“Some of this I’m sure you already know, or figured out on your own. So just…bear with me. Timmy is my little brother. We are…well, you know. Maybe you didn’t know that about me before, but now you do.”
“Yeah. I…didn’t know that until, well I kind of figured it out like last night.”
“Okay. So…I know what you saw that night. I know why you came into my coffee shop looking white as a ghost. They were sloppy and stupid,” she said, flashing Timmy a filthy look.
“I saw your drawings. I could almost read your thoughts, but I couldn’t figure out why you were on this mission. I mean, you saw something that isn’t meant to be seen. Ever. It’s just legend and folklore, but it IS real, and you knew it. But it seemed like something more was motivating you. I tried to get you to open up to me, but you were so guarded. Then, when things became more intense, I needed to make you go away, for your own good. It worked for a while, but now that your back, I might as well tell you what you need to hear. It might save your life.”
“Wait! Go away? Why?” This whole speech from Jasmine sounded so prepared and polished. I was getting frustrated at how this all felt. I was expecting a little more participation on my part. Not just some fucking memorized dialogue.
Jasmine became visibly agitated by my question. I had stumbled onto something big and thrown her off course. She looked into her lap, collecting her thoughts, not wanting to meet my expecting eyes. “Hmmm…the moment you saw what you saw, your life was immediately in danger. You weren’t supposed to…”
I waited for her to continue after her long pause. I just stared at her, looking at her own hands. Over my shoulder, I could see Timmy behaving the same way. I started to panic. I got a really eerie feeling, like I knew what she was trying to say. I felt my eyes well up and I was growing more anxious. “What? I wasn’t supposed to what?”
Jasmine picked up her face and drew in a breath. Right as she was about to speak, Timmy broke his silence. For the first time since I’d met him, he sounded sad and small to me, helpless. He pleaded “Jazzy please…stop. You don’t have to.”
“Timmy. We talked about this. He needs to know.”
Timmy buried his face into his hands, like he was trying to disappear. I continued to sob, fearing the worst. I should have never come here the other night.
Finally Jasmine found the courage to tell me. She met my eyes and said, “Tyler, you weren’t supposed to make it home that night.”
“Wait! Timmy followe…oh my God.” The realization stopped me dead in my tracks. I was hyperventilating, and I needed to get air. I stood up and stumbled my way out of the room. I looked at Timmy, who still had his face hidden in the cradle of his hands. I didn’t say anything more. I just needed to get the fuck out of there. I wasn’t really sure what to do, but I had to do something. I found myself standing in the kitchen, when I spotted my boots and coat near the front door. I quickly went to them and started to jam my feet into my boots, which only proves to take longer and is much more frustrating than just sitting down and doing it the right way.
Jasmine appeared in the doorway behind me. “Where are you going Tyler?”
“Huh? I don’t know…out.”
“Look. There’s so much more to tell you. You can’t leave. Please.”
“I think I’ve heard enough. You people are fucking crazy. I’m outta here.”
“That’s not fair! You have to let me explain. Timmy’s very upset. Please stay.”
I wordlessly grabbed my coat and started to unlatch the various locks on the door. I half expected to be jumped or attacked, or worse, but she didn’t do or say anything. I crossed the threshold and quietly shut the door behind me. After three steps, I sprinted as fast as my body would allow, to the far end of the hall, and into the stairwell. I leaped down the three flights in seconds, and exploded out the door into the freedom of the winter night sky. I ran for what felt like miles, until I was confident they hadn’t followed me.
I spotted a tired out, snow covered playground and dusted off a swing. I needed to rest. To sit. I spun randomly, with my toes rolling in the snow on the ground below. If I thought I was confused before, it was way worse now. They didn’t seem like they wanted to hurt me. They brought me back to health. But what if it was a trick? It’d be a lot easier to gain the trust from somebody and kill them in the convenience of your own home, than have to do it in some cold, dirty alley. My head spun in so many directions, with one question opening up five more. I wasn’t getting anywhere.
I was starting to feel cold. I didn’t have my hat or gloves. Only a flimsy hood to cover my head. My legs were going numb too, with only Jasmine’s thin pants covering them. I had no money, and no food. There was really only one option left for me. I had to go home and face the music.
If my calculations were right, it was Sunday night, which meant both of my parents would be home. They’d be planted in front of the TV, my mom with her magazine, and my dad with his beer, cigarettes, and bad attitude. I approached cautiously to the side of the house and peered through the thin, lace curtains, to confirm what I already knew. I leaned up against the side of the house to think, but no scenario or excuse I thought of, ended well for me. I was in big time trouble, and my only saving grace was my mom being home. She’d keep my dad under control, to a certain degree.
I made the dreaded walk to the front door, trembling. I reached into my pocket for my k…shit! I don’t have my key. I would have to knock, to be allowed in. Not a good start. After about a minute, I got up the courage to knock, so I gently tapped, almost hoping they wouldn’t hear it. I saw a shadow sweep through the room. Please be mom. Please be mom. Please be mom. The door swung open and it was mom.
