I sat in the passenger seat of my mom’s car, staring through patterns that the rain was creating on the window. All I could think about was Sean. He was like a sexy bad boy, yet so humble and innocent.
“Let me see,” my mom said in a fed-up kinda voice, stopping at the light and turning to me. She grabbed my chin, turned my face, and then examined the bruises and wounds. “Ugh, the swelling on your lip is getting worse.”
“You should’ve given me some ice or something then,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest, and I yanked my chin toward my window.
“I couldn’t, but we’re almost home. How did you get blood in your hair?”
My mom tried to get it out, and kept glancing at the road so she wouldn't miss the light. When it turned green, she stopped picking at my hair and floored it.
A couple minutes later, she pulled up in the driveway of our house. I ran to the front door. I didn’t have the key so when I got to it, I wrapped my arms around herself and waited.
My mom jogged through the rain toward the house, her face opaque, void of happiness. “What’s the matter with you?” she asked me.
“Mom, just open the door,” I said, facing it.
“I think that boy who did this to you should get expelled. I should talk to his parents, because all of this is just—not right.”
I looked up at her. “He’s an orphan,” I said, wrapped up in the misfortune of the fact.
“Oh,” my mom said, the same way. “But, there should be someone who takes care of him, right?”
I shrugged and turned back to face the door. My mom unlocked it, and I was the first in. I dropped my schoolbag on the living room floor and then rushed into the kitchen.
My mom stepped in and closed the door behind her. “What did I tell you about dropping your shit on the floor?” she said, picking up the schoolbag. "Make me pick it up behind you," she added under her breath.
She placed the bag on the couch and turned on the TV. I grabbed an icepack from in the freezer, and then pressed it against my swollen lip as I walked into the living room.
“So, what’s his name again?” my mom asked, walking to the kitchen to start making something for us to eat. She always did this: using food as a way to forget. That, and alcohol.
“Who’s name -- what?” I asked, turning around in the couch to look at her.
“The name of the boy who did this to you,” my mom said, a trace of attitude in her voice.
“Sean Winston,” I said, turning around. My cheeks went hot, but then I remembered what that jerk did to me. “He’s a total loser,” I added, flipping through channels. “He was about to skip school when I was going to class with some friends, then he totally pushed me and said I had problems. I told him he was a bunk bitch.” It was easy to lie to my mom; she only knew what Mr. Shaw had told her.
I could feel her face twisting with confusion, chopping vegetables. “What is that, some sort of slang you kids use these days?” She chuckled.
“Well, it means, like, shitty and really weird. And then after I called him that, he started to attack me.”
“But you defended yourself?”
I laughed and stopped channel surfing, turning around to my mom again. I had a bad feeling. It nestled inside me, mocking me, like a miscarriage. Something was wrong. “Where’s Charles?” I asked. He was one to stay out late, but yesterday and this morning he'd been complaining about his friends not answering their phones and, as a result, having no one to hang out with. I missed Katherine, and I feared what happened to her has happened to him.
My mom turned around and gasped upon the question, eyes wide and hands on the counter.
The car sped down the road. My mom's hands were taut around the steering wheel. She was blinking away tears and sniffling, staring at the blurry road ahead.
“Mom,” I said, staring at the road as well.
“J--just shut up, Faye!”
I didn’t take her short fuse to heart. I had taught myself not to. My eyes drilled through the blurry windshield, and I smirked.
We got back to Crawley Heights, and this time my mom was the first out of the car. I followed close by her, and we rushed inside to the office.
“Is Charles still here?” my mom asked, leaning over the secretary’s desk. I glanced up at her, trying to ignore my worrying. She was frantic.
“Charles who?” Mrs. Bierce asked. She didn't care much.
“My son, Charles Gourmont.”
“Does he have a sort of after-school program, or --”
“No, no, nothing like that. Can you maybe call him over the speakers or whatever?”
Mrs. Bierce gave my mom a dark look. She picked up the speaker for the P.A. system and then spoke into it: “Charles Gourmont, please report to the office.” She glanced up at my mom, who looked even more worried and was glancing around the room with a distant expression. “Immediately.” She hung up the device and then folded her hands over her work. “Don’t worry, your son will be fine,” she said.
“Why isn’t he coming?” My mother's voice quavered.
