Flee Obscura- Chapter Four

Chapter 4

               “Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy biiirrrtthhh…”

Abram blew out the single candle before the song ended. It wasn’t an embarrassment for the baby’s birthday, which made his face match his hair; it was the fact his mother wasn’t there. He was used to his father’s absence, but his mother could have kept her calm long enough to stay. He glanced at the clock; it had only been four hours but felt an eternity already since she left. The first time was after leaving the courthouse, and she had been institutionalized for months while he stayed at his grandmother’s farm.

Okay, with him, until his mother came home from the hospital, Evelyn moved back to the farm, and he became the adult of the house. Abram cooked and cleaned, and he had to make sure his mother didn’t fall asleep in the bathtub from her medicine and remind her to sign papers for school.

His friends clapped awkwardly as Abram pulled the stomach-punched wax seven candles out of the lop-sided cake his grandmother made. At least she tried, Abram thought to himself as he looked sideways to the pile of gifts. The pink gift was from his father and wrapped with leftover paper. Abram wondered if he could hide it before they got to opening gifts, who knows what ridiculous present his father bought him this time. And his mother, well she wasn’t even present, she is possibly locked in the soft room for an indeterminate amount of time.

Abram had agreed to the party since it gave his mother something to busy herself with but didn’t seem to help her, and the kids weren’t even his friends. They were just children he shared a classroom with, and some still had accidents while Abram requested extra library class to study ‘certified’ after reading his mother’s file from the hospital last time.

“Did you make a wish, sweet pea?” Evelyn asked, her wrinkles had deepened since the divorce had finalized. Any trace of hope with Victoria getting better was lost. The divorce seemed to set her off, and more nights than not, she would stare at the wall without responding to a single question. She was gone in her mind, and Abram didn’t know where she went.

He looked to the smoldering wick, “yeah, I wished everyone would leave.” And mom would return, he finished in his mind. His neck tightened with the stress, his head shook involuntarily as he remembered the morning breakdown—just another drop in the bucket of his mother’s madness.

The sun had broken through his bedroom, blinds as a heavenly alarm clock. An angel kisses to his cheek to wake him gently until he heard the crash and bang of the kitchen below his room. He had pulled himself out of bed and grinned devilishly at the turned down the mirror on his dresser. He refused to see the addition of freckles this morning, and it was sure to happen. The spring brought the sun, and the sun brought the devil spots on his nose. Abram instead stood in front of the magazine photo of the biker, pretending his tattoo-covered face was his own. His hard-facial lines were Abram’s strength, and his rough beard was his bravery. Tattoos would be much more refreshing than freckles, Abram had smirked with an eyebrow cocked to the make-belief magazine reflection.

The rich scent of eggs frying in the kitchen had carried him down the stairs, but the sound of his mother sobbing made him want to turn and run. Cereal boxes emptied and tossed about on the tarnished floor. Some loops floated in puddles of milk from the broken jug, and the chopping knife stuck in the middle of the fridge.

“Mom?” Abram had called out as she turned with the frying pan still in her hand. The aroma of the eggs turned to burnt skiffs as he drew closer. Her hair had spontaneously been cut short, and with the jagged edges, it appeared to have self-cut.

“Abram! The monster, he was here,” Victoria’s eyes were wild with fear, but a twisted smile painted on her face, “he won’t take my panic though. Abram, he won’t take my panic.”

“Mom, there’s no monster,” Abram had stepped to her and put his hands out in the request of the frying pan. She dropped the pan then mumbled incoherently, but the edges of the kitchen had vibrated and blurred to white stars until Obscura had closed in on him as a television screen would hours after the program ended. They had echoed so fast his mother disappeared in front of him, the formation of her mouth still forming a mutter, she blended in with the static fuzz of Obscura as it engulfed him. Abram had spent many years watching the beginning of his mother’s break down before Obscura pulled him away and hid him emotionally until she recovered. He would hide on the dark plane and saved from the mental pain she would inflict on him. Obscura silenced the yelling, the nasty words hidden. He had left his physical body staring at his mother with no reaction. Her emotional turmoil hardly noticed the deadpan expression Abram surely held.

