Short Story: Tobey

Posted by in Fiction, Motherhood Project, Ten Minutes

The accident wasn’t her fault, not directly, but she knew they’d say it was. She had been unstable for a long time and deep down, everyone was just waiting for her to mess up. Waiting to see how crazy she really was. But Marilyn’s thoughts hadn’t gotten that far yet. Instead, she stood there holding his limp little body and cried, buried her face in his still warm chest, and wept with more emotion, more pain, more agony than shed felt in months. She had been numb for as long as she could remember, numb and exhausted. And Tobey’s birth had made no difference. But today, she felt the pain.

Shed went to his room to wake him up. It was already almost noon and he was usually up bothering her by eight a.m. for something to eat. The kid always seemed to be hungry. But today, he’d overslept. She thought, maybe he was exhausted after yesterday. She’d lost her temper again and really went in on him. Had to call her sister to come and make sure he wasn’t hurt too bad. Ice a few bruises, tell him everything would be alright. And as usual, her sister, Tabatha, talked to her; told her she had to get it together for her son’s sake. Had to find an outlet, had to talk to her doctor about the meds. Asked what would she do if Tabatha wasn’t there to clean up her messes. What would she do if she lost her son? Nothing she hadn’t said before.

She knew her sister was right; knew she should feel something. But she didn’t. Not until today.

The haze was gradually rising away and in its place her heart ached. It clawed and scratched and beat wildly within her, it felt pain like it had never felt before. Marilyn never wanted to hurt Tobey, she wanted to love him, she wanted to feel love… feel something, anything, but deep down she knew that having him was a mistake. She didn’t know how to pull herself out of that darkness and his presence did little more than remind her she was worthless, she was cruel, she would never be a real mother, she would never be worthy of anyone’s love. She saw that now more than ever. For the first time in four years, she realized loved the boy, more than shed ever thought possible. Shed loved him as shed always wanted to, but he was gone and now he’d never know.

Marilyn cupped his warm body in her arms and pressed him hard against her. She pulled back and tried to touch him gently, where the bruises had begun to form, wincing in shame for what shed done. She looked down past the cuffs of his too-small dinosaur pajamas and traced the yellowing bruises on his shins. Saw her own purple finger prints dotting his forearms, welts from last night across his ribs. She took a deep breath and smelled her son as if for the first time. Then squeezed him harder, as if this sudden surge of love would bring him back. His arms flailed awkwardly at his sides with each heaving sob, and she tried to catch them with her fingers, pile them up in the hollow of his stomach and chest. Tried to wrap his little body around her, grasped desperately at one last embrace.

But Tobey was gone.

He wasn’t coming back this time and there would be no more unwanted hugs. No more awkward good night kisses, no more bruises, no more sorrys, no more, “I’m too tired today.” She was free of him, as shed wanted to be since the day he was born… but never like this. Marilyn sat and held Tobey for a long time. Caressed his soft brown hair, squeezed his chubby pink fingertips. She sat staring at him until her tears dried, until she began to imagine his chest still rising, though barely, imagine an occasional twitch, or flutter of life. She let her heart leap once or twice then shook her head with shame. She did this. It was her fault. She couldn’t sit here basking in hopeless denial. She’d hit him one too many times, ignored his cries, rejected his hugs, and now she had to deal with the consequences. Now she could feel the pain.

Marilyn laid his body on the floor and sat and thought. She wiped the now-cold tears from her cheeks and ran her trembling hands through her thick auburn hair. Gradually, the adrenaline began coursing through her. Her heart pounded in her chest, joints weakened, muscles tensed and the panic began to set in. She looked over at her limp little boy splayed across the dirty beige carpet and realized… they would say it was all her fault. They would see the bruises, the fractures her sister had splinted again and again, they would ask the neighbors about the noise. They would never believe it was an accident. They would be coming for her soon.

Marilyn stood up ad began to pace, the floor boards creaking beneath her. She knew she could call her sister, Tabatha. She had always gotten her out of trouble in the past. She was always there for her and Tobey. Always there to make her mistakes go away. Tabatha knew her sister was sick and believed that she would overcome it. Believed that having Tobey was the smartest thing shed ever done; that having someone else rely on her would be enough to help her fight this thing. She knew her sister was a good person. Even though Marilyn felt utterly devoid of the ability to love, her sister knew it was deep down inside of her, and having this little boy, she promised, would be the thing that brought it out.

What she didn’t know is was how far it would have to go. What it was really going to take.

(to be continued)*

Part of the Ten Minutes series… A challenge to write for ten minutes everyday, no matter what. Learn more… Join the movement!

*Its a free write, so its pretty rough… but the goal is not perfection. Its just about the act of writing. So bear with me as I get back in practice, it will get better, lol.