The sinking pit in my stomach becomes more and more as I walk down the street to the motel at the edge of town. It’s not exactly prime estate but it’s at least a place we can call our own for the moment. Aunt Barbara went ballistic on mom because of what I did. I don’t think my mom has ever in her life hugged me so tightly against her. She kept saying thank you through the tears streaming down her face. I felt so bad. One part of me felt like maybe I should have just allowed everything to happen. Maybe if Aunt Barbara hit me I would have let her to make sure that Chloe and my mom could have a roof over their heads, but because she went for Chloe I could not stand still. I just couldn’t.
It was the most terrible moment of my life as I could hear them fight in the kitchen. I even heard something break and then after a few minutes mom came out of the house and called me.
“Cory! Come here!” she shouted and within seconds she was holding both Chloe and I, saying thank you over and over to me like it has become her mantra. Her shaking body made Chloe cry again, but softer this time.
“We need to pack. Now. We are leaving,” she said as she led us into the house. I was expecting to see Aunt Barbara waiting for us, ready to fight again, but she was nowhere to be seen. Out the window of the living room I could see that her car wasn’t there either.
“We only have a few minutes, so pack quickly please Cory,” mom said, not that she needed to even tell me, and not like there was a way it could have taken me long to repack the small little box that I came here with. It actually took longer to bundle all my clothing into the duffle bag that I brought with me.
It took all but five minutes to clear the entire living room and start carrying the little bit of things we still had to the car.
“Where are we going?” I asked as we climbed into the car, leaning over to the backseat to double check that Chloe was strapped into her car seat properly.
“I don’t know kiddo… I just don’t know,” mom answered staring out of the windscreen just as Aunt Barbara’s car turned into the driveway beside us.
“Let’s go mom. We can figure it out as we go,” I said, watching as Aunt Barbara climbed out of her car, stood next to it and watched us. Watched me. Her eyes were locked with mine, daring me to get out of the car and say something.
“Yes. We should go,” she said almost like in a trance as she started the car and started backing out of the driveway.
I watched Aunt Barbara until I could not see her anymore and then I took out my phone, trying to Google for somewhere, anywhere to sleep tonight. The rest can be figured out tomorrow.
“Mom, there’s a motel just before you leave town. It looks like some truckers place or something, but they’re cheap,” I mention as we drive to nowhere in particular.
“Where?” mom asks as if I snapped her out of some daze.
“Right on the highway going out of town. Maybe we should check it out,” I answer again. The motel might be the last place I want to be, but I need to do something right now. It is my fault in a way that we are out on the street.
The motel was a way out of the main part of town and it looked like it has seen better days in its life, but surprisingly the rooms were cheap and clean and the doors at least looked like they locked properly. I could see my mom flinch at the already cheap price before she paid us up for a full week, needing to count out pennies to make sure she had enough.
“I’ll get dinner,” I mentioned as we walked away from the information desk with our key. “I’ve been saving for a while already, just in case.”
“Where did I get such a wonderful son?” she asked as she ruffled her hand through my hair before we got back into the car to go and look for some dinner and then returning back to our new temporary home.
At least I still have a roof over my head. At least I can still go to school. At least I don’t have to go to bed hungry. Sure, the money won’t last forever, but somehow we should get a break somewhere. Things don’t stay this bad forever do they? Things turn around. Maybe mom will meet some awesome guy and start dating him and he will take us all in? Maybe she will get some high end job somewhere and we will be out of here in no time.
Still… It would be better if nobody found out where we were now. Not even Mandy. I made up a story of how we are in the process of moving into a proper place and that my mom will drop me off at school for the next week or two. That would buy me enough time so that I won’t be completely humiliated thanks to my father’s bad decisions. I can’t believe how mad I am at him. I am angry at him for everything that has happened. I found myself last night holding his urn that my mom has put on top of the television set in our room. I wanted to dump him somewhere. Somewhere I know he would be miserable. Just as miserable as what we are at this moment. I didn’t. Not because of him, but because of my mom. She doesn’t need any more suffering and for some reason he is the only thing she is clinging on to at this moment. I don’t know if it’s stupid and desperate of her or if maybe she knows something I don’t. Either way I will not excuse him for what has happened to us. I will forever blame him for what he has made us become. Homeless people that might die on the streets as soon as everything we still own is sold off and the money runs dry.
