Runaway Mother chapter 16
I go down to Ethans level and wipe away his tears. It breaks my heart that he is getting so upset by something as small as the letter ‘H’! He’s able to connect the dots with ease, but when it comes to making them himself, he just can’t. I hate to see anyone upset, but a four-year-old upset because of homework is hard to watch.
‘Why do I need to do it?’ he asks, his arms around my neck.
I rub his back. ‘Ethan, buddy, we have to do our homework because its just something everyone has to do!’
‘I hate homework!’ his grip around my neck tightens and he starts to sob again.
I hold him until the tears cease. I figure he just needs this right now…the closeness of a loved one!
When he finally pulls away, I wipe away his tears again and think to myself that it is so unfair to bring a four-year-old to tears over the letter ‘H’! Kids that age should be thinking of unicorns and rainbows, not dreading a piece of paper their teacher put in their backpack.
‘Ok buddy, here’s what we’re going to do! We are going to do the homework together, how does that sound?’
He nods and I hand him ducky for moral support. He pulls him in close and turns on his chair. I get up from my honkers and stand behind him. ‘Ok buddy, you hold the pencil and I’ll put my hand over yours to help you! That sound good?’
Ethan nods and together we produce what I think to be enough to say that we tried. There was no way I was putting the colouring sheet in front of him as well, he has done enough for the day! I tell him he can go play as I put the bit that we managed in his blue folder. As I’m putting it back into his bag, I see a note:
I have been trying to ring your house for five weeks now and I’m not sure if you are getting any of my messages. I want to meet with you in person at your earliest convenience regarding Ethan and his temper. I want to make sure everything is alright at home. If I don’t hear from you by next week, I’m getting social services involved!
‘Oh shit!’ I say under my breath. Just as I was about to call Zach, my phone rings. It’s a number I don’t recognise but I answer it anyway, hoping upon hope that my mother has seen sense.
‘Hello,’ I say in a calm and collected manner.
‘Um, hi. Is this Mary?’
‘Yea, who’s this?’
‘Oh thank god,’ the caller sighs heavily, ‘it’s Chad here!’
My heart begins to beat faster and I feel jittery.
‘Hi Chad,’ I respond and wait for him to move the conversation along.
‘My father had an eight down instead of a three in your file and I have just spent the past twenty minutes talking some stranger off a ledge…literally!’
‘Oh my!’ I say with a furrowed brow, ‘are they ok?’
‘Well I called the cops and stayed on the line until they got the poor guy back over the railings and an officer assured me, he was safe!’
‘Wow, that’s one for the books!’ I say glad that he talked the guy down.
‘Yea, but the reason I was calling you was…well… I wanted to know if possibly you would go out with me on Friday night?’
My mouth moves, but no words come out I’m so shocked. Chad was actually asking me out!
‘You don’t have to, I just thought, you being such a cool chic and all, that you just might like to!’
‘Yes,’ I finally manage to get out. ‘I’d love to!’
‘Oh,’ Chad sounds surprised, ‘excellent!’
‘Where are we going?’ I ask out of interest.
‘I was actually thinking of cooking for you!’
I put the phone down and jump a few times and then punch the air dramatically.
‘Hello?’ Chad says.
‘Hi, sorry about that!’
‘Or I can take you somewhere if you’d prefer!’
‘No, I mean yes,’ the hairs on my arms begin to stand up and finally I manage to say, ‘I would love to taste your food!’
‘Great!’ he says and offers to pick me up.
‘Oh no,’ I say, ‘I can’t ask you to do that!’
‘Seriously,’ he says, ‘my dad is going to let me borrow the car as I live about thirty minutes on foot away from yours!’
I think about it for a second. ‘Thank you, that would be lovely!’ I concede and wonder in my head what I’m going to wear.
‘Is six too late?’ he asks.
‘Six is perfect!’ I let him know.
‘Ok then, sure I’ll see you at work tomorrow anyway and I’m looking forward to cooking for you!’
‘Great!’ I say wondering what he’s going to cook.
‘I’m cooking beef stroganoff, is that ok?’
