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Synopsis: Jake attempts to contact his mum but meets Lilah, who, in the process of asking Jake about his mum, brings back some unwanted memories
Chapter Seven: Mother
Once I’d properly calmed down I left my room and told Linda that I was ready to go, so she grabbed her keys and together we left the apartment. Her car was in the parking garage on the very bottom floor so we took the elevator down alone, being the only residents who were apparently around at the moment.
The walk to the car was horrible, as none of us spoke and I got the feeling that Linda knew that I was lying about going to the library to work on a school project. I kept expecting her to ask me about it, or about the “friend” that I was meeting to work on it with, but she didn’t. She was just silent, occasionally glancing down at me to smile warmly or pat me on the head, but never to say anything.
I wasn’t actually sure if this was normal for her or not though, as we very rarely left the apartment together. I’d always gone to and from school by myself and on weekends and holidays I just stayed in my room, occasionally leaving to hunt down Pristine figurines or new animal documentaries. She spent pretty much all of her time working, either at her office in the city or organising some event for one of her clients, and was only really home on the weekends. Even then she was working, either on her laptop or calling up people and taking down notes. The few times she was actually free she tended to close herself off in her room or go out with friends.
We never went out to eat, or to see a movie, or to go shopping or anything. The only times we were really together was for dinner sometimes, and we barely spoke. She’d ask me how school was and I’d lie and say everything was fine, and I’d ask her how work was and she’d say that it was going good, and that was it.
As I followed her out of the elevator and into the dark cement parking garage, something occurred to me. I’d been living with Linda for seven years now but I knew next to nothing about her. I knew that she worked as a political campaign manager and had been mums best friend, but not much else beyond that. What were her hopes and dreams? Who were her friends? Did she have anyone she was in love with? What was her favourite TV show? What had school been like for her? What did she do for fun? What was her family like? Why didn’t she ever talk about them?
She never shared anything about herself with me. I could tell from living with her though that she was a person who liked things to be neat, organised and under her control. If she told me to do something she expected me to do it and didn’t feel the need to explain why. She was sometimes kind, like when she’d bought me Julia and comforted me when mum had first left. But she could also be cold and cruel, such as how she’d been last night. Most of the time though she was just distant, barely paying me any attention except to acknowledge that I was there and tell me to do something.
We reached her car, a red SUV, and she opened the passenger door for me to crawl inside. It’d been years since I was last in here but everything was pretty much the same as I remembered it. The water bottles in the cup holder, the kitten air freshener hanging from the centre mirror, stacks of old rock CD’s underneath the stereo, work folders littering the backseat and some spare coats in case the weather got to cold. It even smelt the same, a mixture of Linda’s favourite peach-scented perfume and fresh coffee.
I squished around on the leather seat until I was comfortable and then tried to pull the seatbelt down over me, but it kept jarring and refused to come down.
‘Ah! What the hell!’ I growled and tugged angrily at it, then looked at Linda as she closed the driver side door. ‘This thing isn’t working!’
‘Here.’ She leant over and slowly pulled the seatbelt down, then clicked it into place. ‘You have to pull it slowly, remember? Otherwise it just locks up.’
‘I was pulling it slowly.’ I grumbled and then winced as I looked down at myself. The seatbelt’s strap was tight enough that the shapes of my breasts were painfully visible through my shirts fabric. I squirmed around on the seat and tried to put the seatbelt in a position where it didn’t emphasis my chest but I couldn’t find one, and finally gave up with an angry growl.
‘Screw it.’ I muttered and leant back on the seat, my head staring up at the grey ceiling. There was nothing I could do about my chest and right now wasn’t the time to be worrying about it. I did panic for a moment when I wondered if my breasts were visible even without the seatbelt squashed up against my chest, but I shivered and quickly shoved that thought away. It was…scary.
Linda started the car and we slowly exited the parking garage, leaving its damp, dark interior for the city’s far brighter exterior. It wasn’t too bright though, as Winter was fast approaching and the sky was blotted with dark clouds that looked like they were ready to burst. They better not though! I was only wearing a shirt and due to my frail body I got sick very easily. The last thing I needed now was to get the flu. Urgh…
I looked out the window at the passing grey buildings and realised that it was my birthday I six days. The first day of June…the first day of Winter. I was going to be fourteen.
Hopefully I’d be living with mum by then. Or at least away from Linda.