That morning he hadn’t fought the entry stars of Obscura. He didn’t squint firm and focus on pushing it from him. He had even used the time to search for this monster she spoke. Clearer on an object nearby, but he had to investigate this monster.

Abram had thrown himself into the whirlwind of white light ended in solid blackness. He didn’t hear the pan hit the floor as he had stepped onto the Obscura plane. The dark space drowned his ears from anything in the physical world. It filled with the snapping of the Obscura silence. The energy within it denied him any other senses.

There had been not a thing, no scent, no step, no whisper or taste, and Abram wasted no time pulling the dark curtain back up away from his vision before his mother’s tears would drown her.

But it had been too late, with the slip of Obscura stored back into its alternate dimension, Abram found his mother sitting on the floor with the chopping knife removed from the fridge.

His fingers shook as he pulled the knife from her fingers and had punched in his father’s phone number. Thomas had sounded groggy but promised to come.

He only had to say a few words, “Mom’s doing it again.”

Shit, okay. I’ll get your Grandma and be there,” was the protocol. Evelyn would soothe her daughter until the paramedics arrived, and then Thomas would wave goodbye to them and stay with Abram. As short as needed until his grandmother returned. Today, Thomas had offered to ride with Victoria to the hospital. Fleeing from the apparent party was impending. Abram was sure, and he felt more comfortable at the hospital than sitting with his son.

Evelyn had cleaned the kitchen mess, Abram had washed the floors. He watched as his grandmother artistically twisted a flower of streamers over the fresh stab hole in the fridge. They had worked well as a team cleaning the mess, and it kept Abram’s mind off the needles his mother was receiving, possibly at the hospital.

Now, the crocked seven candles suddenly snapped back to flaming in Abram’s hand. He held it up to his eyes and examined the magical reappearing flame. Held his breathe, made his second wish, and blew out the candle. He hoped his grandmother wouldn’t ask a second time since he wouldn’t repeat this wish out loud. Then it wouldn’t come true. The sulfur smoke drifted up to his nostrils as his friends stared at him as if he were a plague.

“Who wants to play a game?” Evelyn cheered with no notice to the mysterious second flame that appeared and disappeared. She clapped to get everyone’s attention, but the children turned to monkeys: screaming, hollering, and screeching. Abram felt no jealousy for their juvenile behavior. He remained where he stood as they ran out the back door with his grandmother. Abram walked to the front of the house, further from the laughs and screams of his classmates.

He sat in the living room, on the collapsed floral seat couch cushions. The old love seat faced the front window, and as Abram sat, he was proud to see he were tall enough to plant his feet densely on the floor. He still recalled when his feet wouldn’t reach the thick seams. Life had felt better. He remembered when both his parents lived here. Now, the stitching broke, as is his family. He picked the stuffing out of the couch, letting it fall to the floor.

“Hi, Abe.”

He needn’t look, only one person in the world called him Abe, and his heart fluttered before he even turned to greet Malhi. She knew everything he had to deal with his mother. She lived on the other side of Jackson Hole community housing, so they visited each other often. Her father was not well, but she wouldn’t speak of why. Abram assumed he was sad, like Victoria.

Still, Malhi would always look well put together. Abram knew full well her mother died when she was young, but her hair appeared as though a loving mother had spent hours French braiding it. Her clothes always clean and pressed, and although she loved playing Barbies (which Abram would play with her), she acted years above her age like him.

“Hi Malhi,” Abram shuffled over, he loved her hair matched his hair. He loved her freckles looked beautiful on her cheeks even when they looked stupid on his own.

“Your grandma is very nice,” she smiled.

“Yes, she is,” he regretted the silly response. Words failed him around her, with the scent of strawberries and cream coming off her milky-white skin.

