Mother, Verna Henley-Morgan, 2227 Shamrock Court, Las Vegas. Father, Proctor Morgan, whereabouts unknown.”

Dex sat up straight. “That’s not true. We left my dad at our old house in Bennington, Colorado.”

The counselor blew out a rough breath. “Did your parents divorce?”

“I-I… don’t know. Ma mentioned nothing about it. Is that important?”

“Some parents don’t discuss family finances with their kids, but either way, you’re entitled to benefits.”

“Benefits? What does that mean? For college?”

Gaffney chuckled as he pulled out new forms. “At the very least, Dexter, at the very least.”

To be continued

Part I     Part II     Part III

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

#My52 “The Price of a Life, Part III”

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#My52: Week 4

Word prompt: tacos

Word count – 1062

Reading time – 1 mins, 34 secs

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Part III

Focused on his studies, Dex pushed thoughts of his early morning from his mind. School was the only thing he had going for him and he didn’t know how, but he was determined to have a better life.

Verna Morgan’s words didn’t return to his mind until he passed the counseling center next to the library at the end of the school day.

His mind raced as he weighed his options.

I have nowhere to stay… not even a friend to bunk with for a day or two until I figure things out.

He peered through the large office window and spotted his school advisor.

Jerome Gaffney was an okay counselor, even if he was stuck in the eighties in appearance and language, and Dexter knew he would try to help. But he was a minor and that help would involve foster care or worse, juvenile hall.

Deciding to check area shelters on his own before approaching Mr. Gaffney, Dex left the building and headed across the school parking lot toward downtown.

“Dexter?”

Startled, Dex looked around the parking lot. He froze when he saw Simon standing next to the rundown Explorer. His mother sat in the passenger seat, channeling Audrey Hepburn, but the scarf and sunglasses couldn’t mask the damage caused by  Simon.

“Dexter?”

“Why are you here, ma?”

“I’m sorry, baby-”

“We’re sorry,” Simon piped in.

She continued. “I don’t want you to leave. I can’t bear the thought of my baby sleeping on the streets-”

“I can’t do this anymore, ma. The screaming, the fighting. You can’t expect me to just sit there while he beats you.” He tilted his head toward Simon while still focused on his mother. “It’s wrong and I can’t live like that anymore. It’s better this way.”

Verna removed her sunglasses and Dex’s stomach roiled.

Despite the distance between them, he couldn’t miss the array of colors in her face.

The dark bruising around her left eye feathered to purple on her temple. Her patrician nose held a greenish bump on the bridge, proof it was broken. The ruby red lipstick did little to hide the blood blister in the corner of her mouth or the split next to it.

“Your… face.”

She averted her eyes, replacing the sunglasses.

“It will get better. We will do better, baby. I promise.”

“We promise.”

Dex was unmoved by Simon’s half-hearted promise, but his mother’s concern did appear genuine.

He turned his gaze to Simon for the first time while taking hesitant steps to the vehicle.

The con man’s raised eyebrows satisfied Dex his unspoken threat was received.

He climbed into the Explorer’s back seat and hadn’t closed the door before Verna turned around, bouncing and excited.

“It’s all-you-can-eat tacos day at Nina’s Taqueria. Let’s go clean them out!”

“Love the sound of that, baby. We gotta take care of our boy.”

Our boy.

Dex looked out the window to hide his eye-roll.

For five years, Simon called him by name or your son when speaking to Verna. Nothing else.

Something wasn’t right.

 

“Congratulations, Dexter! You’re one of the first students to receive an acceptance letter from UNLV.”

The teenager accepted Jerome Gaffney’s handshake with a smile, holding back a belly laugh. The man had an amazing resemblance to one of the Bee Gees.

“The registrar is impressed with your grades and knows you’ll be an asset to the psychiatry program.”

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate all your help with the application.”

Dexter gripped the arms of the chair trying to conceal his excitement. In a few short months, he’d be a student on the Las Vegas campus of the University of Nevada.

And away from his mother and Simon… for good.

The violence at home hadn’t stopped. They waited until Dexter was gone to fight, but Verna… and the apartment always showed the telltale signs of Simon unleashing his anger.

“Dexter?”

“I’m sorry, sir. What?”

“Where’d you go, kiddo? You were a million miles away.”

“Sorry. Just excited, I guess.”

“Well, you have every right to be. A good percentage of our senior classes continue their education after high school, but few make the grades for UNLV.” His smiled waned. “I know it hasn’t been easy for you, son. I was an introvert as a teenager too and I know what you’re up against. It’s one of the reasons I ended up here. To help all students because I’ll never forget what it was like to be invisible.”

His counselor was a good man, but Dex couldn’t help but wonder how many students dealing with issues not connected with school or students suffering from depression and anxiety the kind man had helped.

“You will receive a ton of mail from the school before your graduation, but before we get to that, let’s go over your financial aid packet.”

Dex frowned. “My what?”

“Financial aid… to pay for your tuition.”

“I don’t understand. My acceptance letter said they awarded me scholarships from the school.”

“Yes, you were.” He looked over a computer printout. “And with your grade point average, you’re on target to receive one or two more from the school board.”

Jerome Gaffney laid the paper aside and folded his hands on his desk.

“But son, it’s not enough for a psychiatry major. That includes medical school.”

Dexter’s buzz of excitement slowed to a dull ache throbbing near his temples.

“What do I need to do?”

The counselor pushed a large envelope across the desk.

“That’s the application for federal financial aid. I’ll highlight the most important parts, then you can give it to your parents. They have plenty of time to complete it before the school’s first College Night.”