It took less than five minutes to get to the library, and the trip there was just as quiet as the trip to the car. Linda muttered to herself once when a car tried to run a yellow light and almost scraped against us, but beyond that she was silent. It was making me incredibly anxious and as soon as she parked outside the library I immediately began taking off my seatbelt.
The library was a three-storey tall blue building with two large black wooden doors at the front, and while it was overshadowed by the mall next to it there were still quite a few people inside. The front wall was made out of glass and I could see people moving inside, sitting at the study desks or going through the aisles of books. I didn’t see Lilah anywhere, much to my relief.
‘Thanks for the lift.’ I smiled quickly at Linda and then opened the door. ‘I’ll be home in a couple of hours.’
‘Remember to take the bus home.’ She said as I got out of the car. ‘And try to stay warm, okay? I don’t want you getting sick.’
‘I’ll be okay.’ I said and began closing the door. ‘See you later.’
‘Bye sweetie.’ she said with a smile that reached her blue eyes. ‘Have fun today, okay?’
‘I will!’ I nodded and closed the door, then watched as Linda slowly drove back into the traffic and disappeared in the sea of cars.
Relief exploded through me and a savage grin lit up my face. I’d done it! I’d managed to act like everything was fine and made it to the library! Hah! Screw you Linda, you asshole! I was about to email mum and tell her everything you’d done to me, and when she read it then you were screwed! She was going to destroy you! You were probably going to end up in jail or fined or something equally as bad!
I laughed excitedly and rushed to the library entrance, slipping through one of the doors after a young couple exited it. It was freezing outside, but as soon as I entered the interior warmth embraced me and the pleasant buzz of people talking softly lit up my ears. The help desk was just in front of me and an elderly man was standing behind it. To my right were a few comfortable-looking green couches with a few people sitting on them and reading books, and beyond that was the main section of the library, with the study booths alongside the windowed wall and the long rows of books opposite it. The whole area was large and spacious, so that even though there were probably thirty-odd people milling around it still didn’t look crowded.
To the left was a table with a bunch of pamphlets on it and some posters about various events being held at the library in the coming few weeks. I ignored that though and began to walk up to the help desk. The elderly man smiled as I approached and I smiled back, preparing myself to talk to him. There were a lot of computers on the second floor for people to use, but you needed to get permission from the staff to use them. I wasn’t too wo-
I jumped in shock and turned to see Lilah rushing over to me from one of the study blocks, dressed in a long-sleeved red shirt and tight black jeans. Her hair was held back in a tight ponytail and her face was surprisingly pale, completely free of makeup. A few people looked at her in surprise as she rushed past but she ignored them and stopped in front of me with a massive grin.
‘You actually came!’ she said and smiled widely. ‘Holy crap. I was half-expecting you not to come.’
‘Yeah…’ I said uncomfortably, not sure how to tell her that I wasn’t going to do the shoot with her anymore. It was probably better to tell her right away, but…I wasn’t a strong person. ‘H-how are you?’
‘I’m good. Really good!’ she looked down at me and her eyes widened. ‘Oh my god. You look almost exactly like your mum now, without those stupid glasses on. Did you wash your hair? Can I touch it?’ I began to say no but she put her hand through the side of my hair before I could even open my mouth. ‘Whoa! It’s so silky! I-’
‘Ow!’ I yelped as she ripped through a tight knot, then turned red as a boy around our age frowned at me from one of the study booths.
‘Huh? You didn’t brush it?’ Lilah asked and pulled her hand away. ‘Well, no biggie. Erin’ll take care of it.’
‘Oh! She’s my friend, she’s going to be doing our make-up and taking our pictures.’ Lilah put her hands on her hips and looked me over. ‘She’s going to love you. She has a thing for…for…’
‘For what?’ I asked uncomfortably as her eyes flitted away from my chest, and her cheeks reddened slightly.
‘Well, she’s a lesbian too, and…you know.’
‘I’m not a girl.’ I said flatly.
‘I know! That’s why she’ll love you.’ Lilah smirked.
‘What?’ I asked and she looked at me, her eyes shining. She clearly wanted to say something but after a moment she shook her head and sighed.
‘Nothing. I was gonna ask y-but no. Nevermind.’
I was curious about that but there were more important things to think about right now, like emailing mum. The sooner I did that the sooner I could properly relax and figure out what to do about Lilah and the shoot. ‘Umm…I need to use one of the computers here, so I’m just going to talk to tha-’
‘Oh, here!’ She reached into her bag and pulled out a slim silver laptop. ‘You can use this! I charged it before I left and it’s already synched up with the wifi here if you need to use the internet.’