‘You must be a mind reader because I was just wondering what the menu would be…and yes, that would be lovely!’
‘Brilliant, its my signature dish and I hope it meets your standards!’ he chuckles on the other end.
I never thought Chad could get nervous, but he obviously is.
‘I’ll be ready at six on Friday so!’ I tell him and we say our goodbyes. Just as I’m about to hang up on him, he asks, ‘you’re not allergic to anything…right?’
‘No,’ I giggle and in comes Ethan, asking me to put on paw patrol.
‘Oh, duty calls!’ Chad says and we end on that note.
I obey the little man’s wishes and notice he’s seen all the ones on the DVR so I search for the oldest one and play it for him. I’m not one of these people who rely on the TV to keep their child occupied, but he’s had such a hard day and I’m certain a few episodes of his favourite show will cheer him up!
As I enter the kitchen to start the dinner, spaghetti with pieces of hot dog in it, which happens to be my signature dish, Zach walks in.
‘Why is Ethan watching tv?’ he asks. Once he see’s my face he answers his own question…’homework!’
I just nod.
‘What letter was it today?’ he asks curiously.
‘‘H’!’ I answer with sorrow in my eyes.
‘You really think he could be dyslexic?’ Zach asks looking concerned.
‘If the internet is anything to go by…then yes, I do!’
Zach shakes his head in sorrow.
‘Will you watch this? I’ve to get something!’
I arrive back with Ethans backpack and take out the note Miss Megan wrote.
Zach closes his eyes tight and rubs his temples with his thumb and index finger. ‘We’re doomed!’ he says softly.
‘Not necessarily!’ I get an epiphany. ‘Has Miss Megan ever met mom before?’ I ask curiously.
‘Mare, we’re not paying a stranger on the street to be our mother!’
I bite the bullet and tell Zach all about how I went to The Mint Leaf in search of answers, twice, and wondered aloud if Connie would pretend to be mom. After all, she knows the situation!
‘You what?’ Zach blows up!
‘I was curious!’ I answer truthfully.
Zach goes to sit down and buries his head in his hands. ‘Are you trying to get us split up?’ he asks.
‘No! I’m not! It’s just when Shadow arrived on the doorstep, he knew almost immediately that we are here on our own and so I…’
‘…you went and exposed us to the most vulnerable secret in all of the history of the Fishers!’
‘Zach,’ I plead, ‘don’t be mad!’
‘What are they like?’ he asks, a wave of calm washing over him and curiosity getting the better of him.
‘Well they call her Caro, and Shadow was the one who came to the door in the most ridiculous looking outfit I have ever seen, and I wasn’t really talking to any of the others except for Connie!’
‘Yea, I met her after work last night and it was just me and her talking together. She is so understanding and compassionate. She listened to me rant for almost an hour! And all about mom!’
‘Were they able to give you an inkling as to where she is?’
‘No!’ I answered bluntly, ‘but they are as surprised as we are that she left in the first place!’
‘Did they know anything about the convict?’ Zach asks referring to the man we think to be the reason mom left for New Mexico.
‘No…and they had no idea she slept around either!’
‘So not only was she living a life with us as mom, but a separate life with them as Caro, and a life for herself?’ Zach was trying his best to make sense of the whole thing.
‘Yup!’ I answer, ‘a woman with three lives!’
‘Well we only know about three of them!’ Zach points out. ‘There could be many more!’
I had never thought about it that way! Now I’m beginning to wonder if she has more kids somewhere out there? After all, we still don’t know who Ethans father is! Tears begin to fill my eyes.
‘Are they nice?’ Zach smiles.
I turn my head towards him and when he see’s the tears, he comes over and envelopes me in a hug. ‘They are lovely!’ I say, my voice sounding muffled as my face is buried in Zach’s chest.
‘What could they tell you about her?’ he asks inquisitively.
I recount the fact that people came far and wide to have their palms read by her, and that she went to The Mint Leaf every day, and sat in a red booth with her friends but only drank coffee.
‘Oh!’ Zach looks as surprised as I did when I found out about the palm readings.
‘Did you know she wrote poetry?’ I ask.