I find my mom sitting on one of the two single beds in the room, crying. Chloe is taking her afternoon nap on the other bed.
“What’s wrong mom?” I ask as I sit down next to her.
She doesn’t answer but hugs me close to her as she continues to cry into my neck.
“Mom?” I ask. I know things are rough, but when she gets like this it really does freak me out. My mom is one of the strongest people I know and seeing her like this scares me. It makes me think that something bad has happened again, or will be happening soon.
“I’m so sorry,” she sobs as she lets me go and looks me in the eye. “I am so sorry about all of this. You don’t deserve any of this.”
It’s only then that I notice all the packages standing on the ground. Most look like they are filled with food and other necessities. And then I notice her left hand. Her wedding ring is gone. The one piece of jewelry she loved above everything she has ever owned is gone, and I have a good idea where it went.
“Your ring…” I say. “It’s gone.”
She wipes her face with her hands, her left hand looking especially bare against her face.
“We needed some things,” she says as she looks at me. “And we can’t eat gold and diamonds.”
I know she is trying to down play how she feels about selling her ring, but I also know that she loved that ring so much. That it meant the world to her and that was probably why she has been crying so much.
“I’m sorry mom,” I say as I crouch down in front of her, taking her hands into mine. “You know, someday I am going to be working and making a lot of money, and then I will buy you all the rings you want.”
She smiles at me. I know the words might not have come out exactly as I planned them, but I also know that she knows that I mean well saying them.
“Thank you sweetie. It won’t be long then everything will be okay again,” she says brushing her hand through my hair and making me smile a little bit with her.
“Exactly. I answer. I mean, it can’t get any worse than this,” I say looking around the motel room. “I mean, when you hit bottom you can only go up from there.”
“That’s my boy,” she says as she picks herself up from the bed and walks over to Chloe to cover her in a blanket. “I don’t know how you became this wise right under my nose without me even noticing it.”
“It could be all the books I’ve read. Or maybe it was just you,” I say as I get up from the floor and walk over to my bag to get out my homework. Living in a motel room makes you a lot more eager to do your homework so that you never end up here again in your life.
“Would you mind going to storage with me tomorrow after school?” mom asks from the other side of the room. “It would be good to see what we can possibly sell. It would also be great if we can get a smaller storage unit that doesn’t cost as much.”
“Yeah. We can do that,” I say with a sigh. The last thing I want to do is search through the relics of my past and get rid of them. But then again, I would rather sell them and get new ones once we are out of this slump than lose it because we can’t pay the storage.
“It’s just that I think there’s a lot of things in there that can give us that extra leg up in life. We need to pool our resources now. I need you to be strong for us now Cory. I also need to start looking at work, so there might be some babysitting in your future.”
“I don’t mind that mom,” I say as I take out my math workbook to try and make sense of what Mrs. Hamburgh said to us in class today. “We all need to do our share if we want to get through all of this quickly.”
I hear a buzz in my backpack and take out my phone, wondering who would be trying to message me at this moment. I would be willing to put my money on Mandy, but I have been ignoring her for the most part since this weekend, so it seems unlikely actually.
I read the message three times before I actually comprehend what it is saying.
Patrick: I know why you don’t want me to pick you up at your place and its fine. You should have told me. I don’t judge.
I know I have to type back but it feels like my fingers are made of lead.
Cory: Okay. We will talk on Saturday.
I feel like asking my mom if I can stay out of school for the rest of the week. Or better yet, move to a new school district.