“My parents? Can’t I fill it out?”

“Household income, tax returns, monthly obligations… sorry, kiddo. That’s gotta come from mom and dad.”

Gaffney continued to talk, but Dex didn’t hear him.

The throbbing in his head grew to a loud roar, and the bile rose from his stomach.

His mother hadn’t worked in his whole life. They lived with her hustler boyfriend. There was no household income, just occasional wins at the card table he was sure Simon couldn’t put on any tax return.

The lump in his throat made swallowing difficult.

He’d never get financial aid. Never get into UNLV. Never get away from Verna and Simon.

Dex inhaled through his nose and gripped the chair arms when his vision blurred, then faded.

Just like his future.

 

To be continued

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

#My52 “The Price of a Life, Part II”

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#My52: Week 3

Word prompt: wheelchair

Word count – 867

Reading time – 2 mins, 12 secs

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Part II

Consumed with hopelessness, Dex withdrew into his mind, immersing himself in schoolwork and dreams of being reunited with his father.

Months stretched into years and Dexter Morgan turned seventeen in a dusty, two-bedroom flat miles off the Las Vegas strip.

There was no cake or celebration.

Dex woke to the latest argument between his mother and Simon.

Sitting on the edge of his bed, he covered his ears with his hands.

I hate my life.

Resigned to his lot, he went to his closet, sorting through his meager wardrobe for jeans that wouldn’t show his ankles and a shirt that wasn’t threadbare.

Dex was walking down the hallway to the shower when he heard the slap.

His hands clenched into tight fists, gripping his jeans.

Why does she put up with it? Why are we still here? This isn’t a family.

Verna Morgan’s groans broke through his thoughts.

He continued on to the bathroom, his steps slow and labored.

He’d interfered before… tried to stop the yelling and the punches by putting himself between his mother and her boyfriend… and always came out the loser.

I’ll get dressed and leave. He will kill her one day and I refuse to witness it.

His hand was on the bathroom doorknob when he heard a harsh exhale from his mother.

And another… and another.

Dex fell against the door, hit by a wave of nausea and dizziness.

His eyes burned with unshed tears as Simon continued to deliver the body punches to the woman he said he loved.

Opening his mouth for a deep breath, Dex clamped his lips closed, fighting off the bile threatening to erupt from his belly.

He dropped his jeans and raced into the ramshackle living room.

Simon held Verna against the wall with one hand as he drew back his fist for yet another blow.

Dex crossed the room in two steps, grabbing the man’s fist.

“No more.”

Without releasing Verna, Simon turned his head. His eyes bore the darkness of evil and spittle flew from his lips when he spoke.

“Have you lost your damn mind? Let go, boy… now!”

Dexter’s face was the picture of calm as he tightened his hold on the older man’s fist and threw him across the room.

Simon crashed into the wall, overturning the corner lamp while a bruised and bloody Verna slid to the floor.

Propelled by rage, the teenager approached his mother’s lover.

Dexter had never raised his hands in anger to anyone. He’d taken the abuse and bullying at home and at every school he’d ever attended.

But as Dex loomed over the prone man, Simon raised his head and Dex saw fear… of him.

Today, his seventeenth birthday, Dexter Morgan realized he was no longer that frightened twelve-year-old boy snatched away from his father. Life had given him nothing in the last five years, but that didn’t stop nature from giving him seven more inches in height and sixty pounds.

With little effort, he lifted Simon from the floor, energized by the growing horror in the older man’s eyes.

“Every time you beat her, I hit you.” He delivered a brutal gut punch to his mother’s abuser, then dropped him in a heap and ran to Verna as her moans grew louder.

“Don’t move, ma. You need help. I’m calling 911.”

She struggled to respond.

“No, don’t. I’m fine.”

“You’re not, ma. Hang on while-”

“No.”

Her voice was light and raspy but determined.

“I’ll be fine. Just help me up.”

Dex lifted her and laid her on the ratty, stain-covered sofa.

“Ma, you’re a mess. You need a doctor.”

“I said no. You shouldn’t have interfered, Dexter. Simon was just blowing off steam. I pushed him too far.”

Dexter’s jaws tightened, his rage threatening to boil over. Once again, she was blaming herself for Simon’s sins.

“You won’t be happy until he beats the life right out of you, will you?”

“Dexter James! Do not speak that way to your mother.”

“Oh, you get mad at me for speaking the truth but it’s okay if that piece of shit knocks you around-”

“You don’t understand.”

“You’re right, ma, I don’t, and I never will. But as long as I’m here, he doesn’t get to beat on you.”

“Then… maybe you shouldn’t be here.”

Her words cut him to the quick, choking his response.

“W-What do you m-mean, ma? I s-shouldn’t be here?”

“I don’t need you butting into my business and throwing Simon around. You didn’t hurt him, did you?”

Dex’s blood ran cold. The last vestiges of the frightened twelve-year-old boy skittered to the dark corners of his mind and huddled next to his stolen childhood.

“He can still walk so not near as bad as I wanted to, ma. But I’m out. I’ll leave you two to your little unhappily ever after.”

He stormed from the room, grabbing his jeans from the hallway floor. Forgetting about his shower, Dex threw on his clothes and dumped an extra pair of jeans into his backpack with his books.

Dex walked away from the musty apartment ignoring Verna’s weak pleas for him to come back.

She made her choice, and it wasn’t him.

 

To be continued

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

#My52 “The Price of a Life”

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#My52: Week 2

Word prompt: wheelchair

Word count – 503

Reading time – 2 mins, 4 secs

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Part I

A thick layer of dust covered the piano his mother forced him to practice thirteen years ago.