She looked awful. Rundown and sleepless. Sick with worry. No doubt for me. I felt terrible for what I had put her through. All I had to do was call and let her know I was ok. Instead, I selfishly did nothing. I had a hard time lifting my head to meet her eyes. I mumbled, “I’m sorry mom,” in a voice only she’d be able to pick up.
She placed her hands on the sides of my face and gently lifted my chin off of my chest. In a voice so thick with concern, she asked “dear god Tyler. What happened to you?”
She traced her fingers across my gross lips and scratchy cheeks. Examining, in disbelief that someone could do such a thing to her baby. For my part, I stood there, not sure what else I could do. I was slapped back to reality by the nearby drunken bark of my father.
“Shut the damn door. You’re letting all the cold in. Who is it? Go away.”
Sensing my inherent resistance, my mom cradled my shoulder from behind and steered me into the warmth of the house. Words were not spoken, as she guided me up the stairs to the implied safety of my bedroom. As we passed through the living room, I shifted my head ever so slightly, toward my dad’s chair. He wore a smirk that said ‘I told you so.’ As if he could have predicted a life full of bashings and put downs for me. This didn’t seem to bother him at all. Quite the opposite, actually.
Once in my bedroom, my mothers maternal instincts kicked in, as she started to strip me of my coat and tried to move on to points beyond.
“Mom. I can do this myself,” I protested with a little too much animosity.
“I’m just trying to help,”‘she said in desperation, bordering on tears. “Who did this to you? Where have you been? You’ve had me so worried.”
“I’m sorry mom. I…I don’t know what I was thinking. I should have called.”
“Damn right you should have called.”
I sat in silence, tugging at a thread in my comforter. Hiding my face in shame. I could feel my mom standing over me, not sure what she should do or say. This was the first time her only child came home beat up, not to mention being gone with no explanation, for days on end. She reached in with her hand and ran her fingers through my tired hair.
“I don’t suppose you want to talk about it, hmm?”
“Okay. I’m not gonna push you. Why don’t you take a hot shower. You look frozen to the bone, and I’ll bring you up something to eat. Ok?”
I glanced up into her warm, caring face. “Thanks mom.”
She planted a kiss on the top of my head. “Anything for my sweetheart. I’m just so happy to have you back home and safe.”
She made for the door and I started to tug my socks off. That hot shower she suggested, sounded like exactly what I needed. She stopped at my door and said, “oh, and Jesse dropped by to see you a few times this weekend.”
“Yeah. He said he was a friend of yours from school.”
She left me to contemplate who in the Hell Jesse was. The pull of the shower was too strong, so I shook it from my mind and headed for the bathroom. The shower did its usual cleansing, above and beyond cleansing in the literal sense. I felt one hundred times better, afterwards.
I put on the most comfortable clothes from my closet and sat at my computer desk, awaiting my mothers return. I decided while in the shower, that I would give her some insight into what happened to me. She came up a little while later with a tray containing a cross-cut grilled cheese, some tater-tots with a dollop of ketchup, a bundle of green grapes, homemade chocolate chip cookie, and a tall glass of skim milk.
“Wow mom! This looks great.”
“Oh. It was nothing. Ok. I’ll leave you to it.”
I managed to catch her before she was gone. “Wait. Mom!”
She turned back. “Yes, honey?”
“Umm…I just…this happened at school. There’s…there’s this total asshole..”
“Sorry…jerk bully. He picks on everyone, like all the time and…well it was my turn this week, so that’s what happened.”
“Did you report this? To the office.”
“No. No. See that’s the thing…if I did, he’d just come after me again. So that’s kind of why I didn’t come home. I didn’t want you to freak out and tell my school. It’ll…it’ll be ok. Trust me. Please just leave it alone.”
“Do you really think that’s the best thing to do? What if he continues to pick on you. Maybe if he’s punished, he’ll learn his lesson.”
“Mom. You don’t understand. He really doesn’t give a…doesn’t care. He’d laugh at being suspended.”
“Maybe he needs to be removed from school.”
“Well, in order to do that, you kids who he’s picking on need to tell someone.”
“Look. I’ll handle it, ok? Just trust me on this. Please?”
“I will this time, but if you come home with one more black eye, I’m going right to the principal.”
“Ok. Thanks mom.”
She left without another word, giving me a chance to eat my food while it was still warm. It felt good to tell her what happened, but I wasn’t about to tell her I spent the weekend with a vampire brother and sister, and that I had borderline gay playtime with the boy. Some things moms just don’t need to know.
I ate about half of the food and was feeling pretty comfortable. Next, I did something I hadn’t done since I was probably seven. I went to bed at eight o’clock. I was so happy to be back in my bed, with my blankets, and my pillow, that I fell asleep almost immediately. The last thought I had before I slipped away was, wondering how hard it would be to convince my mom I wasn’t ready to go back to school yet. When I talk to her about it in the morning, I hope she’ll understand.