Runaway Mother chapter 1
As I walked through the freshly cut, wet grass, I couldn’t help but be happy. I received 100% on my trigonometry test, the third in a row, and as a reward, Mr. Bradshaw was letting me join the robotics class. It was an extra-curricular activity that met three times a week after school. I knew it would look brilliant on my college application. Yes, I’m thinking of college already even though I’m only sixteen. I so badly want to get into MIT and one day be the person to invent an app that could tell epileptics that they were about to have a seizure. I know they have dogs for that, but why not an app for all those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a service dog. I was so happy that my wet feet didn’t even register.
Once I got in the door, I threw my keys into the bowl on the telephone table, and as the clink sound diminished, I sat on the bottom step of the stairs and kicked off my shoes. I had to take off my socks as well before making my way barefoot into the kitchen. The wood like tiles were cold on my skin, but at least my feet didn’t feel wet anymore…silver linings! You always have to think of the silver linings.
I went to the fridge to get a glass of milk and when I shook the carton, there was only a small bit left. I didn’t see the point in using a perfectly clean glass just to half fill it, so I drained the milk straight from the carton.
I noticed the sink was balancing practically every dish we owned and that the trash was overflowing. I was too happy to let chores dampen down my mood so I placed the empty milk carton on the worktop and looked up at the clock, it was 3:45. I had about twenty-five minutes to do as I pleased before the tornado that was my little brother came home from preschool.
I decided to spend the time practicing some mindfulness. I knew deep down that I needed a break from academia when I came home from school before lunging into my homework and study. I moved over to the table and noticed a folded-up piece of paper. Just before I scrunched it up, I recognized my mother’s handwriting. There was just one line, simply one line that changed my world forever.
I love you all but I am so unhappy. This isn’t your fault. I just need a new start in life.
I read it over and over again like it was a riddle. I knew my mom was stressed what with looking after Ethan, my little brother, from 4pm until bedtime and worrying about the bills as she was between jobs, but even she couldn’t have left us on our own…. could she?
I ran into the hall and up the stairs two at a time trying not to believe it. I so wished this to be one of her classic pranks. I walked through her open bedroom door and sat on the bed. Her closet doors were both open, but there was nothing in them. I rubbed my index fingers on my temples and let out a stress relieving scream.
I took out my phone and tried to call my mother but an automated voice told me that the number had been disconnected. ‘This can’t be real!’ I chanted as I rang my older brother Zach. His phone kept ringing out. ‘Basketball!’ I said to myself and screamed once more.
My watch dinged as it did every hour, but this ding sent shivers down my spine…’Ethan!’ I quickly put on a fresh pair of socks and ran down the stairs, to put back on the wet shoes. I heard my feet squelch as I stood up and suddenly my feet were wet again.
Thankfully, Ethan’s preschool was within walking distance but I knew it closed at 4pm so I ran the whole way there. Ethan was only four years old and my heart was in my mouth as I saw his little face as he sat there on the steps of the school with a teacher by his side. I tried to catch my breath in order to apologize for my tardiness, but was doubled over letting the air into my lungs to allowed me to speak.
Before I got a word in, the teacher said, ‘you’re late!’
‘I’m so….so sorry….it won’t…...it won’t hap…...happen again.’ I managed to say whilst trying to regulate my breathing. I put one hand on my side and concluded that geeks are definitely not the running type. I looked at Ethan’s little face staring up at me and my mind went back to the note my mother left. How could she leave us?
Ethan held out his little hand for me to take so we could walk home. I managed to smile down at him, a smile that was half forced because I knew that if the note were to be true, he’d be relying on me for everything from that moment forward.
‘Where’s mom?’ He asked.
I was forced to think on my feet, ‘she’s working late!’
Ethan and my mother were very close, I wasn't sure he’d take the bait.
‘Mom doesn’t work!’ He said with certainty.
‘She got a new job!’ I lied.
‘Will she be home soon?’
‘No Ethan, she’s going to be working very late!’ I was clutching at straws.
‘I drawed her some pictures,’ he shared.
‘Drew,’ I corrected him.
‘You drew her some pictures.’
‘Ok, I drew her some pictures!’ He corrected himself.
‘Did you?’ I asked. ‘What did you draw?’
‘An elephant and a house.’
‘I didn’t know an elephant could fit in a house!’