Dex ran his hand over the keys.

I hated this piano. I hated practicing.

His shoulders slumped as he plunked a key.

The stiffness of the key and the angry tone of the chord spoke to the years of disuse.

Like him, the piano sat, waiting for concern and interest from anyone.

Dexter Morgan wandered into the kitchen and felt like he’d traveled back in time.

Everything was the same… the linoleum, countertops, cabinets… even the toaster. The only thing missing was the thirteen-inch television he watched cartoons on while shoveling down spoonfuls of Malt-o-Meal.

Dex pushed through the swinging café doors and took in the once bright and sunny dining room.

Heavy, dark green drapes hung on the far wall of glass, blocking out any hint of daylight. A worn, wooden rocking chair sat in the corner, covered in as much dust as the piano.

A hospital bed sat in the room’s center, stripped and unplugged.

He was ready to leave this room… to leave this house, but the bed called to him like a siren luring him closer.

He grazed his hand over the plastic mattress, and it felt as cold and empty as his heart.

His mother told him his father had died eleven years old—two years after she dragged him from this house. They were going away with Simon; the man Verna Morgan started an affair with after his father deployed again to the middle-east.

But she lied.

Verna lied about everything and made him endure a hellish childhood, all for money.

His father’s money. The price he’d put on his own life.

Dex remembered the last time he saw Proctor Morgan—sitting in his wheelchair in the front doorway.

Father and son exchanged one last glance, both their faces wet with tears, before Verna shoved the twelve-year-old into the back seat of Simon’s Ford Explorer.

“Dexter, please stop crying. This is for the best. Your father will be fine.”

“We’re leaving him all alone, mom–”

“He has nurses and caregivers to help–”

“I don’t want to leave him–”

“Enough! Your father will spend the rest of his life in that wheelchair and he can barely use his hands. Am I just supposed to sacrifice the rest of my life to feed him and wipe his ass?”

She’d leaned in close to her son, speaking low and slow.

“I deserve a life, Dexter. I deserve nice things and traveling to new places. I deserve a man who’s a man. Simon will give me that life. Now, I don’t want to hear any more about it.”

Dex winced and leaned on the bed, the memories still fresh and painful.

Simon’s good life had been a new address every six months. The wannabe-gangster ran cons, scams, and lost big playing poker.

Every time he lost, Simon took it out on Verna, and she would pass the bruises on to Dex.

To be continued

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

#My52 Writing Challenge 2019

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It’s a brand new year… are you ready for a new writing challenge?

In 2017, I participated in the 52-Week Writing Challenge (and was the randomly chosen winner) and in 2018, I did the #52weeks52stories Writing Challenge.

When I asked around about a writing challenge for 2019, none popped up, so I decided to go my own way, and you’re invited to join me!

If you’ve participated in any type of writing challenge, you’re already aware of what a useful writing tool they can be. If you’ve come to an impasse in your current WIP, stepping away for a moment to focus on something else can sort through the cobwebs, flick on the light, or move the forest so you can see the trees.

Parts of a current WIP can also be used in a writing challenge. The difficulty of character profiles, scenes, world building, and even book blurbs can disappear when task are tackled as flash fiction.

As the Queen of Many Wurdz and champion of the run-on sentence, I took part in challenges to focus on short stories.  I needed to focus on telling a complete story in as few words as possible. I’m partial to longer standalone books, but not everyone wants to read a 180K epic psychological family saga.

Okay, I lied. I don’t either.

So, after 70+ short stories, how am I doing? It’s an ongoing process. 🙂

What I enjoy most about writing challenges is the accountability. Someone is watching, keeping me honest, cheering me on during the good weeks, and talking me off the ledge during the bad ones. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but many times it helps to get out of your own head.

What are the rules for #My52? That’s the best part—there aren’t any.

  • Writing in any form counts. Haiku, Poetry, Drabble, Flash, short story… they’re all welcome.
  • Genres are also limitless. Suspense, Mystery, Romance, LGBT, Fantasy, Science Fiction, YA… it’s your choice.
  • The writing week is Monday through Friday with postings on Saturday and Sunday. (Posting earlier in the current week is acceptable too.)
  • Tweet a link to your post with the hashtag #My52 for retweets and likes

OR

  • Grab the banner at the top and link back to this page and I’ll feature your post during the challenge.

Don’t let the word challenge stress you. It’s not a contest and the challenge is only against yourself… to keep you writing-focused.

Life gets crazy and cluttered, so do not beat yourself up if you miss a week. Keep writing!

Word counts can be anywhere from a 17-syllable Haiku to a multi-week short story.

Have fun with it. Write outside your form or genre—I’m not a paranormal writer and I wrote paranormal stories last year and enjoyed doing it.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments or find me on Twitter – @MsFelicia, or Instagram – @fle_d.

Happy 2019… and happy writing!

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#52weeks52stories “Soar”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 25

Word prompt: ash

Word count  – 1200 words;   Reading Time – 3:30 mins

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Feu soared through the sky, the chill of early morning giving him energy and spurring him on.

He flew higher, touching the edge of the atmosphere where the air was the thinnest before swooping down to the clouds.

Stretching his wings wide, Feu closed his eyes, gliding along the blustery troposphere, wishing his brothers were at his side.

Moto and Kasai would challenge each other to races until exhaustion took them. Huŏ, the youngest, would pepper him with endless questions about their heritage.

