by MD Maurice
Is there a lost little boy there? a character's struggle.
|“And so it is, exactly what life will be sometimes, a royal fucking
mess,” Mathew thought, jingling the loose coins in his pocket and feeling the
cold, dead metal of the tiny handgun farther back. The ultra redheaded girl,
with the Gothic makeup and torn fishnets smirked back at him from behind the
counter. He stared for a moment at the shiny piece of metal protruding
from her right eyebrow. He had a second to change the world, his world. He
heard Amanda’s voice in his head, sweet, constant, the only consistently good
thing in his life and he hesitated only a second more before tugging
the gun out and pointing it directly in the young girl’s face. “The money, give
me the money.” He demanded. Her black-rimmed eyes widened and her mouth
dropped open into a small, red O-shape. It seemed to take a full minute
for her to begin moving. Mumbling incoherently, she staggered to the
register and fumbled with the keys. The tears had begun coursing down her cheeks, turning into thick black rivers before his eyes.
His hands had begun to shake. He shifted from foot to foot and
continued to shout, “the money bitch, the money” at her over and over
again. Her entire body was quaking by the time she got the drawer open
and began, sobbing loudly, to pile the bills on the counter in front of
him. Keeping his gun arm extended and his eyes on the frightened girl, he
stuffed the money into the pockets of his jacket and his jeans. He hadn’t brought a bag or sack to carry it in. “I even fuck up when I fuck up” he thought sardonically. The drawer was empty and the girl had stopped moving again. She had backed herself up against the far wall and had seemed to shrink to half her size. She had another piercing in her chin, a small barbell with a tiny blue stone. Mathew thought it was funny that he had not noticed it before. Her chin quivered and she covered her face with her hands. “A royal fucking mess”, he though again, and raised the gun.
Amanda peered anxiously down from the second story landing, straining to see the little boy hiding behind the social worker's substantial bulk. Her parents were engaged in conversation with the woman. Amanda's father absently stroked her mother's back in an uncharacteristic display of affection. Her mother's face was a tight and anxious mask. The social worker handed over some papers, possibly instructions, then ushered the child forward.
He was very small, and possessed a disproportionately large head covered in roughly cut shaggy blond locks. He had the biggest, brownest eyes she'd ever seen. His face was smeared with dirt and he robotically chewed on a piece of impossibly orange cheese that looked as if it had been fished out of the trash. At the woman's prodding, he reluctantly started up the stairs, dragging his feet on the stop of every stair and looking up at only the briefest intervals. When he reached the top of the stairs, he raised those huge eyes to Amanda's. "Hi, I'm going to be your new sister." Amanda said. He stared back at her silently, munching on the cheese and shifting from foot to foot in front of her. "You want to see your new room? It's right next to mine." Amanda held out her hand, looked down at him, smiling hopefully. He gingerly reached up and wrapped his fingers around hers.
Several nights later, he woke up with the first of many screaming fits. He sat up in bed, stiff and sobbing. The little boy was so full of anguish and pain that he sounded more like a wounded animal. He continued, his heart-wrenching crying turning to ragged, raw coughing. His round face turned bright red with the effort to breathe. Amanda jumped into bed, took him into her arms and began rubbing his back. She cooed softly in his ear and brushed the hair back from his eyes. She rocked his tormented little body against hers until slowly he began to calm. When he'd finally fallen back to sleep, she pulled the blankets tight around him. She left his room only for a few seconds and returned with her comforter and pillow. She lay down beside the child and watched the gentle rise and fall of his chest. Amanda was surprised by the way his pain had make her ache, surprised even more by the sudden, maternal urge to protect him. Wrapped up in her blankets, surrounded by the painted dinosaurs on the walls of his room and listening to his delicate snoring, Amanda marveled at how, in only the shortest of days, she'd fallen in love with this little boy, her new baby brother.
Mathew was growing into a healthy, happy child. His personality was beginning to emerge, and though the night terrors still plagued him at times, he was becoming a curious, bubbling child whose antics delighted his brother and sisters. Amanda was spending more and more time with Mathew, amazed by his bright disposition and the intelligence that was becoming more and more apparent by the day. On more than one occasion, Mathew would surprise her by using some big word that had no business in a three-year old's vocabulary. He was adept at mimicking everyone in the household, flipping through a magazine at the dinner table like his foster father or imitating his foster brother’s new break dancing moves. Perched next to her on the counter, where he preferred to be when anyone was making dinner, he would dissolve into raucous giggles when Amanda would pause to poke his tummy playfully or make a silly face at him. When he wasn’t tailing behind Amanda or her brother, Mathew would spend hours alone in his room with puzzles or his legos. He was a quiet, unassuming little boy and Amanda was beginning to think they had very similar natures. The weekend visits with his biological mother continued but it was becoming increasingly clear, her situation was not improving. After several months, Mathew’s child advocate made another important visit.
Mathew’s mother was in trouble again. The latest arrest, for possession, had violated her agreement with child services and they were stepping in to terminate her rights to Mathew and his biological half sister. When Margaret Pierce asked if the family would consider adopting Mathew permanently, Amanda and her siblings erupted in hoots and cheers. The chorus was silenced by a look from Amanda’s father. He told Margaret that he and his wife would talk, and let her know. They would have a week to decide before Mathew was moved to another family, a foster home that would move forward with the adoption. As soon as the door had closed behind the agent, Amanda wheeled on her parents. “What is there to talk about? Mathew belongs with us. We love him. Don’t you love him?” Amanda flushed as her voice cracked with emotion.
“You can’t let them take him to another family!” echoed her little sister Emily, placing one small arm around Mathew’s shoulders protectively.
Without directly addressing any of them directly, Amanda’s mother told them all to go to their rooms. The look that pasted between her parents was clouded and difficult to read. It made her feel afraid as she ushered Mathew downstairs. Amanda sat cross-legged on the floor of Mathew’s room, helping him assemble a large, colorful wooden puzzle with pieces that were shaped like farm animals. She watched him struggled to press a cow piece into place, the concentration blooming on his cherub-like features. How would she say goodbye to Mathew if her parents refused the adoption? How would she ever recover from losing her brother?
In the winter time you could see Hamilton from the highway. The beige, windowless stories of the maximum security prison rose up and above the tree line. Amanda took the exit that would deposit her on the perimeter road leading through the compound and to the visitor lot. The massive prison loomed behind high intimidating fencing adorned with signs reading, "Warning: Electrified" and topped with loops of razor wire. How could Matthew be here in this place? The call had come, as they always seemed to, in the middle of the night. Through his sobbing she'd barely made out the name of the prison and the next opportunity she would have to see him and his soft, desperate plea to "please come Mandy". She had not slept after he'd disconnected. She lay awake, waiting for the sun and the prison to open to visitors.