“I know why you’re so worried, but you’re not the only one,” the secretary said, looking back down to her work. "Don't stress over it. There's not much you can do at this point except pray."
“Listen, bitch,” my mom interrupted through clenched teeth, leaning over the desk some more and bashing her fist onto it as she said it. “You don’t know my son. He’s strong, he can fend for him damn self, and he doesn’t need --” Her voice broke. She cupped her eyes with one hand, hiding the welling tears from spilling out of her eyes.
"Whoa, mom,” I said, putting a comforting hand on her back. “Maybe he’s at home now, waiting for someone to come home and get him inside.”
My mom looked at me. Her state made me uncomfortable. “O--okay, let’s go.” She turned to look at the secretary, who was looking up at her. “Sorry for the outburst. If you find him, can you please contact me?”
Mrs. Bierce nodded, pressing her lips together, accepting the apology.
The windshield wipers swished as fast as they could. My gaze joined my hands in my lap. I was missing my brother, worrying harder than I first realized. He was waiting at home in the rain. I was sure of it. My mom parked in the driveway, pulled the key from the ignition, and the engine's roar quieted.
We said nothing. Rain pelted on the car's exterior, it's sound making Charles' absence seem worse.
“What if I’m next?” I asked, looking up at the windshield.
My mom turned to me with an expression of horror. “You won’t be. Don't even think that,” she said, her voice a croak. Something in her eyes said otherwise.
I forced a soft smile. My mom opened the door and stepped out of the car. I did the same. We walked up to the front door and, to my disappointment, Charles wasn’t standing by the front of the house. We walked inside and I sat on the couch. My mom walked to the kitchen to continue dealing with the preparatory food, but she had her cell phone out. I could see the dial pad on the screen, bright and waiting.
I turned on the TV.
“Your brother is probably at the school,” my mom said, putting the phone down, “heading to the office to ask that old hag behind the desk what she wanted.” She began cutting up some vegetables harder than she had to.
I leaned forward to pick up the remote from the coffee table in front of me, and turned to the news before putting the remote back.
“But it seems that an uncommon amount of children from province to province are going missing,” the newswoman said from behind a desk, with a thin stack of papers in front of her. A hunk in a suit sat next to her. “And these incidents are raising question and anxiety among many adults—not just parents—everywhere.”
“Yes,” a stout woman with long black hair sobbed. She was a recording from the morning news. According to the caption running along the bottom of the screen, she was in a different part of the country. It was pouring then, and the not-so-hunky male reporter was holding a dark umbrella over them both.
I grabbed the remote and turned up the volume so my mom could hear.
“My four kids: Abby Windshaw, Louise Windshaw, Mary Clement, and Joe Windshaw. Each and every one of 'em, gone, disappeared before I could get home from the grocery store down the block. And in case of any charges I may get, let me just tell you --” The woman dabbed her tears with a wad of tissue. “Tell you that my eldest, Abby, was—is—seventeen, but she too is gone. Gone!” The woman wept into the shaking tissue in her hand.
The recording cut and it went back to the news station. “Now,” the newswoman continued, “For other news, rain in the Atacama Desert.”
I turned and looked at my mom, who had stopped chopping food and was holding the edge of the counter with both hands and bowing her head. She started to sob, which made me uncomfortable.
“Mom, don’t cry. It’s probably just a small thing that the police will take care of.”
My mom spun around. Her face was red and puffy from crying. “Are you not missing them, Faye?” she shouted. “Do you not care? This is serious, obviously.” She cried harder. “I’m hurt, honey. I need them here. I need—them—here.”
“Mom, you're hand! It’s bleeding."
My mom looked down at it, caught off guard.
“Oh,” she gasped, wiping her wet face with her arm and sniffling. “I need to go upstairs and get a --” she paused. “Band-aid.”
With that, she went upstairs. I turned back around and lowered the volume until it was inaudible.
I was pushed back into the cushions of the couch. I felt my eyes widen, and before I could figure out what just happened, a strong, silent wind blew downward all over the house. It knocked things over, broke things, and flattened my hair and clothes. After the random gust, everything that had been affected was wet. I was gaping, doused and shivering. My eyes wandered around, and I couldn't move.
I called my mom, scared.
The TV screen was now black. My reflection was shocking.
Wind blew in the house again, and my fear-filled eyes enlarged at the TV screen.