But these were troubled times for the Kuen Kingdom. There was little time for fun and enjoyment or taking mates and raising families as long as their existence was threatened.

Guilt filled Feu’s mind and enveloped his body. He turned back, ashamed at the time he took for himself.

It was a luxury he couldn’t afford.

The humans were restless again and whenever that happened, his kind suffered.

Feu didn’t understand the small minds of men. The Ajidaar owned the earth and sky long before man existed. But since their arrival, there had been nothing but chaos and turmoil, strife, and death.

Through the ages, men would approach Clan Kuen in the name of friendship, but the clan would soon learn they only sought the help of the Ajidaar to dispense with a nastier adversary.

Once the clan restored peace and order to the land, humans would turn on them, proclaiming them their new enemy, saying the Ajidaar were too powerful to exist.

Feu’s kind was difficult to kill but it could be done.

Clan Kuen lost many lives over the centuries, hunted because of the ridiculous lies of men.

It wasn’t enough to kill the Ajidaar, but those who ruled over the masses created mythic legends that Kuen livers gave men the strength of gods, and their hearts were aphrodisiacs inciting hours of endless sexual pleasure.

Anger and grief burned in Feu’s chest at the number of clan members found down through the ages, killed and gutted because of a lie.

It was an awful end to life for any being, but heartbreaking for the proud, peaceful Kuen, who by nature were nonviolent.

No other species on the planet had ever challenged the Kuen, allowing them to live in peace.

Humans arrived without fanfare and the Kuen took little notice. Men appeared to have the same concerns as all other life forces. Survival and nurturing their families was their main priority.

Three hundred years passed and the mindset of humans shifted. They became arrogant and self-righteous, obsessed with accumulating wealth and power.

It disgusted the Kuen the way men treated each other. War, slavery, oppression, and deceit were the weapons of the ruling classes. Kuen regretted the loss of human life but it was not their place to tell others how to live.

And they remained silent.

Feu grimaced remembering how safe his clan believed they were. However, they soon learned the greed of men was insatiable.

The humans took more and more land, cutting down trees and clearing hundreds of acres to build castles and erect ridiculous monuments to themselves.

Unwilling to take human lives, Kuen retreated from Talvara, their lush green valley of meadows, hollows, and sweet water streams to the caves and peaks of Mt. Labha.

But possessing the land was still not enough for men. They craved dominance over every living thing… and pursued the Kuen.

Feu’s grandfather, Pitav, had enough. He called a meeting of the surrounding clans and the K’eyi Filageni from the north and the Kizil Jalin from the south answered the call. The Kemp Jvolayo in the east was already too weak and diminished to fight.

The Ajidaar vowed the Kemp Jvolayo would reclaim their strength in numbers and dignity. They would sacrifice no more clan lives to spare those who sought to enslave or exterminate them.

The next attack of men was met with the full force of the united Ajidaar.

Humans were devastated and barricaded themselves behind high stone walls for centuries, leaving Ajidaar in peace.

Now history was repeating itself.

Arrogant men once again sought to defeat and dominate the Ajidaar, the wisdom of their elders and fear of failure faded with the passage of time.

Feu’s clan called for war, but he wasn’t ready to risk Ajidaar lives.

Startled from his thoughts, Feu’s keen hearing picked up Moto’s battle roar from miles away.

Thrusting forward, Feu cleared the mountain range and saw the reason for his brother’s call to fight.

Humans had Huŏ trapped at the opening of his lair.

Coils of Juzum Sabagi layered Huŏ’s huge body, and the humans continued to throw more, intent on not allowing Huŏ to take flight.

Juzum Sabagi was the sticky vine of the kooh fruit and once it adhered to something, the only way to remove it was with the oil of the kunvara plant.

Struggling against the vine only made it worse.

Feu saw the resigned look in his little brother’s eyes as he slumped over and waited for death.

Above the mouth of the cave, men labored to roll large boulders into place to rain down on Huŏ until his hearts stopped.

Like Pitav centuries before, Feu had enough.

At seven-hundred-years of age, Huŏ was still a young-ling learning his way and staking his place in Ajidaar life.

Feu would not allow that life to end today.

Dipping low, he released his own battle roar as Moto and Kasai arrived from the opposite direction.

They saw their brother’s lower wings extend and followed suit. The trio circled each other once as their eyes took on the golden glow of battle.

A slight head tilt from Feu and they each knew their target.

Moto went for the trail of humans rushing from the village to celebrate and feast on Huŏ’s organs.

Kasai headed for the motley group above the lair still pushing boulders of death into position.

The mouth of the cave belonged to Feu. Those who dared violate and sabotage his brother’s home to take his life would lose theirs this day.

The Ajidaar battle roars filled the air as the brothers of the Kuen summoned the smoldering fire from the pits of their bellies.

Flying low, they opened their mouths wide and unleashed a scalding rain of fire incinerating everything in their path, leaving only a trail of ash.

Later, as clan members arrived with kunvara oil to free Huŏ, Feu sat on the peak above the lair surveying the devastation.

Charred ashes floated away on midday breezes and Feu’s mind was uneasy.

He should feel victorious. No Ajidaar were harmed and his brother still lived.

But more men would come. They always did, and death soon followed.

A single tear rolled down Feu’s scaly face, sizzling against his still hot skin.

He wept for the future of the Ajidaar knowing they would never again live in peace.

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

~~~~~

#52weeks52stories “Left Behind – Conclusion”

left behind photo

#52weeks52stories: Week 24

Word prompt: anchor

Word count  – 4629;  Reading Time  – 5 mins

Part 1

~~~~~

New tears threatened to spill from Teddy’s eyes and Barry chose his next words with care.