“I love her hair, that dark grey streak. She looks like the wife of Dr. Strange.”

Bonus number two, Malhi liked comics just like Abram, but he often dreamt of what those comics could be if he had been the one to make them into movies. His eyes must have glazed at the daydream since Malhi interjected, “I’m going to play your Grandma’s game. Are you coming?” She crawled off the couch and turned to leave. Abram wished she would pause and hold his hand, and he wondered if it were too bold to ask. It was his birthday, after all.

“Malhi?”

“Yes, Abe?” she turned back and met his look, the words disappeared, and he shook his head. She walked away, and he followed the swing of Malhi’s braid.

The party had assembled on the back lawn. Evelyn stood in the middle of all the children and spun Tony, whose ape-like arms could break the SpongeBob pinata with one swing of the bat. Abram wouldn’t care; since then, the party would be over.

His backyard was small, misshapen, and fenced in with a weak chain link. Intertwined between the mesh guts of the fence were rotting privacy slabs. Broken and weathered so soon, it had been a job Abram had helped his grandmother with last fall. It hid the piled garbage bags. His mother would leave as if she never saw them in the first place. Or the dishes in the sink or the papers piling on the front step. Abram wondered if she saw any of the mess, he said not a word and picked up the chores himself.

Evelyn had spent hours hauling the bags into the small garden shed. Stuffing them in, causing the smell to permeate the whole of the yard. With torn corners spewing gag-worthy odors, burnt papers, empty soup cans, moldy milk jugs. Abram could still smell it now, or his imagination told him he could. At least he had a clean lawn for these children to play on, a shining glimpse into normality.

“Dale, dale, dale,” Evelyn chanted the piñata song, clapped her hands as she spun Tony with an American flag bandana over his eyes. Thankfully the bat was a Nerf brand, so his ape-like arms might now smash it on the first blow.

“Don’t lose your aim,” she continued to sing. Abram’s best friend, Christopher, was yelling names to Tony.

“Fatty patty, tubby ducky,” Christopher swung his thick thighs as he chanted. Evelyn sang louder trying to drown out the boy’s name-calling. Abram chuckled to himself, he liked Christopher, but the boy was dumb. He made a habit of calling everyone else fat to take the light off himself. Abram tried to talk sense into his friend, who wouldn’t be his first friend choice if it wasn’t for Mrs. Fibraski in grade one who made Abram sit next to Christopher, but the boy insisted on putting others down. He wasn’t a bully, just stupidly naive to think it was okay to call names. Or so Abram believed.

Christopher copied everything off Abram’s school work. He was even going back to that infamous grade one class when he copied the alphabet. He shared his lunch often with Abram, so he was okay with it, especially since he never got such a large lunch that Christopher got. Besides, he could afford to give up the sweets, and really, he needed some brain foods like broccoli.

Sedric stood next in line; he loved soccer, baseball, and basketball. Almost any sport he could show off how fast he was and often took the time to rub it into Abram’s face. Then Trisha, who had her hair in two piggy tales and won the game of mud pie eating or grass blowing often. Julie followed whatever Trisha did just to be accepted, and then there was Tosh and Key. They went everywhere together and somehow appeared at everything, even sometimes without an invite. Tosh was two minutes older than his sister Key and made all the executive decisions. As the only East Indian family who lived in the Jackson Hole Community Housing projects (across from Malhi), they often baked samosas for everyone else. To not only feed the ‘poorer’ families but also to showcase their skills and culture.

Abram never minded. It was better than oats he often ate for supper. Although his grandmother had promised his favorite meal for tonight, pork chops cooked in mushroom soup and soaked into a rice dish.

Swhack!

The bat connected after the third and final swing from Tony’s turn, and SpongeBob’s square head ended as an oval. The yellow paper dented in but made no hole. The quick kid’s cheer died out, and Tony tore off the blindfold for Tamara’s turn. Not a smidge of candy yet.

