Black Coffee

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


Just a short thing I was creating some time ago. Was debating on making it into a book but I stopped at short story.

Submitted: August 25, 2018

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Submitted: August 25, 2018

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“I don’t know why you hate me so much. I’ve never done anything to you.” These are the only words, softly spoken from my lips as I sit across the table from my mother, that I can muster up the courage to say in this room full of suffocating tension. A cup of stale, black coffee, now cold, sits in front of me. Our kitchen is quiet and smells like eggs and burnt toast. There are stains on the linoleum floor, on the kitchen counters, on the old wooden table itself.

Things around this house don’t usually get cleaned, and the times when the effort is made really only end up compiling into one half hearted attempt at normalcy, and quickly given up on. The cleaning would be the job of a housewife, or even a househusband. But this home doesn’t have either of those things. It only has one working mother and her fifteen-year-old son.

A cigarette dangles from between her freshly painted cherry lips. My mother is a model, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, with porcelain skin, baby blue doe eyes, and perfect blonde locks meticulously styled and hair sprayed into perfect glamour waves. The similarities between America’s blonde bombshell sweetheart and the woman who raised me, however, end at the artificial. She is my mother, and at home, she never puts on her little act. There’s no hiding behind charming laughs, behind beautiful smiles or glasses of champagne. She never smiles at home.

“I don’t hate you, Daniel.” Her voice is like the cup of coffee on the table. There’s no sweetness to it the way there is when she’s on stage or in front of a camera. It’s bitter, cold, and stagnant. Long, slender fingers pluck the cigarette from between her lips. She taps the end off in her lavish glass ashtray in the most aggressively nonchalant way possible, and brings it back to her lips.

She’s dressed for work today, the perfect replication of a pinup girl. She’s renowned for her beauty all around the world, from France to Tokyo, London to Los Angeles. She says she doesn’t mind the reputation her job gives her. She’s always liked model work, and she can play dumb for the public.

The insincerity in her voice is what gets me. I know every little shift it takes when she’s lying to me, to anyone. The fluctuation of her words is subtle, but I’ve learned what every soft dip means, what the stoic way she speaks feels like in my stomach. My own blue eyes linger on the burnt orange coffee cup, or the ashtray, or the permanent stain of a coffee ring that had never been cleaned up, and now never will be, on our little breakfast table. I cannot look her in the eyes.

“You don’t have to lie to me, mother.” I respond carefully. I’ve always spoken with a softness that was unlike the other boys my age. Fifteen year old boys were supposed to be rowdy, loud, and speak with harsh words and no real regard for who they hurt, or at least that’s what I’ve seen at school and on the television. But I’ve always been soft. From the permanent flush of my chubby red cheeks to the thick curls of chestnut on my head to the way my voice rarely inches above a whisper, I’m soft. And I don’t mind my own softness, either. Soft is how I how survive in this environment. I know how to tiptoe around my mother much better than anyone else ever did; my softness is what keeps me out of the clutches of her unhinged jaw when she spits words at me like they’re venom. They hurt, but the words are only wounds - I can survive those.

She looks at me, then, her glassy eyes locked on my small, feminine features. I know what she’s thinking. I know, because it’s the look she gives me after she’s been drinking, when she wants to tell me the truth, when her guard is down and she can sob without regretting it and tell me how much I’ve ruined her life.

I shouldn’t flinch away, but I do, because this time she’s not drunk. Her dignity isn’t compensated. Her eyes still look the same, though - there’s a fury in them that I know I put there, and suddenly, I’m scared. I hate that glare, I hate that empty look in her cold, dead eyes. It’s a wonder, at least to me, that no one ever sees them that way. They aren’t bright at all, like everyone thinks. They’re so
dull.

“Cut the shit, Daniel.” Her words feel like shards of glass puncturing my chest. I flinch again, and instantly regret that reaction. She’s like a bloodhound, and I am what she is hunting. She can smell the fear on me. Her face twists and I scoot my chair back away from the table, feeling red hot heat rising in my cheeks. I stand, letting shaky legs support me. Usually, when she’s drunk and acting like this, I just walk away. She never protests, just screams louder, until her voice gives out.

But she isn’t drunk. She’s very sober, and from the explosion of red on her perfect, angular face, very livid. I don’t want to be here. I hate the arguing. I don't even know what I've done wrong this time. The morning was going as well as any morning went: burnt toast, burnt eggs, burnt coffee, and tiptoeing around my mother to keep her glaring at bay. I wish I hadn’t spoken to her at all. As I turn to head down the hall and away from the kitchen to get ready for school, her voice cracks my skull.

“You want the truth, you little brat? Sit down. I’ll tell you the truth.” She hisses her words at me, and I want to cry. I feel like prey constantly trying to hide from the predator. So that’s what I do. I take cover; I run. I run all the way down the hall to my room, slam the dark wood door behind me, and take solace in the click of the lock as I turn it. I hear her grow quiet in the kitchen, hear her struggle to stand and then storm after me. And it isn’t long until I hear her banging harshly on the door with her fists. My heart feels like a snare drum. My eyes begin to prickle and sting with tears and I ignore the screaming from behind the door as I change out of pajamas into jeans and a red hoodie.

But I can’t ignore the screaming. Every single word scratches itself into my brain, and I bite back a sob. “You little shit!” she screeches at me, and I know this isn't like the other times. Usually the anger fizzles out after a few degrading comments. But there's no escaping this. “Don’t you know to listen to your mother?! Come out here so I can talk to you.” Bang. Bang, goes her fists against my door, and ever collision makes me cringe. I try to ignore it. I always ignore it.

And then I hear uneasy silence. I hear her give up and walk away. As soon as I hear the click clack of her heels disappear down the hall, I let out the sob that’s been clawing at my throat. Mother never liked a cryer, and where most parents would begin to feel bad for making their children cry, my tears only ever served to make her angry.

I begin to pack my school bag, filling it with folders and unfinished homework and the banana and granola bar I hid away from the kitchen for my lunch. The banana is blackening, but it’s still edible. I let the silence fill my heart, and calm its rapid pounding. I’ll have to leave the room eventually for school. I wish it was so easy - I see kids in movies sneak out of their windows all the time - but my bedroom has no window to climb out of. Mother told me once that it was because she thought it would keep me safe from kidnappers. It was a lie I believed for a long time, or at least told myself I believed. But the honesty of her words crumbled the first time she told me she loved me while I felt the force of her backhand and sharp scratch of her nails against my face. She has never liked me, but she has always been afraid of being abandoned. I don’t think I could ever leave her. She knows that, too. How could anyone abandon their own mother?.

I begin to feel safe again. Lulled by the silence, I inch carefully to the door and unlock it. But my false sense of security comes crashing down on me as something large, and heavy, and glass shatters against my door. I shriek, and I feel a sob bubbling up from my throat, filling my lungs like water as more banging starts. I try to help myself out, to talk myself down: “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay…” I tell my frantic mind, but it isn’t so easily convinced, and I feel completely stupid.  I rapidly wipe quickly forming tears from my eyes, and her voice starts again, grating against my temples.

“Come out here, you little bitch, come talk to your mother!” I hear in between the heavy pounding. I don’t move. I’m quiet. If I’m quiet, I’m safe. If I’m quiet, she’ll go away.

Except she doesn’t go away. She can smell the fear on me. “I hate you, do you hear me Daniel?! I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! You ruined my life, you fucking bastard! I wish I’d gotten rid of you when I saw you, I wish I’d gotten rid of you…” Her screaming dissolves into mangled sobs, too, and I press my forehead to the wooden door, biting my hoodie sleeve to stop myself from making any sound at all. “I hate you.” she says, the screaming having worn her voice hoarse, the words dull and serious, and I feel like clawing my heart out and giving it to her as a peace offering. “I hate you, Daniel.” She says solidly. “You were a problem the second I found out about you. You aren’t worth my fucking money, my fucking time. Your father left because of you. Do you understand that? I’m alone because of you. I know, I know I never liked any of them, but at least I could have made this one stay. I wouldn’t have been alone if it wasn’t for you. And anyway, I really did like his sister. She was so beautiful and so vibrant. I would have been happy with her…”

Her voice evaporates, and I think she’s done. She’s not crying anymore, and I only hear her heavy breathing like she’s pressed against my door. And in the midst of the house’s silence, she speaks again, her voice gravely and uneven and cold. “I’ll never love you, Daniel. I will never, ever, love you.”

My own heart stops beating as the lump in my throat keeps me from breathing. I can’t help it anymore. I sob - deep, heavy, lurching sobs - and grab at my hoodie like I'm searching for comfort. And I know she can hear me. And I can’t stop sobbing. I can’t find words, only the sound of blood in my ears and her own crying that starts again. Even after her tears stop, I keep going, and sink against my bedroom door because trembling chicken legs aren’t the best for support. I know she’s still there. She’s waiting for a response from me, and I feel sick. I try words, and they dissolve into choking gasps. I take deep breaths and almost suffocate. I wish I were dead. I wish I were dead. I wish…

I wish…

“Mom? Mom, please, I just want you to love me. I will be so much better. I’m sorry, mom, I’m sorry.” It’s all I can get out of my desert-dry mouth, and it doesn’t matter. She’s left for work. I must have sat there in the silence for an hour.

In the now-empty house, I smell stale cigarettes, burnt food, and smoke. Slowly, I pry open my bedroom door. Mother’s glass ashtray lay shattered on the ground before me, the embodiment of her own glass heart, fractured into a thousand miniscule pieces too small to be put back together. With shaking hands, I begin to gather up the pieces of the only thing I’ve given to her that she’s liked. The splintery edges leave sharp strips of red along my palms and fingers. I try not to cry, but it’s impossible. Big, fat, wet tears blur my vision as I toss away the fragments of a heart that was never whole to begin with.

In the picturesque kitchen, on a stained kitchen table, sits a single mug of burnt, black coffee, the last thing left in this empty house of ours.

 


© Copyright 2018 Credence P. Hall. All rights reserved.

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