“You know that’s not possible, right? Your mom isn’t gone because of a wish.”

Teddy dragged his arm across his face wiping away the unshed tears.

“Some of the guys from the basketball team came by my house after practice the day before my mom… the day we argued.

They had all ignored me since I’d quit the team without telling them why. Couldn’t very well tell them I had to babysit my schizophrenic mother, could I? Coach got wind of them giving me the silent treatment and told them I was needed at home and that was all they needed to know. I was shocked to open my door and find them there with pizzas and sodas. We fell back into our old rhythm and it felt good to hang out with the guys again.

Then the singing started.

Mom only did that when she missed taking her meds. I rushed to her bedroom and she wasn’t there. I was on my way to check the other bedrooms when I saw the side door to the sun-porch was open. I bolted out the door and there she was… dancing around like she was at a party…naked.”

The past hit Barry like a punch in the gut. Teresa Cook had never shed her clothes—because she’d been banished to her bedroom before she could—but there had been more hysterical drunken episodes and bouts of hyper-mania than he cared to remember. He’d had Grams and Aunt Gwen to handle things. Teddy had been alone that day.

“I ripped off my shirt and raced toward her.” He flung an arm out to the side. “She thought we were playing some stupid game and ran. When I chased her down, she fought me and said I was ruining the party and I was too young to be so boring.  We fought until I got the t-shirt on her. She started to run again, but we were startled by Chris. He’d grabbed a throw from the sofa and bought it outside. He never looked at mom, just held out the throw to me, and said he and the guys were taking off and would check on me later.”

“I’d never been more grateful and embarrassed in my life. I couldn’t speak… I just nodded at him like an idiot.”

The history teacher watched his student short pace around the desks, words tumbling from him faster and faster.

“I turned to grab mom’s hand and get her inside and she smacked it away. That’s when we argued.”

Teddy stopped his pacing and leaned against the window ledge.

“She tore into me about how rude Chris was for not introducing himself and staying for the party… and I just lost it. I screamed there was no party and Chris was trying to help without causing anyone any more embarrassment.”

He chuckled, and Barry didn’t miss the fact it contained no joy.

“Mom told me I was being dramatic and there was no reason for me to be embarrassed. I reminded her of the time she ran into traffic and tried to drag some guy from his car claiming he’d stolen her father’s car… and my grandfather died before I was born. And there was the time she ran into the Toeller Building downtown, took the elevator up to the eleventh floor and turned it off. When maintenance finally got her out, she was hysterical and said the mean girls were after her for dating the captain of the football team.”

Teddy Carver slid down the wall to the floor just as new tears rolled down his cheeks.

“But I wasn’t done… nope. I reminded her how she was banned from all the adult day care programs for always running away, and how none of the home nursing agencies would even take our calls anymore.”

He buried his face in his hands, his body wracked with sobs.

Barry knew the boy’s pain and had worn the same guilt. He needed to get the teen out of the building and find his father.

“Teddy, nothing you’ve said or done is new or wrong. You’re human, and you’re a kid with adult responsibilities.”

Not hearing his teacher, Teddy continued, his voice now flat and void of emotion.

“Mom brushed past me, said she was going inside to speak to my dad about my attitude. She didn’t believe me when I told her he was at work. We’ve had that talk before. She knows he hates working nights, but a night-time shift manager makes almost twice as much as a day-time foreman. The company’s insurance sucks and deductibles for mom’s doctors and medicine are huge. He didn’t have a choice.”

“Sounds like the argument between you and your mom was calming down though.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too. But when I took her hand to lead her inside she pulled back again and said she wanted Mrs. Butler to take care of her not me.”

“Mrs. Butler?”

“She lives one street over from us. A retired nurse from one of the adult day care programs mom was in. She took care of mom during the day for months… almost a year. But our luck was balanced on a house of cards. Mom was banned from care programs, dad got a position at night, and Mrs. Butler’s husband was diagnosed with colon cancer… so I had to quit basketball to be with my mom.”

Barry sat on the floor next to his student. “Then what happened?”

“She started singing again… and dancing. She said I was trying to trick her like Mrs. Butler did when she’d hide pills in the pretty pink punch.”

Barry Cook appeared calm, but his mind was reeling at what all this seventeen-year-old kid went through.

“Mom claimed I was trying to make her feel bad because I was jealous of her life. I told her I couldn’t be jealous of her life because it was the only life I had.”

“What did she say to that?”

He leaned his head back against the wall. “She called me Theodore the bore.”

“Teddy, I cannot be -”

“I snapped. I grabbed her arm and dragged her inside all the way to her room. I made her take her pills, put her in bed and told her not to call my name or get up before dad got home. She got really snarky… said maybe she’d go to sleep and just not wake up. That would solve everyone’s problems if she wasn’t there to be such a burden. I turned to leave the room and she screamed, “Say it, Theodore, say it! You wish I was dead, don’t you?”

I didn’t answer. I had to get out of that room and away from her.” He shook his head. “But she wouldn’t let it go. She jumped out of bed and ran into the hall behind me, pushing me, punching me in the back and arms.” He mimicked his late mother’s voice, “C’mon, Theodore. Say it. This is your day of truth to share your feelings so, say it.”

“Had your mom ever acted that way before? Lost control? Hit you?”

Teddy pulled his long legs toward his chest, resting his arms on his knees. “She experienced mania but I can’t remember her ever being so angry and confrontational before.” He stared at his hands but continued, his words weighted with regret. “But I was different too.”