“Because- if you lose it, you lose the way,” Evelyn continued to sing. Tamara, the girl next in line, stepped up to bat. Evelyn struggled to lift the weight of the girl’s long blonde hair. It seemed she grew it on the principle that it is the most extended hair in class. It was not combed neatly. The knots in the back were large enough for birds, and all the other boys liked Tamara but not Abram. He didn’t like the amount of hair on her. Malhi’s little ruby red threads sat neatly on her shoulders. Brushed and always smelling fresh.

His hair often shaved off in since his mother would try to cut it and end up shaving it. He only cried the first time he ended up bald. Subconsciously, Abram ran his fingers through the few inches now on his head and wondered how long until she shaved it again. Or his clothing, through the wash, returned torn to shreds as if reflecting his mother’s emotional well being. Tattered with no reason. 

He vaguely listened to the singing while Tamara spun before being repositioned to hit the piñata. Malhi sat crossed-legged on the grass, caught his gaze, and patted the space beside her. He didn’t need to be asked twice.

“I thought you wanted to play?” Abram asked as he approached her.

“I’m surprised it went past Sedric,” she replied, tucking her hair behind her ear.

“Yeah,” he chuckled, “me too.” and threw a pretend to punch onto her skinny shoulder. The wince on her delicate white face made him regret the gesture immediately. She rubbed her sore shoulder and pulled back to look back toward the excitement.

“I never heard that song,” she commented, breaking the awkward silence Abram feared would settle in.

“Dale, Dale, Dale,” Evelyn continued, insisting on singing the song again. Tamara swung the bat for the final hit, and Malhi’s eyes lit from the sight of colorful candy flying in every direction. The cascade of red, yellow, and purple was followed quickly by the jump of monkey-like children to collect the sweets. Abram hoped for a moment Malhi would remain beside him, but sadly, her draw to candy was the same, and Abram was left once more, sitting by himself.

The grass cleaned in a downbeat of his heart, wrappers stuffed into pockets, socks, and any other fold in the kids’ clothing. Abram picked up a single pink wrapped Bazooka Joe gum at his feet. The comic was classic red and yellow with blue characters. He had received a bucket of these one year for Christmas with a card from his father stating, “sorry I couldn’t get any holidays this year,” and the recollection of his mother screaming into the phone at Thomas. She hadn’t gotten up for Christmas morning the next day either, they both stayed in their rooms silent until Evelyn showed up with dinner.

Abram even braved, telling his grandmother he heard his mother scream, “white demon get from me.” He checked Obscura, which showed nothing of a white demon. Even when he entered immediately and saw the words in his mother’s lips and the fear in her eyes, still no monster, his grandmother dismissed his accusation stating it must be the new medication.

Now, the joke on the comic didn’t appear funny, or maybe it was just because of the day he’d had so far. The words hardly seemed to make sense, and he stared at the letters for what seemed forever. Willing them to form a joke, but all they ended up doing was bring out the stars in his vision.

They swarm from the corners of his eyes, as a snow globe is shaken. To imagine a happy house sitting comfortably in the middle, he could no longer see the comic or anything. He was thrown very quickly into a life or death avalanche of stars. Next, blink, and it mashed together to become a black curtain that nearly took his breath away. He could feel the paper-thin strip in his hand but was losing that sense too. The black plane demanded his attention, not a welcome call but an urgent throw, and before he could breathe again, he saw an image push through the dark space of Obscura. It wanted to show him something. As if the carpet rolled out, but it was not red. It was solid black as empty eternity, with a woman positioned in a robust metal chair. He tried to reach his hand out, but it seemed he no longer had a hand. Or an arm, or even a body.  His emotional being was all Obscura permitted.