‘No silly,’ he giggled and began to swing our arms gently. ‘I drew an elephant and a house on two bits of paper.’
Once I regained my composure, we began on the ten-minute walk home. As I was dreading lying to the little guy again, I turned around and asked him the questions. I asked him about his pictures and he told me what he did in school all day until we were finally home. I wanted to keep things light and breezy for him.
After we got in the door, took off our shoes and Ethan put his bag in the corner, I led him into the kitchen for a snack. I knew it was 4:40pm and nearly dinner time but I didn’t know if there would even be a dinner.
I opened the fridge and noticed it was sparsely stocked. I took out some peanut butter and jelly and smeared them both onto one piece of bread which I folded over and then cut in two. I opened the last remaining milk carton and poured some into one of his brightly coloured plastic cups.
As we sat at the table, him eating his sandwich, me texting Zach and my mother, he asked about her again. I kept just reiterating, ‘she’s at work and won’t be home until after bedtime!’
I didn’t know what else to do so I said he could put the pictures on the fridge, which was already littered with drawings, and that way she would see them when she came home.
Just as he swallowed the last bite of sandwich, he began to get up to get his drawings.
‘Not until you drink your milk Mr.!’ I told him in a funny voice. He swung his legs back towards the table giggling and polished off what remained.
Just as I was about to attempt to ring my older brother Zach again, he walked through the door.
‘And the prodigal son returns!’ I said sarcastically.
He stopped in his tracks and looked at me. ‘Why do I have so many missed calls from you?’ he asked.
‘Well, if you answered your phone you’d know!’ I answered slightly pissed off.
‘Zach,’ Ethan said with enthusiasm and ran into his idol’s arms. Zach was great with Ethan. He had this sort of way with him, like a special bond. Come to think of it, I guess I did too.
I let them have a moment before asking Ethan to go upstairs to get two dinosaurs, one for each hand. He did so with fervor and Zach joined me at the kitchen table. He looked at me as if I were the evil witch in Snow White or something. I handed him the note and watched him read it. He read it over a few times with a furrowed brow before looking up from it.
‘Is this for real?’ he asked alarmed.
‘Seems so,’ I answered, ‘all of her clothes are gone!’
‘So, she just up and…...’ Ethan came roaring into the kitchen, one dinosaur fighting the other.
He was very good at reading the room was Ethan, and with that he motioned that he wanted to sit on Zach’s lap. There was no way we could continue our conversation with him around, it just wouldn’t be fair. I watched as Zach pointed to my little brother and said the letters, ‘B E D!’
I nodded and was asked the question ‘where’s mom?’ once again.
Zach looked at me wide eyed as I replied, ‘she’s at work and wouldn’t be home until really late!’ and tickled Ethans belly. What else could I say? Oh yea, I forgot to tell you that mom was sick of us and wanted to start again? That would just be too cruel!
‘Why don’t you go in and put on Paw Patrol bud?’ Zach said lifting Ethan from his lap. Ethan seemed extra clingy today and was almost pawing at Zach until he picked him up again.
Both of our watches dinged at the same time indicating that it was 6pm. ‘What are we going to do about dinner?’ I asked. ‘The fridge doesn’t have that much in it!’ To be fair, even if it did, neither of us would know what to cook with it.
Zach asked Ethan if he’d like pizza and when he answered ‘hell yeah!’ Zach blew a raspberry on his neck. He put Ethan down and stood up himself to get a glass of water. He reached the sink and marveled at the tower all of their dirty crockery made.
‘More washing, less staring!’ I said in a monotonous tone. When I heard him sigh and begin to move dishes, in came Ethan. He grabbed onto Zach’s leg, pawing at him again.
‘I’m trying to …….’ Zach started.
‘……no, leave it.’ I interrupted, ‘I’ll order the pizza, you two go and play with the dinosaurs!’
Zach and I crossed paths, ‘just have fun with him and keep him calm. We’ll talk when he goes to bed!’
Zach nodded and I could hear the two of them having fun in the front room. An unvoluntary smile crossed my face. If that letter was real, I would have such a different life. I checked how much money was in my account to see if we could even afford to pay for the food and thankfully it had €48.92 in it. I ordered one large pizza to be delivered. Usually we would get two, but then my savings would be gone. Besides, there is one less mouth to feed without mom, Ethan would only eat one slice and I wasn’t too hungry.