 

Deanna Carver jumped in front of her son, blocking his path. He was half a foot taller than his mother, but at five-feet-eleven, Deanna could be an imposing figure.

“Stop walking away, Theodore, I want an answer.”

His bottom lip trembled as he searched her face for the mother from his childhood. The woman who took him on field trips after school and made him eat green vegetables. Before everything changed.

“No, momma. I don’t wish you were anywhere but here with dad and me.”

His words didn’t ease the hardness in her face and the anger and defiance in her eyes confused him.

“But things would be better for you… and us if you’d just take your pills when you’re supposed to. We could all -”

She cut him off.

“Take my pills? You want me to take the pills? Fine.”

Deanna whirled around, storming back into her bedroom, with her son on her heels.

“Theodore wants me to take the pills so he can have a happy life.” She grabbed the bottle of Thioridazine from the nightstand.

“Momma, what are you doing? You just took your meds not ten minutes ago.” He reached for the bottle and she swatted his hand away.

“I may be a crazy mother, but not so crazy I don’t want my child to be happy.” Deanna bested the child-proof cap and emptied the bottle into her palm.

“Mom!”

He grabbed his mother’s wrist.

Pills fell to the floor, but Deanna clenched the majority in her fist. “This is what you wanted, Theodore.”

Teddy worked to pry her fist open. “Mom stop this or I’m calling dad and your doctor.”

“Go right ahead! Call them both. They want me to take the pills too.”

Teddy cried out in pain and yanked his hand back to see the reddened area where his mother pinched him. Turning his attention back to her, Teddy saw his mother raising the handful of pills to her mouth. He drew back and punched her hand while pushing her onto the bed with his other hand. Teddy fell to his knees. Biting his bottom lip to hold back the sobs, he crawled around the floor scooping up pills and returning them to the bottle.

Deanna sat up on the edge of her bed clutching her right hand to her chest. “You hit me.”

Refusing to look at her, Teddy continued to scramble around the floor in search of loose pills, his resolve weakening. “I did not hit you, Mom. I knocked your hand away to keep you from doing something craz – “He caught himself.

“Crazy? Go ahead and say it, Theodore. We’re being honest, remember?”

“Mom, just lie down, please? We both need to step back and calm down. Dad’s halfway through his shift and if you rest a while and sleep, when you wake up he’ll be home. Okay?”

“And then what? More pills? More goodnight, Deanna? He’ll give me that puppy dog look of his and try to feed me and talk to me… beg me to share my feelings. He’ll kiss my forehead and hug me tight, telling me everything will be okay.”

Teddy’s anger flared. He rose to his knees and pointed an accusing finger. “Stop it, momma! Be mad at me, yell at me, fight me, but do not mock dad!”

“Don’t mock your dad?” She laughed, her tone high-pitched and lyrical as the hysteria returned. “Big Brandon Carver won the girl and made her his wife, but all he got was a dud for life.” Her laughter went even higher, reaching keening levels.

Teddy jumped to his feet, rage causing him to sway. “How can you make fun of him like that? He loves you, momma. You’re everything to him.”

Her laughter stopped. She widened her eyes while tilting her head to the side. “Guess it sucks to be him.” Amused by her own remark, Deanna fell back onto the bed laughing like a school girl.

Standing to his full height, Teddy’s supply of resolve was gone… and so was his mother. He no longer cared about the psychotic woman on the bed who mocked his father and had to get away from her now. Clenching the bottle of recovered pills in a tight fist, Teddy backed toward the door. Her shrill laughter continued, assaulted him with each breath, dulling his reason until all he wanted was to make her hurt and defend his father.

Pausing his steps, Teddy addressed his mother, his deep voice filling the room to get her attention.

“When I said I didn’t want you anywhere but here with dad and me? That was a lie, mom. Every time you had one of your episodes and ran off, dad was frantic, desperate to find you and bring you home… to keep you safe. People would look at him, their eyes filled with pity, but he didn’t care, he just wanted his wife home with him. I did too when I was younger. But after you ran out into traffic and assaulted that poor man, I was done.”

Deanna sat up again on the edge of the bed, no longer laughing.

“I know you’re sick, momma… I get it. But after that day every time you had an episode, I wondered how you lived through it. Why you were still alive.” He backed up two more steps toward the door. “So, yeah, ma’. Sometimes… sometimes I do feel life would be easier if you weren’t here.”

After delivering his cruel words, Teddy turned to leave the room.

“Theodore?”

He froze in place but didn’t turn around.

“I’m sorry.”

“You always are, mom.”

 

He’d leaned his head back against the wall again. His eyes were closed, but tears streamed down Teddy Carver’s face.

Barry Cook remained silent, knowing the boy had to tell his story.

“I lost track of time… just sat in the family room crying. And they were selfish tears. They weren’t for mom or even dad, they were for me and why I couldn’t have a normal mom and a normal life. I thought about how I would tell dad about what happened when he got home, and then it was his voice, loud and clear in my head.

“If you think we’re tired and frustrated, son, just think about how much worse it is for your mother. She doesn’t want to be this way, but she can never escape it. There is no cure for a damaged mind. Those pills make her appear in control but what they actually do is make her manageable. Inside, the voices and hysteria… her pain and anguish are all still there. They never leave her.”

“I knew that. I knew all of that. But I let my anger and pride get the better of me. I was so ashamed and knew I had to apologize to my mom. I ran to her room, but she was asleep. I was going to sit next to the bed until she woke up when I heard the front door. My dad was home, and now I had to face him.

