Based on an one sentence truth and my uncanny ability to bring my own Mother to tears. Gene: Horror. Count: 1000 words exact.
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They sat at the table, staring into their respective mugs.
Drinks cooling slowly, steam settling like the silence between them. Thick and weighty with things that didn’t want to be disturbed, let alone said out-loud. A silence of denial, an adult’s silence.
Jacob tried to be calm, to wait. Keeping himself occupied by tangling his legs about those of the chair. Trying not to swing, kick, or tap. Trying not to let his boredom show. If she knew, she’d start crying… again.
While he’d slump, shrink. Feeling useless, feeling like the villain… again.
Displays of impatience somehow let her know how much he despised her. Despised her even wearing on his time.
He must have cleared his throat, or let his lip twitch into barely concealed scowl. Must have. She was looking at him. Studying his face for answers to a question he was certain he hadn’t asked.
Jacob twisted his contempt into a smile, “You wanted to tell me something…?” Prompting, questioning, reminding.
His Mother returned a genuine if sappy smile. Damp. She always seemed damp. Her fingers curling and uncurling about her cup as if she was gauging the strength needed to lift the mug. Lips pursing and gaping trying to form words but she ending up just nodding quietly, quickly.
Jacob extended an upturned palm urging her on.
His Mother swallowed, nodded again and downed half her mug before bracing herself, “It’s about your brother…”
Immediately more alert, Jacob sat up straighter, eyes narrowing, “What about him?”
“He’s…” His mother paused glancing around as if the younger boy might be sneaking up on them, but the pause was too much, she’d lost the momentum, or whatever word she’d been trying to form. Instead it came out as barely a noise, a pained ‘Mmmhm’ forced from soured lips.
Jacob’s gritted his teeth, whatever word she was searching for wasn’t going to be good. She had no right to talk about his brother, HIS little Charles until she decided that she would actually talk to Chuck, hold him, comfort him… Or at least, for god’s sake, to hear it when he was crying. He had no idea how he’d managed to survive his childhood with this… this Mother. She hardly had a right to the title.
She was trying again, a word ending up slipping out in a hush, “Wrong.”
Standing before he was aware of the impulse, Jacob’s hands slammed down on the table, sending his untouched drink sloshing. “Don’t,” He warned her, closing his eyes to the anger he could feel boiling and burning beneath his skin, begging to be released. “Just don’t.” He raised a warning hand. She had no right, no claim. Made worse, because she of all people should be the one to care, to give a damn, to step forward and protect when other children had first begun taunting Charles. His poor little Chuck, so soft, so quiet in comparison to the inherent rowdiness of other boys. Fairy Fluff they’d called him, Fairy Fluff Chuck. Jacob tried to shake the thoughts loose.
It had been getting worse, the names. They weren’t even voiced to Jacob’s face anymore. Testing to see if he’d join in, sacrifice empathy to the alters of cool. Oh but how he had traded, in his own coin, scraped knuckles for busted teeth, split lips, black eyes. But he could still hear them, the whispers, the giggling… Their faces twisted in ugly humor as the brothers passed in silence down the hallway. Like they didn’t even exist.
There was a noise, he opened his eyes. His Mother was crying. Leaking, but trying to form words once more, despite his enraged plea. Jacob wondered if he would hit her, if he could. She was still at least, His Mother. Could he bring himself to lay even one sharp snap across that fat, damp face?
He could still recall softer times, soothing words and comforts that carried him through sickness… Anger lost its edge and he deflated suddenly, retaking his seat.
Weakly his mother nodded, pulling strength from somewhere. “I never told you. You were so young and I, how could I…” She shook her head and tried to start again… “The second pregnancy…”
“Charles.” Jacob corrected. Jesus, she couldn’t even say his name.
His mother nodded, thoughtful suddenly, “Charles. When I was pregnant with Charles. The clinic… the doctors. They told me, assured me that I should terminate. That the child… Charles.” She corrected before Jacob could interrupt, now that she’d gotten to the full matter. “Would be born… sickly. Too ill to survive a few weeks, a month if we were lucky. That is if it… he, made out at all…”
The pause was too long, too much, “So what? You think that excuses it? Jesus, Mom. Because he should have been born ‘wrong’ and wasn’t, you… What? Think that there must be something that you can’t see? Some subtler defect that excuses you from even pretending to act like a damn parent?” Jacob looked up to see Chuck standing in the doorway. Fuck. How long had he been there? The kid even moved too damn soft. Their Mother hadn’t noticed. Jacob stood, done with a conversation of excuses.
“We’re going out.” Jacob stood to join his brother, his Mother wouldn’t even turn.
“Does he hate me?” The question was soft but carried. Even though she still wouldn’t turn her damn head. Addressing Jacob instead of her youngest.
The brothers looked at each other, stunned by the question. At the care, the hurt present behind it. Chuck considered and then shrugged, shaking his head. Damn, but the kid was kind. Jacob supplied the voiced, “Naw.” Just before the door slammed behind them.
Alone, tears flowed fully and Mother cried for her boys.
For the one she could see and the one she never would.