He couldn’t reach the woman, and he couldn’t turn, pull, or peel away. The energy demanded his attention and pulled his spirit closer, no free will of it. No tunnels or choices, it was this. No other option. Her pure white gown stained from sweat and vomit, and shaved head bent unnaturally low as if she weren’t alive any longer. There was no sound, no scent, and no knowledge other than her. Abram moved closer, cautiously. Only the aura of this tortured woman occupied Obscura with him, but even that was too dark to sense who it was. His essence moved silently through the black space, a plane of dark matter blotted out every other sight around the woman, as it usually did. A tunnel vision for only what Abram wanted to see, or as this was new to him, what Obscura wanted him to see.

The woman, with thick Velcro straps locked on her hands, feet, and chest, was his mother. He recognized her by the erratic heartbeat he knew so well from previous Obscura visits. He saw her face as he willed it upward. Her cheeks near blue from lack of oxygen, eyes swelled with broken blood vessels and fists cut and broken as if walls punched. Abram wanted to touch her soft scalp, kiss her busted knuckles and say, “I’m here, mom,” but Obscura swallowed up his emotion, and he was left hollow and forced to watch. The doctor appeared from the broken scene of color in Obscura with electric shock pads he positioned on her temples. Not a sound emitted, but Abram felt the zap of power as her mouth snapped open, and her tongue held in place with a plastic disc, and she froze in a permanent scream. The stars filled the darkness, resumed their position, and tore him out and left him standing once more on the tattered lawn of his childhood.

Abram had to swallow hard not to cry out, tears wet his eyes but no one seemed to notice as children happily stuffed their mouths with miniature Kit Kat bars.

“Can you read it?” Christopher was shaking him, “what does it say?” Abram wanted to scream out but swallowed harder instead. His mother gone from his vision, and he hadn’t the energy or desire to crawl back to Obscura to watch her painful treatment. Abram knew all too well from the books read about mental health, and his teacher should stop him from learning. He should make plaster seen molds instead, like the other children. Not read those dark books, he thought to himself.

Christopher waved his arms, “are you dumb? I’m talking!” if he were smarter, he would have cried out for help thinking Abram was having a seizure. But he wasn’t, and that’s what Abram needed in a friend. Cluelessly oblivious. “What does it say?” Christopher repeated, grabbing the comic from Abram’s hand.

“The girl says, ‘you smell nice, and you have cologne on?’” Abram spoke, not blinking. The image of the comic and his mother overlapped and burnt in his mind. The horrid scream that he hadn’t heard from his mother’s mouth materialized quickly in his mind.

“The boy says, ‘no, and I forgot my deodorant’ as he lifts his arm.” He dropped the words as he turned to walk away, not caring for his crude friend that was left laughing hysterically.

“Let’s play another game!” Evelyn shouted over the sounds of happiness. The square house was oddly dark for the middle of the day but not as dark as Obscura as Abram entered once more and disappeared into a corner to hide.

                                             ***

“Thomas?” Evelyn sounded shocked as she opened the door to Bram’s father. Abram held himself up in his mother’s bedroom for the remainder of the party, and all the gifts sat unopened in the living room. His grandmother had peeked in at one point, laid her eyes on him before closing the door once more. He listened to the remainder of the party below him but never made a move to rejoin. Malhi was the only one that had come to say goodbye before walking home.

The house went quiet, and he stared at the markings his mother had drawn on her dresser of large-headed aliens, tornado type swirls, and evil-looking eyes. He traced his fingers over the black pen markings. He pulled the blankets off the bed and laid in a half fort on the floor.

The bazooka gum sat still in his pocket, where he had placed it after Christopher had pulled him from Obscura. Even when Abram tried to re-enter in the silence of the house during the party, he couldn’t locate his mother again. The zaps to her mind scattered her, and he couldn’t find her essence. There had been times over the years he thought the dark place was just a dream rather than real, but this felt too real. With the absence of his mother from home and Obscura, he knew in his heart. Obscura was no gag.

The voices drifted up the stairs and through his mother’s closed door, “where’s Vic?” his grandmother’s voice sounded panicked, asking for her daughter. Abram knew where she was, locked in an asylum.

