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Rated: 13+ · Prose · Contest Entry · #2237161
Writer's Cramp entry
The sound of the clock ticking was making Audrey grind her teeth in frustration and she found herself smacking her first off her other palm repeatedly in an attempt to drown it out. With nothing left to do but wait, the anxious knot she’d kept buried in the pit of her stomach all day was slowly but surely making its way to her throat, making it uncomfortable to swallow and forcing her to take deep breaths in an effort to calm herself down.

All afternoon she’d kept herself busy with chores, devoting extra attention to her daily routine in a vain attempt to drown out her racing thoughts. Now, with her son Nathan due home at any moment, the thoughts came so thick and fast that she could hardly even make sense of one before the next pushed it out of the way.

What if he’s back on drugs? Was he buying them for his dad? Or maybe Mark was giving him the money to pay for them...Oh god, maybe he was selling the stuff now. That would explain the late night phone calls and how nervous and stressed he’d been recently. What if he was in danger?

She’d been singing as she’d waved them all off to work and school, and the echoes of her happy mood had stayed with her all morning as she made her way through dishes and laundry, humming to herself as she worked. It was while she was sorting Nathan’s laundry that she’d found it; checking the pockets for rubbish and pulling out a thick wad of bank notes with a torn piece of paper attached.

“Don’t let your mom find this!” scrawled in her beloved husband’s messy handwriting. The world had suddenly turned upside-down and started spinning at that point.

Audrey felt her attention pulled sharply back into the present at the sound of the front gate squeakily swinging shut and Nathan sliding his rucksack off his shoulder in anticipation of reaching the door. I must oil that tomorrow, she thought absently, momentarily forgetting how little that truly mattered.

At that moment, the door opened and Nathan dropped his bag on the floor with a thud. “Mom, I’m home!” he yelled in his accustomed manner, making as if to head upstairs before he turned his head and caught sight of her, white knuckles clenching the kitchen table she stood beyond.

His gaze dropped from her face to the pile of cash and scribbled note lying on the table in front of him, and his expression shifted from tired schoolkid to worried young adult in just half a second.

“Oh God. Shit. Mom, listen - listen, it’s not what you think okay? Just - let me expl..” his voice faltered under the penetrating stare only a mother can achieve and she saw his breath catch in his throat. Audrey’s carefully constructed plan to interrogate her son seemed to melt away and she found her mind weirdly blank.

“Drugs?” she managed before her throat seized up again. Her question seemed to give Nathan permission to go on.

“No - mom, I swear, I haven’t touched that stuff and I never will again. I -” he broke off, opening and closing his mouth as if searching for the right words, before finally stumbling out: “Listen, I, I found something out a couple of months ago, and I’ve been keeping it a secret from you…” and just like that, the words came tumbling out from him like a tidal wave.

“I saw dad with another woman. I wanted to tell you straight away, but he swore it was a one time thing and he - he gave me money not to tell you. He said, after everything you’d been through with me and the stress of putting me in rehab, it would destroy you. He said you’d blame me.

I’m so sorry mom. Anyway, I figured if it really was a one time thing it would do more harm than good to tell you, right?” Audrey could see tears in the corner of her son’s eyes.

“But then, one night I was up late doing a project and I needed the laptop, so I went to get it and Dad had left some files open. I didn’t mean to look, but it was right there, and once I started I couldn’t stop. Mom, dad has a secret bank account. I don’t know how much is in there but he’s hiding money from you. And there were all these websites about how to hide assets from your spouse in a divorce, and emails with this lawyer he’s been talking to. Mom, he’s been lying to us, hiding all this stuff from us this whole time.”

The blood was rushing to Audrey’s head and there was a pounding in her ears and she thought she might faint. This...couldn’t be real. Could it? She realised her son was still talking.

“Mom, I wanted to tell you so bad but I just didn’t know what to do. I knew how much it was going to hurt you and I didn’t want to hurt you. Not after everything I put you through last year. But I kept watching him and he’s been seeing that woman all this time. I told him I knew about the woman and he’s been paying me to keep it a secret for months.”

Audrey felt sick. “Nathan, why? Why the hell would you do that?” She felt rage starting to build inside her even as she felt her world coming crashing down around her ears. But it was the next thing out of her son’s mouth that left her truly shocked.

“Because, I knew dad was going to try and leave, and he was going to leave you to care for us with nothing. I couldn’t let that happen. So I’ve been keeping the money, and I’ve got evidence of everything. Mom, he deserves to pay. I’m so sorry, I just wanted to help. I wanted to protect you.”
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