‘Is that okay?’ Using her laptop would be much easier than using one of the library’s computers, but I was worried about her seeing the message that I was going to send to mum.
‘Yeah! What do you need it for?’ she asked, sitting down on one of the couches and opening up the laptop.
‘I just have to email someone.’ I sat down next to her and looked around at the other couches. There was a mother with a baby sitting to our left, reading a cute little book about farm animals, and to our right was a bony young man staring lazily around the area, his hair cut close to his gaunt skull. His eyes met mine and a strangely smug smile appeared on his face, making me quickly look away. I didn’t want him to think I wanted his attention.
‘Who do you need to email?’ Lilah asked as she turned on her laptop. Her background showed a girl with red hair that I’d never seen before, and Lilah glared at it before opening up an internet browser.
‘Nobody important. Just a friend.’ I lied as she put the laptop down on my lap. I didn’t want to mention that I was emailing mum, as I knew she’d get excited about it and ask me a ton of questions. ‘Thankyou!’
‘No problem.’ she smiled and looked at me in silence for a moment before speaking eagerly. ‘So, can I ask you something? About your mum?’
I started guiltily. Crap. ‘Oh, s-sure. What do you want to know?
‘How old is she?’ she asked, her eyes digging into mine. ‘She says that she’s only twenty-four but there’s no way that’s true, right? Because you’re fourteen, aren’t you? Same as me?’
‘I turn fourteen in a few days.’ I said as I went to my email host and began to log in. ‘But yeah, mum’s twenty-four. She had me and my sister when she was ten.’
‘What? You have a sister?’ Lilah gasped.
‘Yeah…’ I said slowly, looking up and frowning as a small bout of light-headedness ran through me. I rubbed my forehead and grunted softly, feeling annoyed for some reason. ‘She lives with my grandparents though so I haven’t seen her since mum left.’
‘Oh.’ Lilah said and leant back on the couch, then immediately leant forward again. ‘Wait, so who’s your dad then? Was he ten years old too when you were born?’
‘No, he was like thirty or something.’ I said and a cold shiver ran through me. I really didn’t want to be talking about this.
‘Thir-what?’ Lilah said and her voice fell. ‘Oh. Oh my god.’
‘Yeah.’ I swallowed, tapping my hand against the side of the laptop. I was feeling more annoyed by the second and my chest was starting to hurt for some reason.
‘Shit.’ Lilah said quietly and ran a hand through her hair. ‘No wonder your mum never talks about you or your sister then.’
My head snapped around to stare intently at her, a freezing hand clutching at my stomach. ‘What?’
‘W-well, you know…’ she said and shifted about awkwardly on the couch, her blue eyes darting around the room.
Because you’re his son! Why do you think?
I flinched as mum’s voice echoed in my memory and stared desperately at Lilah. ‘I don’t know! What do you mean?’
‘Nothing. Don’t worry about it.’
‘No. Tell me!’ I grabbed her hand, something inside me desperate to hear what she’d meant. An old memory was clawing at the back of my mind and trying to get my attention, but I couldn’t focus on it properly. It kept slipping away when I tried to look at it.
Lilah looked at my hand on hers and then shrugged weakly, looking extremely uncomfortably. ‘Well, because…she was raped, right? And you and your sister are…are…because of that.’
She gritted her teeth and looked down at her lap, her hand tensing in mine. ‘Aww shit! Okay…so, if I was raped and got pregnant then I wouldn’t want to keep the kids. I don’t know if I’d be able to get an abortion but I’d definitely put them up for adoption! Having them around would just be a constant reminder of what happened to me and I couldn’t deal with that. I mean like, I might keep a girl but probably not a boy. I know that sounds super bad! But I’d be scared of him growing up and looking like his dad, you know? I’d be constantly reminded…’
My vision blurred and Lilah’s words were drowned out by a sharp siren that dug down into the deepest parts of my mind and ripped out a pile of memories that vomited all over me.
I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t! I look at him and I see his dad staring back at me with his fucked up eyes! They’ve got the same dead eyes and sick mind! He’s going to be just like him when he grows up!
You can look after him! I don’t want to see him anymore. Fuck it! Now that Ada’s g-gone I don’t have any reason to stay here.
I need to start over and I’m not going to fuck over my future just for his son! Fuck that! Fuck him!
Don’t touch me!
Stop looking at me like that!