“She needs to stay this time,” Thomas responded cold. “For observation and medication reconciliation.” Abram scribbled the word ‘reconciliation’ into his mind to look up at the school library on Monday. What he did know was each time his mother’s medications were changed; she would be trance-like for days. Who knows what the electric shocks would have done.

“Where’s Abram?”

“In Vic’s room, he left the party early. Why didn’t you come right back?” There was a long pause, “maybe you should just go. He’s already had a hard day.” The creak of the front door said she was about to close him out.

“What makes you think I’d make it worse?” The anger this time.

“History,” His grandmother was so snarky Abram almost laughed from behind the tower of blankets.

“Can I come in?” his father persisted.

“Abram should rest.” As much as he loved his grandmother, a stab of threat cut his chest, how could she turn his father away when it was rare for the guy to show? She didn’t have that right.

“I won’t stay for long…”

“Thomas!” the front door squealed as Abram pictured his father pushed it back open. “The boy needs rest, and he has to endure his mother’s break downs time and time again. You do nothing to support him! Where were you today? For his party?” Evelyn’s words snarled.

“I was with Victoria.”

“Oh, don’t you bullshit me. They send you away, right away. We both know that!”

“I was busy, look…”

“No, I have a farm to run, my horses haven’t eaten today!” Evelyn’s voice cracked with emotion, and the invisible knife dug into Abram’s chest. She hadn’t freely hung out today, and she hadn’t willingly taken over the party. “I hadn’t planned on staying…”

Abram couldn’t handle to eavesdrop any longer, and he wanted the argument about him to stop. He threw the blankets off and purposely stomped his feet to warn them. Whipping open the bedroom door, told him they were too far gone to realize the sudden commotion.

“Well, you have to for a while!” Thomas barked, and like he hit a wall, Abram stopped. How long was it awhile? He thought to himself. “I can’t take him! I work a night shift. His school is too far for him to walk. Victoria needs just to pull her shit together.” This one was a machete, chopping Abram’s heart in half. No one wanted him. He was a burden. “And if social services were to get involved, I don’t know if I could stop them….” His father’s voice trailed off.

“Is that a threat, Thomas? I’m doing the best I can, and I don’t see you…”

Abram forced one foot in front of the other down the stairs so he didn’t fall face first. The massive set of his steps still did nothing to interrupt the yelling.

“Evelyn, look what’s been happening! Do you even know? She stalks my house! She sits in her car, screams at people passing my house, thinks everyone has to stay away from me. She’s crazy, and she’s f…” Thomas gulped for air, lowered his tone, “And where’s Abram when she’s doing this? Sleeping at home by himself? Evelyn, this has got to stop. If she puts my son at risk…” It was the first time Abram had heard his father take such ownership of his life but felt it was still more a stab at his mother than anything.

“What are you going to do? You won’t even take him for more than two days a month! Vic tells me…”

That was enough for Abram; he jumped the last three steps and didn’t bother to correct his landing. He fell painfully in the hallway behind Evelyn. “Oh my, are you okay?” she rushed to him, but he stood without her help.

Abram didn’t meet his father’s eyes when he stepped into the front entrance of the townhouse. He instantly put his arms around his grandmother’s middle, “it’s okay, G-Ma.” He addressed his pet name for her to calm her; he felt her skin was growing clammy with emotion. He didn’t want to burden her, and he knew how she loved her horses, especially spirit with the uncanny white heart shape on her forehead. As if to say, the two matched each other for their oddity. Evelyn, with her hair white and a stripe of dark grey, under her left ear. It looked like the girls in Abram’s class that put hair clips in, so they have one shock of pink amongst the blonde, but his grandmother had one shock of solid coal grey amongst the pure salt white.

Evelyn knew how emotionally intense Abram was, and he was the one who would call the police when his mother wouldn’t stop her screams of horror at the ceiling or when she would run the bathtub till the water came under the door. He didn’t call Evelyn, he called the police and then his grandmother.

