Bad Boy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

"Diane? We're home," Tim plopped the Batman duffel bag on the gritty, beige linoleum. "Caleb, bud, why don't you take your bag to your room. I'll be up to help you unpack in a few minutes." 

Caleb couldn't tear his eyes from the cracked tile at the base of the staircase. The thud of his brother's head smashing against it still echoed in the hollow foyer. Many nights he smothered himself with his pillow, trying to drown out the haunting noise that endlessly thundered in his ears. The panic from that day never escaped his fraught body. It pulsed through him like lightning, provoking a sickness in his belly. 

An unexpected clink from the dining room broke his fixed trance. Instinctively, Caleb and Tim's eyes sought the direction of the sound. 

Diane sat stoically in the dark, her finger tracing the rim of her gin-filled whiskey glass; a frigid gaze directed at the intimidated 7 year old. 

Tim sighed. The imminent fight he saw brewing in his wife had grown tiresome these last few months. His supply of sympathy for her was running low. Dylan was his son too. The pain of their loss cut him just as deep, but damn it, Caleb was still their son.

"Go ahead and get ready for bed, bud. I'm gonna talk to your mother for a minute." Tim placed a gentle hand on Caleb's left shoulder in a weak token of support. 

Without acknowledging his towering, solicitous father, Caleb grabbed the hefty luggage. His upper body lurched forward from the bag's weight with each challenging step. Making a large arc, Caleb attempted to avoid the puddle of blood that still felt fresh in his mind. Walking backwards he dragged the contents of his life one step at a time as he ascended the stairs, the tile mocking him as he forcibly looked down to maintain his balance. 

"Diane, how much have you had to drink?" Tim walked over to his disturbingly quiet wife, grabbing the empty glass and bottle of gin keeping her company. "I thought we decided you weren't going to drink today?" Tim shook his head as he carried the contraband to the attached kitchen. 

"Fuck you! You bring home my baby's killer and expect me to act like everything is just fine and dandy? Fuck you!"  Leaping out of her chair, Diane was overwhelmed by the alcohol's power. Stumbling backwards, the corner of the table caught her, sparing her the floor's wrath. 

Tim's leaning body blocked the kitchen doorway with its broad shoulders as he watched his wife struggle to stand. "Look at you, Diane. Just go to bed. Sleep it off. I know today is hard for you, but this is hard for him too. He's just a little boy. It was a horrible accident. Why can't you get that?"

"Because my baby is gone. He's gone, Tim. He's gone because Caleb just had to have that fucking toy car." Staggering towards her husband, Diane mustered up her petite frame and shoved the human blockade out of her way. Leaning on the black laminate counter, the intoxicated woman tottered towards the stash of liquor sitting beside the sink. 

Caleb took little comfort in the room that used to lull him to sleep. The yelling filling the room below him stung his heavy heart. The moonlight cast its spotlight on the painfully empty bed with dinosaur sheets. Quietly tears began to puddle the pillowcase underneath his face. He tried to imagine Dylan flopping in his bed, giggling as he challenged Caleb to ignore him. He now realized how wonderful that sound really was. If only he could hear it once more. Instead, he was left with the disdain that dripped from his mother's tongue. 

"It's either him or me, Tim! I can't live with that monster in my house." His mother's sobbing ultimatum perforated the cracked door next to Caleb's bed. 

He wanted his mommy. She could always make everything better, but now she hated him. He spent months praying to God to make Dylan come back to life, but God doesn't hear the prayers of bad boys. His small body heaved as his tears turned into a violent outpouring of hurt. 

"Damn it, Diane! Caleb needs us too. Dylan's gone, but Caleb is here and he still needs us to be his parents." The frustration building within Tim, left him hunched and hopeless against the cold countertop. "Is that what you really want? We already lost one son and you just want to throw the only one we have left away?" 

Heart-rendered, her vanquished eyes gazed at her noble husband. In the calmest tone she's had in months, Diane declared her defeat. "You're right, Tim. He does need a parent. It just can't be me anymore." Silently, the tears streamed down her flushed cheeks as she sealed the fate of her life. 

Tim creaked the wooden door open, illuminating the small body that quivered underneath a dark green throw. "Hey, bud," crawling next to his distressed son, Tim tugged on Caleb's fragile shoulder. 

Rolling over, Caleb's face revealed all the pain he had been hoarding inside. 

"Oh, son. It's gonna be okay. We'll be okay. I promise," sweeping the drenched hair stuck to Caleb's demoralized face, Tim finally let his own tears escape. "I love you, Caleb. I will never stop loving you." 

Caleb threw his face into the comfort of his father's chest, saturating the blue, cotton button up that separated them.

"Come on, buddy." Scooping up his broken son, Tim grabbed the packed Batman duffel bag and carried him down the staircase that witnessed all the horror that fateful day. 

Diane sat at the base of the stairs, next to the tile that claimed her son, a fresh drink in hand.  

Without a word, Tim walked past his wife of 10 years. 

Peering over his father's shoulder, Caleb met his shattered mother's glance. "I'm sorry, Mommy." 

Submitted: May 19, 2016

© Copyright 2020 Melissa L. Fellows. All rights reserved.

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