‘Yup, poetry!’ I nod. ‘She even got up on stage and recited some of it! Connie said she was good at it too!’
With his eyes open wide, I’m glad I don’t have to hide my excursions there anymore. I explain to him how nice it was talking to Connie last night and come back to the whole Miss Megan thing, ‘maybe Connie could pretend to be mom!’
Zach looks sceptical at first, but then thinks it a great idea. ‘I mean, there’s no harm in trying!’ he agrees.
‘Great!’ I smile up at him and he brushes away a stray tear, ‘I’ll ask her tomorrow!’
He nods in agreement and I begin to plate the dinner. ‘Ethan buddy,’ I shout, ‘dinners ready!’
I put Ethan to bed and finally got to know what happens to ‘Winnie the Witch’! when I’m finished reading the book, Ethan looks up at me doe eyed.
‘What’s wrong buddy?’ I ask him.
‘Are you going to leave like mommy did?’ he asks looking as though the weight of the world is on his shoulders.
‘No buddy!’ I try to reassure him. ‘You’re stuck with me I’m afraid!’
He yawns and I give him a big hug. ‘Are you afraid I’m going to leave?’ I ask intertwining my fingers with his.
He nods, a sombre look on his face.
I give him a big hug and kiss him on the top of his head and recite ‘Goodnight Moon’ from memory until he falls asleep. He had his little hands grabbing onto my top so I gently prise his fingers open and replace me with ducky.
As I’m leaving the room, I hear his little voice say, ‘I love you, Mary!’
Tears begin to fill my eyes. I shut off the light and whisper, ‘I love you too Ethan!’ closing the door gently behind me.
I go to walk down the stairs, but only get to the top step before I have to sit down as my body convulses to the rhythm of my sobs.
Zach comes running to see if I’m ok. He helps me down the remainder of the stairs and into the living room where I continue to sob in his arms for what seemed like days, all the while feeling a warm hand rubbing my back and another gently placed on the back of my head.
Finally, when the crying subsides, Zach sits me down on the couch and voices his opinion and worries.
‘You are dealing with a lot of shit Mare, too much for a sixteen-year-old to be carrying around. You have Ethan four days a week and a job, and school! I would be worried if you didn’t break down in tears if I’m honest with you!’
‘I must admit,’ I say looking into the eyes of my big brother, ‘that the letter from Miss Megan really threw me! We can’t have gone through all that we have in the past five weeks just to be…’ the water works start up again, ‘…to be split up!’
‘Ahhh Mare!’ Zach says and I rest my head on his shoulder.
He pulls me in close and kisses the top of my head.
‘You do know you can come to me when you feel stressed!’ he says. ‘Or if your more comfortable talking to someone from moms other life like Connie, then do! But you really need to be talking to someone and I’m afraid that even with the free BLT’s, we can’t afford a councillor…well, not one that won’t rat us out to social services anyway!’
I laugh and wipe my eyes with the sleeve of my top.
‘I’m liking the mural!’ Zach says referring to the big picture myself and Ethan work on every now and again behind the couch. ‘It’s really starting to take shape!’
I laugh again and look over the back of the couch at the graffiti that once was a lovely white painted wall.
‘Yea,’ I agree with Zach, ‘it is looking good!’
We sit there for what seems like hours when my phone pings. Its Chad:
‘Hi, I hope it was ok today to ring u! I’m really looking forward to Friday!’
Zach is reading the message over my shoulder. ‘Who’s Chad and what’s happening on Friday?’ he asks.
I had forgotten to ask him if he could watch Ethan Friday night.
‘Chad is this guy I work with. He’s the bosses son, and he asked me to dinner at his on Friday night! Is that ok?’
‘You mean to say that you have had a date with this guy and I’m only hearing me about it now?’ Zach says sarcastically!
‘Yea,’ I reply, ‘that’s exactly what I’m telling you!’
‘Look Mare, I would love nothing more than for you to have a hot date with the bosses son no less!’
I smile, ‘you are the best big brother in the whole world!’
‘Do they have a trophy for that?’
We laugh together and I’m feeling content in the knowledge that I have Zach by my side at least.