I did the dishes and just as I was putting them away, the doorbell rang…the pizza was here. I heard Zach open the door for the delivery guy and heard that he gave him some change from the junk bowl on the telephone table. I had seen $2 in it when I was hurrying out the door to get Ethan, and am presuming Zach gave it to him.
I stopped with the dishes when Ethan grabbed me by the hand to inform me that we were having a dinosaur cookout. Quite frankly, I was delighted to get out from under the dishes so I rolled with it. Anything to distract this little guy until bed which was slowly approaching.
As we sat in the middle of the living room, surrounded by trucks and dinosaurs, I saw how happy Ethan was. I knew Zach would rather be out with his girlfriend, but from his actions so far, I could tell that he grasped the gravity of the situation.
Had it just been me and Zach I would still be pissed, but at least then we wouldn’t have to look after a four-year-old who kept asking for his mom no less.
I put that woman to the side for a couple of hours and enjoyed spending quality time with my brothers. Yes, it would mean I’d be up all-night studying, but this was more important than a grade on a paper? I did learn something however; I can now distinguish a triceratops from a T-rex.
Bedtime came and usually Ethan would have had a bath at this stage, but me and Zach jointly decided we could skip it for one night. I just wanted him to go to bed so I could talk logistics with my brother.
It took three books and a cuddle before he finally dropped off. The pair of us tip toed out of the room and closed the door gently, high fiving as we did so.
‘I don’t remember the last time I put him to bed!’ I told Zach.
‘Me either!’ Zach stopped for a minute, ‘now, let’s go downstairs and talk about this note!’
I followed Zach downstairs, remembering to skip the third step from the bottom as it was squeaky. I didn’t want to give Ethan any excuse for another book.
After sinking into the dilapidated old couch, I waited until the door was securely closed before I started. ‘Do you think she’s gone for good?’
Zach shrugged his shoulders as he began to pick up the dinosaurs and trucks, careful to put them in their corresponding bins as Ethan hated when they got mixed up.
‘Truthfully,’ Zach started, ‘if it were just me and you, I’d say good riddance. But we have a four-year-old on our hands now and presuming that she has gone, we have a duty to him to raise him with good values.’
‘Hold on there a second!’ I said, the realization kicking in. ‘We would have to be his mother, father, brother and sister in one!’
‘Yup!’ Zach replied.
‘That means goodbye college!’ shivers went down my spine and the hairs on the back of my arms were standing up.
‘Yup!’ Zach let out a sigh of frustration as he placed the last dinosaur in the blue plastic bin.
‘Do we tell anyone?’ I asked.
‘Absolutely not!’ Zach replied. He informed me that if we told we would get put into foster care where the pair of us would probably end up in a group home and none of us would ever be together again.
I remembered that our dad, well, mine and Zach’s dad who died when we were only little, still had a mother who was alive. ‘How about we ask to go to nana’s house until you turn eighteen next year and can legally adopt Ethan!’
I was quickly reminded how that woman hadn’t even sent so much as a birthday card to either of us since Ethan was born. She was a very religious woman and mom didn’t know who Ethans dad actually was so her shutters went down and she cut us out of her life.
‘So, are we saying we’re going to try and do this?’ I asked Zach.
‘I don’t see any other option as to how to stay together!’ he answered before sinking into the beat-up couch beside me.
‘And what do we tell Ethan?’
‘We just tell him that mommy went on a business trip and stick to our guns!’ Zach pinched the bridge of his nose. ‘But we have to make a pact that no one, absolutely no one finds out or they’ll split us up!’
I got the message loud and clear…radio silence!
Zach sat up as best he could on the couch and faced me. ‘That means no friends, or teachers, or…whoever!’
I nodded back at him. ‘But how are we going to be able to mind Ethan?’
Zach was almost swallowed by the couch again as he closed his eyes tight, thinking.
‘We’re going to have to wing it!’ he came up with. Even I could have come up with that! ‘That’s all you have dude, seriously…wing it?’
I could see the tears build up in his eyes. ‘Like you said, I’m eighteen in a few months then I can adopt him but yea, all we can do is wing it to see what works!’
I rubbed the single tear that shed from his eye and was rolling down his sallow cheeks with my thumb and smiled. ‘Whatever you say boss!’