I woke up, purely annoyed to the sound of knocking on my bedroom door. I hadn’t gone to bed last night until around 1 in the morning - why? Because I worry about everything - so the pounding of the door combined with the small headache I had only seemed to make the day worse.
Slowly climbing out of bed, I unlocked my door and then opened it. “Can’t even read time anymore?” I asked Eric, who was holding Emmanuel’s left arm. I knew for a fact that it was only 6:01, meaning I could’ve slept in for another twenty-nine minutes. Though apparently, that isn’t going to be allowed today.
“Shut up, dipwad,” Eric said, barging into my room without permission. I would’ve punched him in the shoulder or something (I just woke up in the mood for it), but something about Emmanuel’s face made me stop before doing anything stupid.
“Why are you here?”
Eric sat Emmanuel down on the bed. “He almost told Mom and Dad,” he told me. I raised my eyebrows but wasn’t exactly surprised. I would’ve been mad if it was Eric or Evelyn because they do things on purpose, but Emmanuel never means to hurt anyone. He’s hardly even been able to keep a secret from Dad since he was a toddler. I looked over to my younger brother, who had put his dirty blonde head in his hands.
“Didn’t we make an agreement?” I asked Emmanuel. The second the words left my mouth, it made me feel like a third parent. I cringed.
Emmanuel looked up at me with puppy dog eyes, almost like he was about to burst into tears. “I’m sorry,” he whined. “I didn’t know.” He had bags under his eyes and he was sleepy, but it didn’t mean he could just spill secrets around the house when he wanted to. I hated when I got mad at Emmanuel, but sometimes he deserved it.
“I guess that means I’m getting your dessert tonight,” I said.
Eric smiled when Emmanuel cried out. “NO!” my brother cried. “No! That isn’t fair, Ezie!! You-we had a deal! My cookie!”
And then he was crying.
As I found out over the years, tears seem to be one of my main weaknesses. I don’t know what it is about crying, but it can sometimes be such a sign of defeat that I instantly feel bad for the person. I mean, I have empathy, so that’s good. And though it bothers me to see a child crying in public or a woman from who knows what, it feels like I’m being stabbed in the heart when someone I love begins to cry. I don’t want them to feel any pain, so seeing just a single tear turns me into one of the nicest guys on the planet.
Not that I’m not.
Okay, that sounded rude. I shouldn’t think - should I?
Wrapping Emmanuel in a hug, he began crying onto my shoulder as I pulled him closer to me. ↹ my weakness, I thought to myself. “It’s okay,” I told him, my voice getting as soft as it could. “Mom and Dad just don’t like homosexuals. Nothing we can really change about that. Don’t cry, okay?” When I pulled him away, he was still holding onto my arm, looking down. He was going to have a pretty hard time focusing in school today.
“It isn’t fair,” he whispered.
Eric shrugged. “Life’s not,” he said. “Some people are good, and some are bad. Just turns out that we were birthed by bad ones.”
“Ew,” Emmanuel said, scrunching his face. “Don’t make me think about that.”
I smiled as I ruffled my brother’s hair. “The crying didn’t work that well-”
“Yeah, it did,” both Emmanuel and Eric said at the same time. I ignored them and kept on talking.
“I’m still eating your dessert tonight, whether you like it or not,” I said. Emmanuel pouted his lip, but he didn’t say anything in return. Eric gave me this odd look that I had never seen on his face before, which I would question...never. All of a sudden, there was a knock on the door from Mom.
I hoped that she wouldn’t ask about why Delcan was even here last night. I couldn’t give her a reasonable explanation even if I wanted to. I also pray that she never tells Dad about a Heslop setting foot in this house. I wouldn’t want to become the second favorite Gatley.
Throwing a shirt over my head the minute before Mom walked into my room, I tried to make myself look relaxed. I don’t know why I wasn’t so surprised when it didn’t work.
My mom saw all three of her sons in one room together (not fighting, I might add, which is pretty ironic. Usually, Eric would pick an argument while I tried, but failed, to ignore him) and talking. I already knew what her huge grin meant. How adorable! I heard her saying. All three of my boys together. Oh, if only I could take a picture of this!
Sure enough, she clutched her phone in her right hand.
“Come on, boys,” Mom said, pulling at her sleeve. She always wears long sleeves now. “It’s time to go, and Evelyn needs a ride.”
Eric straightened his back. “Do we get paid for it?”
“Did I get paid to give birth to you?” Mom asked. When none of us responded (except for Emmanuel putting his head on my shoulder), she smiled. “Just do what I ask, and everything will sort itself out. Okay?"
“Yes, ma’am,” we all said.
My mom nodded like she had just won a battle, and then left the room. I heard her footsteps go down the stairs, even though I knew how much she hated making noise.
When I was younger, I always remembered asking my mom about her shirts. She never even wore something that showed her arms, and it made me pretty concerned for her. The last time I had asked her, I was 12 years old. She had circles under her puffy eyes, and both of her hands wrapped around her arms.
“Are you okay?” I asked her.
Mom looked up at me, almost seeming to forget that I was there. She never does that, which I guess should’ve been a hint to me. Her children were the light in her life, which was cheesy, but true. “Of course I am, baby. Are you?”
I nodded. “Why don’t you wanna wear the blouse Eric and I bought you for Christmas?” I asked her. The only reason why I kept on bringing it up was because that blouse cost Eric and me half our entire allowance. It was pretty aggravating to not see her wearing it. On top of that, the blouse had all of Mom’s favorite things - pastel colors, flowers, and a soft texture on the inside of it. I never understood why she didn’t wear it at least twice a month.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to wear to work,” my mom responded to me with that day. I tilted my head to the side, completely forgetting about the cereal that I had in front of me.
She hadn’t been to work in days. “I think it’s pretty,” I told her.
Mom smiled, but it wasn’t like her normal ones. That was the first time I had seen her with a sad smile on her face, and the first day I learned that was an actual thing. “How about you get ready for school, hm? I’ll take you there.”459Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡrbUfasskWH
“Why were you crying last night?” I asked her.
Mom hardly ever cries, but she does when she believes no one is watching. I heard her cry last night for what seemed like hours. Finally, I had to put one of my pillows over my head so that I would be able to sleep properly. With the meanest face I’ve ever seen her with, she pointed a finger at me, her hand shaking. “Go get dressed, Ace.”
I stood up. “Mom-”
“Go get dressed, Ezra Ace Gatley!” she demanded, tears in her eyes. I didn’t complain at all. Instead, I bowed my head down and walked up to the stairs, ignoring Dad as he gave me a hurtful pat on the back.
Eric hit my shoulder, hard. “Dude,” he said. “You good?”
I nodded, going back to reality. I wish she would tell someone. I wish that I would. “Yup,” I muttered. Emmanuel got up from my bed and left the room, taking the stairs two at a time before he finally made it to the bottom, where Dad yelled at him for it.
“He needs to stop doing that,” I said out loud.
Eric turned to look at me. “Ignore the scars, okay?” he asked. I looked at him for a second before I realized he was talking about Mom. “She’ll never leave him. All we can do is pray that he’ll never take it too far.”ns 188.8.131.52da2