One look at his son’s face and Brandon Carver knew… Deanna had another episode.

“What happened?”

“She didn’t take her meds. I found her in the backyard… naked.” He rushed toward his father. “I’m sorry, dad. I should have watched her closer, made sure she took her medicine. But… some of the guys from the team were here and I was distracted. I’m so sorry.”

Brandon fell into his recliner, raking his hands over his close-cropped, dark curls.

“This isn’t your fault, Teddy. None of it is. I’ve put too much responsibility on you, but I didn’t know what else to do.”

“She’s my mom. Of course, I’m supposed to help with her.”

“Help, yes. Fix her a meal. Watch a movie with her, not stand guard to keep her from running away or hurting herself. Not devote all your non-school time to her because she’s banned from everywhere because of her behavior.”

His exhale was loud and harsh as he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “We talked about this, Teddy. It’s time.”

“Dad, no -”

“We agreed, Teddy. One more bad episode and we’d find residential care for your mom.”

“We can’t lock her away, dad, we can’t.”

“If we don’t, son, the day’s going to come when the state will.”

“But – “

“I have to work an early shift tomorrow. Mrs. Butler will take care of your mom. I’ll arrange for a few days off and next week we’ll find a place… a nice place close-by where we can visit whenever we want.”

“Dad – “

“Go to bed, son, you have school tomorrow.”

 

“It was the longest walk of my life. I started down the hallway but turned to try and change his mind one more time. He’d picked up their wedding photo from the end-table and was just staring at it… his face covered in tears.”

Barry reached over, squeezing Teddy’s shoulder. “I can’t imagine what it took… or felt like for your father to make that decision.”

“I didn’t think about that at the time. I was back in good old self-pity land. I tossed and turned the rest of the night, then jumped up and left for school an hour later, not having the guts to face either of my parents.” He turned his head and Barry was gutted by the self-hate he saw in his student’s eyes. His memories of his own self-hate exacerbated the pain.

“By second period, I knew I was the worst son on the planet and couldn’t wait for the day to end. I had to get home to my family… while we were still a family.” Sobs choked his next words. “But I was too late.”

Barry schooled his features to mask his own emotions but nodded once for Teddy to continue.

“Mrs. Butler’s van wasn’t in our driveway when I got home, but I didn’t think anything of it. Sometimes she took mom to the market. I found out later her husband had to be hospitalized and Mrs. Butler never got to our house.”

“I went inside and found all the drapes still closed. The omelet dad made for mom every morning was still on the warmer. I knew something was wrong.”

“The family room was empty, and mom’s bed was unmade. She never left her bed unmade. I was going to call Mrs. Butler but decided going over to her house was better. I headed to my room to leave my backpack and change… and saw the door to the sun porch was open.” He shook his head. “I didn’t believe mom would leave the house open and unsecured, but I knew Mrs. Butler wouldn’t. I ran out the door praying I didn’t find my mom dancing around naked again. Our yard was empty. Mom was nowhere in sight.

I heard this… this creaking sound behind me. I turned toward the sound and there was my mother… hanging from a rope thrown over a beam. I screamed and ran to her, trying to hold her up… to get her down, but I couldn’t do both. I couldn’t do anything… so I let go. Her body sagged against the rope and I fell down in horror… as though I was killing her myself. I stared up at her. Her beautiful face… all bloated and purple. Her eyes. Her eyes were open. Seeing nothing but yet staring at me…”

Teddy Carver slumped over, his body heavy with guilt and wracked with sobs.

Barry grabbed the boy and held on, not knowing where Teddy’s tears ended and his began.

The teen pulled away, clutching at his chest. “She’s dead because of me. Because of what I said.”

“Teddy, stop it and listen to me. I’m not a doctor but I know a bit about suicide and not just because my mom killed herself.”

The youth wiped his nose on his sleeve and tried to focus on his teacher.

“Everybody has a theory about suicide. It’s selfish, it’s revenge, it’s a coward’s way out. Suicide may be all of those things or none of them. Even the experts can’t agree on them. But what I can tell you is most people who commit suicide thought about it before and more than once. And, most people have a plan and those plans do not center around anyone but themselves.” He leaned closer to Teddy, hoping he was hearing his words… and praying they were true. “You argued with your mom and said things you regret. But, Teddy, your mother did not kill herself to make you happy or solve your dad’s problems. No matter what either of you said or did, her pain… her torment was inside her and she brought an end to it the only way she could.”

Looking more like a seven-year-old than a young man about to turn eighteen, Teddy rested his head on Barry’s shoulder. “I want her back. I want my mom.”

“I know you do, son. I know you do.”

He stood and pulled Teddy up from the floor. “Where’s your dad?”

“Home. He hasn’t been able to go back to work since… the funeral. He’s shut down. He won’t talk to me… or listen.”

Barry took his student’s arm leading him to the door. “I’m taking you home. He’s going to listen today, but even if he won’t, it doesn’t mean we can’t find you some help. You cannot ruin your life over misplaced guilt. It can’t happen. I won’t allow it.”

Teddy’s brow knitted in confusion as Barry looked out into the hallway.

“Just a few stragglers left. Go across the hall to the men’s room and wash up. I’ll let my wife know I’m going to be late.”

Still confused, Teddy did as he was told, holding on to the hope his dad would, at last, listen to him today.

Barry Cook closed the classroom door and pulled out his cell phone as he walked to his desk. He typed out the short text to his wife, letting her know he talked to the student he’d told her about and would explain it all later.

After pressing Send, his cell dropped to his desk, followed by a stream of tears.

