Cruel Light

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cross a starless sky
It cuts like tiny knives
Rain beating down
Rain beating down

A Tales of Us story..

A Companion Piece to Looking for Light

Bogata, New Jersey

The music would have betrayed him but for the earbuds that kept it all to himself. The boy turned off the player and tossed it on his desk before walking across the room. He stared at the mirror over his dresser; backlit only by uncaring moonlight streaming through his bedroom window. The face in the mirror stared back; a glare of self-hatred barely mitigated by the idea that he wanted to welcome his image even as he hoped it would disappear.

Tender and town
Won't leave you now

Wanted you so bad
I feel like I'm caught with no air
Wanted you gone
Wanted you there

“Marky? Get in here!” The man’s voice was demanding and already promising to be dismissive and unforgiving. He dropped the magazine he was perusing on his bed; making no effort to hide it since his father’s tone probably meant that being found with a copy of Modern Bride was the least of his worries. He walked briskly down the hall with a resolve to face the rage to come.

“It took you long enough,” his father said as he slapped the boy; sending him to fall over the armrest into the dark leather couch; nose bloodied and likely broken

“Vito, please?” Cara went to pull his raised arm away from the boy, but his glower pushed her away.

“What the fuck is this?” The man pointed to a large, brightly colored shopping bag like you might find at the end of the checkout at Shoprite or Kohls, Marky kept his head raised; still expecting another slap but with a fatigue from too much self-protection giving way to a new, necessary need for self-determination. He resisted adding to the confrontation and merely stated,

“It’s my ‘hope’ bag, Dad.” Marky was too tired to avoid the endearment he still used for his father, which became ironically sad. Vito glared at the boy and snapped at him.

“You know what I mean,” he said as he dumped the contents of the bag onto the couch; barely missing the boy’s head. Out tumbled a couple of bras and a few panties along with some lime green jeans, a purple denim skirt, some brightly colored tops and a pair of bright pink Nikes. Vito pointed to the clothes and picked his son up by the collar of his tee shirt. Marky braced for another slap but instead saw his mother take the blow as she stepped between her ex and her son. She tumbled to the floor; dazed with a bloody lip.

“You fucking cunt! See what you made me do?”

Vito redoubled his efforts and went to hit Marky once again but felt his arm twist behind his back as a female cop and her partner, the boy’s step-father Archie, pulled Vito back and away, slamming him against the living room wall.

“You fucking bastard,” Archie said as he handcuffed Vito. He handed the stunned man off to the two backup uniforms who had just arrived. Cara was already up and had run to Archie’s waiting arms even as Marky sat on the couch; his sobs a painful blend of relief and sadness as his father was led away by the two other cops. Sonya, Archie’s partner, knelt in front of Marky; grabbing both hands with hers.

“It’s over, honey… It’s over.” She turned and looked at Archie and Cara; thankful the boy had called her after his father had kicked down the door. Whatever the court decided the family would be safe for at least the next few years as his father would have his parole violated. Marky sighed as he stared out the front doorway past the broken door as the patrol car pulled away almost silently with lights flashing.

“You gonna be okay, honey?” Sonya asked even as she helped the boy up into a careful embrace. He looked down at his feet; pantyhose-clad and barely obscured by over-sized blue Giants sweatpants. Looking up with embarrassment he saw Sonya had also gazed at his feet, but was grinning calmly. He noticed his mother’s smile and his step-father Archie – the only father he had really ever known – nod as tears spilled off the kind man’s cheeks. Sonya pulled him into a hug where he resumed sobbing.

Cara and Archie stepped closer as Sonya shot her partner and her sister Cara an assuring smile; the kind of smile that says, ‘it’s okay….everything’s going to be alright.’ Even as they all embraced a short, dark-haired girl peered around the broken door, looking very nervous.

“Are you okay? Is Marky okay?” The boy stepped out from behind his parents and past his aunt. He nodded nervously before running down the hall. The girl shot a sideways-can-I glance before running after the boy as a relieved collective sigh said everything would indeed be okay.

There's wild in your eyes oh Thea
There's a light there's a feeling
It's cruel and its dark in this town
Are they mad were we dreaming

Years later, Little Ferry, New Jersey

The woman sighed as her friend handed her a Kirin and a plate with a couple of slices of Sicilian pizza covered with onions and sausage. His wife sat down at the picnic table next to him and smiled at her friend. She and her sister had known Meg since middle school; having traded hugs and Sketchers and secrets she felt best left for Meg to tell.

“So what was so urgent that brought us together?” Tommy arched an eyebrow in mock surprise. Meg turned to her wife who in turn looked across the table at her sister. The two nodded; an almost conspiratorial signal between twins as Meg smiled.

“When I was…” she hesitated as old less inviting memories inserted themselves in the present. Anita Robles-Noonan rubbed Meg’s arm even as Tommy Jaworsky leaned closer at his wife Maya’s urging.

“When we were kids… " she paused and looked back and forth between the women who had helped rescue her when they were all in ninth grade.

"Tommy? You asked me why I care about the kids…the transgender kids we see?” She bit the inside of her mouth nervously.

“Yeah… I looked up that Starfish thing… you can’t save em all, but it matters to the one you do save?” Tommy grinned at the idea of understanding the story, but his enlightenment was about to increase exponentially. Meg hesitated; the words still felt shameful after all the years between, but she managed to pat her chest with the palm of her hand even as Anita and Maya stood and hugged her; Anita saying in calm, loving assurance,

“She cares now because it mattered to one … him….then.”

Meg winced at her wife’s words until Tommy smiled; failing horribly at avoiding his own tears as he said at last in quiet assurance,

“And…it matters to me.”

Tender torn sundown on Isthmus
All for you oh hungry moon
It's a long long night of waiting
I want you there I want you gone

Words and muisc by
Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp

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This story is 1241 words long.