Get the fuck away from me!
A sharp pain exploded in my chest and a high-pitched gasp ripped itself out of my mouth. I shook my head as dark tendrils began to creep into my vision and I clutched at my head. ‘No! No no no no no no no. That’s not real! She loves me! You’re lying!’
‘What?’ Lilah asked and I grabbed her hand with my other one and stared up at her, my eyes starting to tear.
‘Mum loves me!’ I cried and squeezed her arm. ‘She doesn’t hate me! Why would you say that?’
‘Huh? I didn’t say that!’ Lilah said, her eyes wide. ‘Why do yo-’
‘It’s not true!’ I snapped and tugged on her arm, my hands shaking. ‘She loves me, right? She has to come and save me!’
‘O-okay.’ Lilah stammered pulled her arm out of my grasp, then gasped as I sobbed and started to cry. ‘Whoa! Hey, don’t cry! It’s okay!’
‘She doesn’t hate me, does she?’ I asked desperately, angrily wiping my eyes. ‘I didn’t do anything to her!’
‘Of course she doesn’t hate you.’ Lilah said comfortingly and grabbed my hands. ‘You said she emails you sometimes, yeah? And she calls you? She wouldn’t do that if she hated you!’
‘But she’s stopped calling me and she barely ever emails me!’
‘That’s because she’s super busy!’ Lilah smiled and squeezed my hands. ‘She probably wants to contact you but doesn’t have the time. Being a model is really time-intensive, you know? She has to keep her body in shape and keep making network connections, as well as all of the shoots she has to be in! I bet she’d definitely contact you more if she could!’
‘R-really?’ I asked as my voice broke, and Lilah nodded. ‘But she said she’d come back home years ago but she hasn’t!’
‘I bet that was because she didn’t have enough money to be able to support you.’ Lilah said knowingly. ‘All of her contacts are in America so if she moved back here she it wouldn’t be as easy for her to get work. She’s probably saving up a ton of money so she can come back and look after you without having to worry about work and stuff!’
‘That…that makes sense.’ I sniffed.
‘It does. You know, I bet she’d love to talk to you more but she just can’t.’
She smiled encouragingly and I smiled weakly back, the pain in my chest lessening somewhat. Lilah knew way more about mum than I did right now, so if she said she wanted to talk to me then that had to be true! Those memories were just…wrong, or s-
No! No! They weren’t memories! Mum would never say such horrible things to me! Those were nightmares, bad dreams that I was remembering for some reason. Sometimes I thought that she hated me because she’d left and hadn’t come back , and I’d probably had a lot of nightmares about it when I was younger. But they weren’t true! Mum loved me. Of course she did! She was my mum!
I was just thinking weird things because I was under so much stress from Linda. And once I emailed her then she’d come and save me and everything would be okay again! Yeah!
Ugh, what had I been thinking? Mum didn’t hate me! What a stupid thing to be thinking.
Lilah squeezed my hands again and pulled out a small packet of tissues from her pocket, then handed one to me. I gratefully took it from her and blew my nose, the worst parts of my despair fading away.
‘I-I’m sorry.’ I said miserably as embarrassment settled over the other emotions I’d been feeling.
‘Don’t be!’ Lilah said and gave me another tissue as I wiped my face clan with the first one. ‘I can completely understand why talking about…that stuff…would upset you so much. Especially with your mum being in another country for so long!’
‘Yeah…’ I swallowed and blew my nose, then impulsively leant over and hugged her in a wave of affection. I was too numb to feel anything other than comfort from her warmth, but that was completely fine with me. ‘I’m sorry! Thank you!’
‘It’s okay!’ Lilah said and hugged me back, shifting her legs so that the laptop didn’t fall onto the ground. She rubbed my back for a moment and then leant away, her eyes soft and kind. ‘We don’t have much time though, it’s nearly twelve thirty. Are you okay to finish your email and then go to the modelling studio?’
‘Y-yeah.’ I said, unable to say no to the shoot now, not after she’d been so nice to me. I owned her that much…
‘Okay.’ She softly patted me on the head and then slipped the laptop back onto my lap. ‘I’m just going to quickly go to the toilet, but I’ll be back in a minute!’
‘Thankyou!’ I said again, even though it didn’t fit with what she’d just said. She smiled again and then hurried off to the toilets, at the back of the book aisles.
I swallowed and looked down at the laptop, stretching my fingers to calm them down so I could type properly.
Right! It was time to get to work escaping from Linda.
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