Thomas’ throat bobbed as he swallowed, then forced the words together, “There’s the birthday boy.” He fell to one knee to match Abram’s height.

“Hi Thomas,” Abram forced a smile, he had learned long ago how to fake it. To pretend he didn’t hear the adult conversation.

“When did you stop calling me, Dad?”

“When you left us.”

“Jesus Abram, I never left you!”

“It’s Bram,” his smile faded.

“You’re only seven, such a grown-up name.” exasperated, Thomas ran his hand through his wavy hair. Bram wished his father had to shave his head as he did. His father could afford proper hair cuts for himself, how come Bram never got one. He furrowed his brows at his father.

“No, Thomas, I’m already seven. You know, don’t you remember all the birthdays you missed.”

“You might act as you’re old and mature, but you’re still only a child,” he put his arms out for a hug, and once he realized Bram wouldn’t step into it, he leaned forward and forced it. It was not welcome as Malhi’s had been, and just as Bram’s smile had been, it felt fake. There was no real comfort, and his body was cold and unloving. Thomas wanted to show support but never give it. That would interfere with his work schedule. It might even crack his stiff back, strong man-look if he showed emotion. Drugs took the feelings from his mother, but his father never had any to start. Abram never recalled anything except annoyance come from Thomas.

“Did you open your gift?” Thomas stood and looked to the coffee table covered in colorful boxes.

“Obviously not,” now Bram wished he had let his grandmother turn him away. Thomas walked straight into the house without removing his shoes and picked out the ugly pink box. He turned and handed it to Bram.

“This is for you.”

“I noticed.”

“Come on, open it, big guy.”

A vein throbbed in Bram’s forehead as the box forced into his hands. He never gave Thomas the satisfaction of looking at him as he ripped the paper off. Bram felt his eyes on him, waiting for a response. He seemed to the childish Nerf gun with three round balls loaded.

Thomas,” liquid venom in his words, “this is a baby toy.” Bram slowly shook his head as his shoulders slumped forward involuntarily. His father didn’t know him. He never ran around, getting dirty or playing guns, and he was too busy taking care of his depressed mother. Who was left to sink in the mud if it weren’t for Bram?

“No, it is not!” Thomas rubbed at his temples, whisked the box from Bram’s grasp, and tore it open. He pointed it at Evelyn and let a ball fly without hesitation. It met its target behind Bram with a solid fwap, and Evelyn grunted a response but said not a word. She laid her hand on Bram’s shoulder as if lending energy to his failing demeanor. He just wanted to tell Thomas to take the stupid gun and leave.

“See? It’s fun,” Thomas continued, in his way saying, ‘you’re damn well going to have fun with it,’ and pushed it back into Bram’s hands.

Looking down at the pointless toy, Bram dug out the nerve to ask, “when’s Mom coming home?”

“Oh, well, she might be gone for a couple of days. She needs a break.”

“A break? From me?” Bram didn’t understand, and he did everything he could to help around the house. Maybe he needed to get a job, and there was an ad at the back of the newspaper.

“No, no. Not at all. Mom needs to stay at the hospital for a few days and have a break from herself. It easier on her mind to be in a hospital.”

“No, it’s not, that monster still haunts her in the hospital. I saw her. Maybe if you moved back, she wouldn’t be so scared of a monster!”

“Ab… Bram, there’s no monster. It’s in her head, and that’s what the doctors need to figure out. Why is it scaring her so much? They will help her. But I can’t move back, and I’m no, we are no good for each other. I can’t help your mom.” Thomas stepped past Bram to leave the stuffy house, “and what do you mean you saw her?” he added, one foot out the door, but he paused.

Bram held his gaze, flexed his fingers, and responded, “never mind.” He desperately wanted to tell someone, but Thomas would be the last one. He would probably lock Bram up just as he did with his mother. Then he would have the door closed on him screaming in some ward too. Thomas didn’t ask any further, and Bram didn’t hesitate the close the door as he left.

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