Barry knew Teddy Carver’s pain… all of it.

He didn’t know Teresa Cook or Deanna Carver’s pain. No one ever would.

But Barry Cook had a better understanding of suicide than most people. He didn’t approve of it. He hated it. But, he understood.

He knew firsthand the feelings of endless despair. Of being afraid you’ll never be happy again. He knew of the malicious voices inside teasing and taunting.

Barry was the boy no one wanted. Not worthy enough for his father to stay, not worthy enough for his mother to live.

Grams died right before Barry’s fourteenth birthday and he never felt more alone. Aunt Gwen and Uncle Dean took him in and even wanted to adopt him. But to Barry, it was out of obligation not love. Who could love him? Why would they want to? His own parents didn’t even stick around.

The next year saw Barry isolating himself, slipping farther into the darkness. He saw his uncle cleaning his gun one day and tried to seem uninterested while watching his every move. When Dean returned the gun to the case and left the room with it, Barry wanted to run after him to find out where he kept it. But he stayed in front of the television, pretending to watch… while coming up with a plan.

Months passed, and life grew worse for Barry. Gwen and Dean found counseling for him, but the therapist seemed more concerned with how often Barry masturbated and he grew annoyed with her and begged to stop seeing her.

Waking up each day became more unbearable and nothing his family tried helped. He just wanted them to stop trying to help. He wasn’t worth the effort.

The holidays were approaching, and Aunt Gwen rushed into the house one day with bags of wrapped gifts. She took out one large box wrapped in blue foil paper for his uncle and asked him to hide it in the hall closet next to the attic door. Barry obeyed, entering the closet, pushing hung garments aside to get to the farthest corner.

And he saw the gun case.

A calm washed over Barry as he stroked his hand over the polished walnut case.

Everything was going to be okay.

Two days later when his family, excited about caroling with their neighbors, dressed for the cold snowy evening, Barry begged off saying his throat was sore and he thought he was coming down with something. Promising not to be gone long, they left the fifteen-year-old with a mug of hot soup. He ran to the window and watched them enter their neighbor’s home across the street, then Barry headed for the closet. He grabbed the case and scooted up the attic stairs, grateful the end was within his reach.

Barry sat down in a corner and opened the case. The Browning called to him. Barry wasn’t afraid or anxious. He was relieved. His useless existence was over. No one had to pity the boy unworthy of love ever again.

He took a deep breath and raised the gun to his mouth. Closing his eyes, Barry squeezed the trigger.

And nothing happened.

He squeezed the trigger again only to get another empty click. His mania rose. He checked the chamber and magazine, not understanding why the gun didn’t fire. A shadow fell across him and he looked up to see Dean standing at the top of the stairs.

“I’d hope I was wrong, but I wasn’t taking any chances.”

His uncle held out his hand and Barry saw the Browning’s firing pin.

Defeated, Barry dropped the gun. His mournful wails filled the attic.

Dean grabbed the boy and held him tight, rocking, much the way Barry had held Teddy.

His uncle made promises to Barry that day that he kept. Promises Barry would be forever grateful for.

It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t easy, but Barry did get the help he needed. By the time he walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma, the young man was more in control of his emotions and didn’t believe in his own worthlessness.

At his college graduation, Barry Cook was a vibrant young man proud of his accomplishments and grateful for life. He was also grateful for the graying gentleman standing next to his aunt with tears in his eyes.

Dean took the journey to wellness with Barry, never leaving his side. Barry considered Dean more watchdog than parent until the day Gordon Cook showed up looking for a way to capitalize on Barry’s academic success.

“Your parental rights died with Teresa, not that you were ever any kind of father. Barry is my son and a terrific young man with a great future. He went through some bad times because of you and I will take you to hell myself before I allow you to hurt him again.”

Gordon Cook didn’t need to be told twice and disappeared. However, his absence didn’t affect Barry this time. Dean had been the anchor that kept him from drowning in darkness.

Barry stood, wiping his face. He grabbed his cell and laptop case and left his classroom in search of Teddy.

The kid had a father, a good man dealing with his own grief. But Barry knew he couldn’t give up. He’d find help for both of them. He didn’t want Teddy to ever sink to the depths he’d known, and unchecked, Barry knew that’s where he was headed.

There was still too much stigma attached to mental illness, but much ground had been gained and new therapies discovered in the thirty years since Barry first sought counseling. He’d work with Teddy and his dad until they found one that fit. Teddy deserved that much. He was on the cusp of adulthood and should embrace life fully, not waste away in the shadows, devoured by the guilt and regret of those left behind.

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

~~~~~

#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

It’s time for a Drabble!


Drabbles


Back with another Drabble!

I believe I’m getting the hang of the rhythm.

The difficult part–word usage–is… coming.

Much like any story, writers want readers to be able to empathize with the protagonist (good or bad), and visualize and feel the scene.

Tall order for a hundred words but it is fun!

How did I do?

~~~

C H A N G E S – Drabble #2

Kerri Kennedy sat alone on the swing watching her four former friends play across the schoolyard.

They treated Kerri as though she’d changed.

The accident last winter took her father and left Kerri with mangled legs.

She couldn’t stand up straight and walked with a limp, but she was still the girl who liked pineapple on her pizza.

She wasn’t the one who changed.

A soccer ball bounced against Kerri’s foot. She kicked it back to the girl running toward her.

“Thanks. Wanna play with us?”

“I can’t. My leg.”

“Sure, you can.”

Surprised, Kerri smiled at her new friend.

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved