“It’s OK. I understand.” Will’s voice sounded well rehearsed. As a counselor, she dealt with a lot of young adults striking it out in the “real world” for the first time.
“Let’s start from the beginning. Why were you asked to leave your biology class?” she asked.
Susan chose her words carefully. “I called Professor Lens an idiot, and that sparked a debate that landed me here talking to you.”
“Why did you call him an idiot?” Will asked.
“He labeled me as a transgender. Therefore, I labeled him as an idiot.” A smile caressed her lips, signaling satisfaction in her action.
“Why do you suppose he labeled you as such?” She paused. “Or better asked, what was the foundation of his accusation?”
“His deduction came from a questionnaire we had to fill out. We had to list our likes and dislikes. It was from this list that he concluded I was transgender.” Susan’s face blushed with aggravation.
“I see. If you don’t mind me asking, what did you list on the questionnaire.” Will placed her pen down, giving Susan full attention.
“My likes were sports, hunting, and fishing. My dislikes were formal events, reading romance novels, and the Cowboys.”
“Given the short list, I can see how he came to his conclusion.” Will paused. “However, it doesn’t justify his accusation. I can see that he embarrassed you in front of your peers. I will have a talk with him on that matter.”
Susan’s shoulders relaxed in relief. “Thank you.” Feeling regretful for making a scene she continued. “I just get tired of being labeled as a lesbian, transgender, or a tomboy.” Looking at her sneakers. “I was raise by my father, had three older brothers, and we lived near Smithville, in the country. At any rate, I’m me. I have my likes and dislikes. It doesn’t give anyone the right to label me. I am not one genre.” Looking up at her counselor, “Is it so hard to comprehend that labeling is wrong?
Will smiled softly. “I understand exactly what you are saying. Maybe someday, we’ll understand that error; just not today.”
One could eloquently state that Charles was no romantic. The well established 45-year-old district sales manager shined in the aspect of providing for his beloved family. With a concrete dedication, he held fast to a work-eat-sleep routine. Amidst his well-balanced life a problem stewed.
He and Dianne married in their mid-twenties and, like all well planned out families, they had two girls four years apart; making college preparations easier. Truth be known, both were accidents, but that another quaint story for another rainy day. Having the gift for gab, Charles excelled as a sales representative and with time he progressively gained his current position, stepping on the shoulders of his coworkers.
A clear view of his misguided perspective laid the foundation of his skewed reality. For you see, although he wasn’t the most honest, nor virtuous man, he did have righteous intentions. This is what’s brings us to our ambiguous hero’s current situation; standing perplexed as he desperately searched for the right anniversary card.
Seeing that Charles was not having the best of times, a sales representative inquired “May I help you?”
Looking over his reading glasses, he politely smiled. “Perhaps.” A quick glimpse at the card in hand allowed him finish his read. “I’m looking for the perfect 20th anniversary card.”
“Oh how sweet!” she exclaimed. “We do carry a wide variety of cards that suits that very occasion.”
Placing the card back on the shelf, his chin pointed towards more cards as he peered for more prospects. “Do you have one that says ‘Thanks for understanding’?”
Not clear on his statement she point towards a set of cards. “These are our ‘Thanks for being so caring’ cards.”
His lip pouted in discontent. “No. It needs to say ‘Thanks for understanding’. I’m a little off schedule, as one may put it.”
“Oh I see. Are we talking a day or two late?” she asked.
Turning his attention to the sales rep he quickly muttered. “Nope. It was last year.”
Stunned and speechless the lady pick up a card and handed it to him.
Opening it, he found it to be blank inside.
“Wait, there aren’t any words in this one. I need a card, with words, right now.” Charles demanded
With raised eye brows and an honest look, the rep replied, “Sir, there are no words.”
Lightening illuminated the room as Kevin began to count,
“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…”
A roll of thunder signaled the approaching storm. The ten-year old boy wasn’t as afraid of storms as he use to be. However, lightning always brought an eery view to his room. Perhaps it was the split second revelation followed by the sudden darkness that led to his overactive imagination. Was that shadow my coat or a dark creature? He was certain that it was his jacket hanging in the closet. He clearly remembered hanging it there.
Another flash of lightning revealed his jacket was indeed hanging there next to an unknown shadow that seemed to be staring at him. All features were hidden, but he was certain something was standing in his closet. The thunder crackled as the creature moved, ever so slightly. It moved! I saw it move. There is something in my closet and it just moved. Focusing his attention to the closet he could hear the creature breathing. But, what is it? Kevin slowly slid out of his bed and slipped across the carpet; taking care not to make a sound.
The creature appeared to be short like a goblin. No identifying features were revealed as Kevin got close. Holding his breath he got within inches of it. He could still hear it’s rapid shallow breathing. There’s no such thing as monsters. If there are, I’m about to catch my first one. Raising his hand towards its head he slowly began to exhale.
“Kevin.” a small voice called out.
A fear struck him as the creature seized his hand with its cold pale fingers. Lightening struck illuminating its screaming face. Kevin’s scream was eclipsed by the explosion of thunder. His backwards leap pulled the creature from the closet. The two fell to the floor as fear gripped them both. Before Kevin could move his unknown fiend wrapped it thin arms around him.
“I’m scared.” his sister whispered.
A flood of revelation brought an onslaught of relief to Kevin. Realizing it was his little sister the whole time, he hugged her back.
“It’s OK. That lightening was scary.”
Reaching up, he pulled his pillow from his bed for them to share and covered up with the blanket she brought from her room. The two slept on the floor as the storm passed over. Every now and then his sister would jerk from the thunder, and he would comfort her. He knew this was all part of being a big brother, even if she did scare the living daylight out of him.
Five a.m. came quick for Chris. It wasn’t a late night with the boys, or an argument with his wife that brought the morning on so quick. No, he was just worn out from his new carpentry job. Setting in his favorite chair, he realized he had fallen asleep with his work boots on. A small quilt covered him; a sure sign his wife took care of him.
Slowly making his way to the kitchen his body ached. Every joint popped like a bowl of milk and rice-crispies. Setting at the kitchen table, he untied his boots and kicked them off. Pulling his socks off too, he placed his feet on the cold hardwood floor. The cool flat surface brought relief as he made his way to the coffeepot. First the a precise measurement of grounds, then a pot full of water was added. As the first drip of coffee fell, Chris began to stretch. How could he be this young and feel this old? His hands still felt tight from gripping a hammer all day. Hand cramps were a sign of learning. Gotta let the hammer do the work. He told himself as he stretched his fingers out. The morning fog cleared from his thoughts as he stood there watching the pot fill. I could be getting ready for the day.
A quick shower and fresh clothes helped him face the morning. Moving with more ease, he poured his first cup. Not sure if it was his youth, inexperience or the excitement of learning a new trade, but he was actually excited to go to work. His career choice was the foundation he was building his life on.
Life didn’t come with instructions. It came with those before us showing what works and what doesn’t. Like Chris, we have all stepped out with uncertainty. But our youthful vigor perpetuated us all to achieve our greatness. As our work kicks back with pain, we are reminded five a.m. comes quick for us all.
The engine raced as adrenaline rushed through Levi’s veins. Tires screamed in horror, fighting to hang onto the morning asphalt of each corner. Machine and man danced around each chicane resembling two familiar lovers, knowing each other’s moves. This was not loved; this was passion. Cresting at the last hill, three miles of straight road filled his eyes. With ears tuned to each signature shift point, Levi was pulled deeper into his seat. The speedometer’s needle slowly made it’s way past 150mph. At the end of the straightaway, a hairpin corner waited patiently. Nerves tingles as a 20mph sign flew by in a blur beckoning him to slow down. Was this stupidity or just craziness? Whichever, he knew he was coming in too hot. This is where experience and reflexes demanded perfection. One hesitation, or one miscalculation could send car and driver to an early grave. Like four permanent markers, the wide tires marked the pavement in a howling pain. Levi’s body was pushed to the side making it difficult to move. Knuckles turned white, fighting to stay in control. The car careened sideways around the corner. A downward shift and the sound of an accelerating engine shot Levi out of the hairpin. A quick glimpse at the side mirror revealed no space between the tire marks and the unforgiving grass-line. Once again he escaped death’s clutches. However, an old oak stood six feet from the line, baring scars from the many drivers it had caught; a sacred reminder of past mistakes made with confidence. Such is life through the eyes of Levi and why he loved to dance around the corners.
When the consolidating cool air is upon me. I will ban with others, and bring the storm. Winds, thunder, and lightening will join in our crusade. Within this war we wage, I will fall. Plummeting at a chaotic rate, the winds of change will rip at the fabric of my soul. Though I’ll fight to stay together, fragments will be lost. Others around me will fall with me with no Calvary in sight. We are all fighting the same fight, but we are so individual.
A catastrophic amount of myself will be lost within the realm of my descending impact. I will only be a fraction of what I was. Yet, my days of demise are not upon me. For as the sun rises and brings the heat of the day, I too shall rise far above this earth, only to wage another storm.
Same day continued.
How many times can one hit a dog before it bites? Once too many is the answer. Although Christian had never struck is mother verbally or physically, he understood this saying very well. She was a constant stumbling block for him. Always carrying a negative air, she rarely shown appreciation. It was as though she hated the fact he was born and made it a point to show that hate everyday. Some days it was a storm of ridicule, breaking his soul until there was no will to live. Other days he was nothing more than a punching bag catching her closed fists. One would think after all of this abuse he would hate his mother. No, for Christian it was apathy. He had no hate nor did he have any love. In the end she was his mother and there was no changing that.
Tracy, the thin built, blonde wiry haired woman slowly rose and followed Christian into his apartment. Her eyes shifted around the room as to take note of its inventory.
A smirk gleamed across her face, “I see Luke came for a visit.” She pause to see his reaction. “That restraining order you put on him was a little uncalled for.” She watched as Christian filled a cup with water. His silence was unnerving. “It’s not like he waltzed in here and tried to take YOUR son away from YOU.” She prodded.
“How have you been?” Christian asked as he handed her the cup of water.
Grabbing the cup, her postured changed. “I’ve been doing. I got fired from the store and I’m waiting to hear back from my last interview. Hey, that reminds me, you wouldn’t happen to have $50 I can borrow, would you?”
“No.” he calmly answered, knowing that even if he did have it, he would never see it again.
Returning to her former posture she belted, “See that’s what’s wrong with you. You think you can raise your brother better than I can, but your don’t even have fifty dollars to your name. You couldn’t possibly begin to afford to raise your brother. Do you realize how rich I’d be if I didn’t have to raise you two? I have labored and toiled and broke my back bending over taking on every job that I could to raise you two. And what thanks do I get? NONE. I get a son who wants to divide this family.” Pausing she gazed at Christian with disgust. “I should have killed you as an infant.”
Christian kept his voice calm. “You’re a junky mother. You’re an abusive, drug using, mother. You have resented me from the day you pushed my out of the womb. I have been that unpickable splinter, constantly digging at you. Now you have went and involved Luke. When things get too tough you throw others in the middle of it. You don’t deserve to be Benjamin’s mother.”
Popping up as though a reminder dinged in her head, Tracy retorted. “Oh that reminds me. The service is on Saturday. That’s the whole reason I came over.” Laughing at her simple mind she continued. “You’re brother got in a car wreck. Paramedics said that he died at the scene. Sad, he had such a bright future ahead of him. Well, I’m off. I have to get everything in order before Saturday.” She left as though her job was finished as she was off to her next agenda.
The room began to spin as Christian sat at his kitchen table. All of his efforts to save his brother was thrown to the wind. Words were lost as a wave of emotions crushed his soul. Tears began to fall as he fought to repress his hatred. She doesn’t deserve your emotion. Benjamin is in a better place far from her abuse.
Twenty years later.
Looking back I see clearly what was meant to be. I would have never went to college, landed the job of my dreams. married the love of my life, nor had two sons of my own. No, life has a way of saying ‘You’re about to make the wrong choice for the right reason.’ Soon after my brother’s death I moved to the west coast. It’s funny how, with all the miles in between us, I can still hear my mother’s hatred filled voice. My psychology professor once said the voice of encouragement that lies within us is the voice of our parents. How true this is.
I don’t regret trying to adopt my brother. In fact, had I not done anything, my pain would have been deeper.
“After going over your finances, there are some areas I would like to cover with you.” The caseworker’s rehearsed tone predicted a forecast of brick walls, not speed bumps.
Christian sat silent as he listened. With each visit he risked the chance of being fired, This was the second time he had to request time off from work. Warnings from his foreman added to the tension. He was still in the 90 day probation. Any excuse to get fired was one excuse too many. Family first. He reminded himself … at the end of the day we all stop working, we do not stop being family. However, I need this job to show I can support my brother.
“I understand that you make minimum wage.” The caseworker’s dark smooth skin deeply contrasting with her eye’s sclera, accented her concerned look.
A bit of embarrassment came over Christian. He knew he made minimum wage, but to hear someone say it out loud actually brought a sense of lowliness to it. “Yes, and because of such, I will qualify for government assistance.”
“Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.” she paused, “We are in the process of reducing people needing government aid. Your brother would be better off where he is, or in a more financially stable home.”
Without raising his voice Christian made his rebuttal “That’s absurd. A single woman, making minimum wage can give birth to a child, but I cannot adopt my own brother. Child services has been called to her house on serval occasions.”
“…And the police has recently been called to your house.” the caseworker added as she glanced at his swollen nose. “If I bring this to my superior right now, she would laugh at it. There is no way that I can allow you to adopt your brother. Trust me when I say I understand what you are doing. I was that single mother you mentioned, and yes, I was on government support. Is it fair? No. But that’s how the system works. I am fighting for you. I need you to show me that you have a stable income and a safe home.”
The words sank deep with Christian. She was right. “So, what type of budget are we talking about?”
“It’s tight but it’s what I used when raising my little girl.” The caseworker pulled out a slip of paper. “Just fill this out and you’ll see where you stand.”
His heart sank. There was no way he could make these numbers work. Sacrifices had to be made. That was the simple truth. Taking a deep breath, Christian thanked Ashley for her time, then headed home.
On the ride home, Christian swarmed around how he could make the budget work. He wasn’t that far off, he just needed to take sack lunches in, sell his car, walk to work, never use the a/c or lights and bath only at work. Yea, he could make this work. I can do this. Just need to plan it out and stay the course. Pulling into the driveway, he looked at his apartment unit on the second floor. Good news is, I don’t need to look for a cheaper apartment. I already have it.
A buzz from his phone signaled a missed call and a voice mail.
“Hey Christian, this is George. Don’t worry about coming into work this week. Management has decided to give you the rest of the week off without pay. Hope you get everything worked out, and we’ll see you next Monday.”
How could he sound to nonchalant about that? Hey, we’re gonna take a quarter of your paycheck. Hope you don’t mind.
Walking up to his apartment, he found his mother setting by his door.
“When it rains, it pours.” Christian exhaled.
“So, how long will it be before I can adopt my brother?” Christian inquired,
Confusion burned his thoughts as he grappled to make sense of the process.
“I don’t have time to wait. He is in a volatile home.” he explained.
“If his life is in danger, then I would suggest calling child services. They will be able to help.” The caseworker shot him a quick glance then continued typing.
Christian could feel the heat from his neck rising. Twice he called them for help, and twice they called his mother notifying her of what date they were stopping by for an evaluation. His mother deserved an Oscar for her acting abilities. Why couldn’t she be that kind of mother everyday? Memories of the abuse he received before he moved out on his own vexed his thoughts. No, this is how I’m going to beat her. I will let the system work. A calm air of confidence lowered his shoulders. He knew this was the best way. This was how he was going to save his brother.
Patiently he filed his adoption request via his caseworker, then headed home. His two bedroom apartment wasn’t much, but it was his. Someday he would own a two story home with a three car garage. Someday takes a long time to arrive. He chuckled to himself. His mind sorted out the events of the day as he sat on his futon, blankly staring at the network TV show. Despite the caseworkers numb attitude, her “post-script” hung in his ears. Repeating her words he softly muttered “I really do hope everything works out.” Was that part of her act or was she sincere? Social confusion or misunderstanding resulted from the mental abuse his mother dished out. It was hard to tell what others really meant. Sarcasm was difficult to grasp. His eyes grew heavy as the day’s adventure began to take it’s toll.
His mind turned towards the events to come. A call from his mother stating her disapproval was certain. How would he handle it? Like a change in the air before a storm, he knew hard times were coming. It was time for him to adult-up and do what was right, regardless of the cost.
Molly-Anne ran through the fescue field with net in hand. Each swoop brought her closer to catching her prey. Laughing and giggling the six year old had to rest. Who knew butterflies were so fast? The field was full of little “winged fairies”, and with a bright clear day, she couldn’t resist such an adventure.
Her breathing slowed and she was ready again. Scanning the field through her brow, she lounged at her next target. Fixated on the fluttering fiend, she tried everything to catch it. The light blue opponent was bent on outwitting her. Tired and exhausted, she pushed beyond the limits of her legs. She was not going to give up. Exhaustion overcame her legs until there was no more push left. Slowing to a walk she kept her forward progression. The butterfly landed. This was her chance. Lowering her body, Molly-Anne crept within striking distance. Poised, she slowly raised her net outward to her side. Quickly, she performed a horizontal swoop, and watched as the net engulfed her target.
Gently she slowly opened the net and with care she cupped the butterfly out of the net.
“I got you, my little fairy. Now you owe me a wish.” She whispered, recalling the fairy-stories her mother told her. And what does a six year old little girl with the power to wish for anything want?
Placing her lips close to her thumbs, she made her wish in voice so soft only the butterfly could hear. “My wish is for love.”
Releasing the butterfly, she watched as it carried her wish.
In a world filled with rampant emotions, and prodigal adults willing to kill over material meaningless values, there stood one girl, one fairy, and one wish.