“Dish! I want to know everything! Did he kiss you?” Mandy rambles as I sit down in class right in front of her.
I turn around, trying my best to shut her up before Mrs. Hamburgh walks into class, but I know it won’t do me any good. When Mandy wants to know something there’s no way that I can get out of it.
“I found out my mother is an overprotective nutcase,” I mutter to her through my teeth while keeping an eye on Patrick who is going through what I assume to be his homework.
“I needed to say something to protect the secrets you are keeping,” she says. “So… Are the two of you a couple yet?”
“No,” I answer. “And I don’t think we are gonna be. I actually like him and I don’t want to drag him into my shit or the web of lies I had to continue with thanks to you.”
I know I am sounding a little bit bitter and Mandy probably only tried to protect me, but I can’t help myself. I am mad at myself. Maybe if I could have explained the whole truth to Patrick and told him why I want to wait with relationships there could have been an actual future for us. Now there is none actually. Even if we do get a house and my mom does get a job it wouldn’t help at all, because then I would have to tell Patrick how both Mandy and I lied to him. He would probably never forgive me for that. I know that I would never forgive lies like that at all.
“Hey, I was just trying to protect you. You said you didn’t want him to know anything,” Mandy hisses back at me. I can see she’s getting a little bit pissed.
Luckily I am saved from answering her as Mrs. Hamburgh walks into the classroom and unceremoniously starts writing equations on the black board. Within a minute the entire class is quite as we scribble down everything she writes, knowing that when she is giving class in this manner it usually means that we are up for a class test sometime soon.
It’s been exactly 8 days, 4 hours, and 17 minutes since I left Patrick’s house from our last date and he messaged me to ask for another and I haven’t answered him back at all. In actual fact I have been staying clear of him at school as well, making sure I am almost late for class and making sure I am the first one out of there as well. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to him, but obviously he is looking for something a little bit more than what I can give him at this stage.
It’s just that things at what I have come to think of as a temporary home hasn’t been going to well.
“Cory, please get ready,” mom pleads again as I push my phone back into my pocket after deciding yet again that I will not be texting Patrick.
“I am ready,” I mumble.
“Then why don’t you have shoes on yet?” she asks looking down at my feet in the grey socks.
“I’ll bring them with and put them on in the car,” I say, wanting to prolong leaving the motel room for as long as I can.
“And walk over the dirty floors and parking lot on your socks? I don’t think so,” she says with her hand in her hip, trying to indicate that she is being serious now.
“Okay…” I say with a longwinded voice, as slowly as possible putting on my shoes. “I just don’t get why we should go there now.”
“Because this motel isn’t going to pay itself Cory. Please now, I can really use a bit of support right about now,” mom says as she grabs her handbag of the nightstand and picks Chloe up. “I just want to get this over with as quickly as possible.”
“It’s just that nobody told me that I need to dig through the relics of my past in order to have dinner,” I mumble under my breath to myself, but her swinging around tells me that she heard every single word I said.
“Cory! Do not start with me! I am not in the mood for your bullshit!” she practically screams, making Chloe’s lip quiver, but for some reason Chloe doesn’t start crying. Maybe she knows it would not be a very good idea.
“I’m sorry… It’s just…” I start but she cuts me off before I can even explain myself.
“You might have lost a father and your home, and I am so sorry for that! No child should ever go through something like that! But I lost a husband, my home, even some of my jewelry which meant a lot to me. Maybe to you it’s just pieces of gold and a diamond here and there, but to me those are precious memories of your father. But it doesn’t matter because I have you and I have Chloe! And I will do whatever it takes not to lose the two of you as well!” she shouts, tears running over her eyes as she puts Chloe down on the ground who finally decides that she will cry as well as my mom slowly lowers herself onto the bed.
“I’m sorry mom,” I say. The feeling in my stomach feels like everything is pulling together, strangling me from the inside.
“No Cory. You can only be sorry once you understand. But you can at least try to support me in what I need to do to keep us going,” she answers through the tears, reaching her hand out to me, taking mine in hers. “I keep on having these nightmares that the money will be done before I find a job and then we will really be out on the street.”
“But we have lots of things we can sell,” I say trying to take at least some of the stress off her. I don’t care if I lose everything at this moment. I just want her not to worry and to stop crying.
“No Cory… We don’t. Not enough. Even if we sold everything in that garage we would be lucky if we had enough money to last us three months,” she says.
“But you’re jewelry. That’s worth thousands,” I argue, but she shakes her head, showing me to be quiet.
“They don’t pay you what it’s worth Cory. They only pay you for the weight of the gold at pawnshops. They don’t care about the diamonds and pearls and all of that. To them it’s just something else they can melt down into something new, or offload to someone else as a huge bargain. Can you understand that?” she replies wiping the tears from her face with one hand as she squeezes my hand tight with the other hand.
“I understand mom,” I say even though now I am feeling like crying. I almost wish I was never born, that way she wouldn’t have something to cry about right at this minute at all.
She pulls me toward her and cradles me into her breast. Then within a moment Chloe is between us as well. She holds us like she will never let us go, and I truly believe that she never will. My dad. My hero. He has made a lot of mistakes. He didn’t hold on to us and never let go, but she did. She’s still holding on.
“Let’s go mom. I’ll help you,” I say breaking the sounds of the tears in the room. It is my turn now. I have to become the brave one now. I need to be the one to keep this family together from now on.
“Thanks kiddo,” she whispers and within a few minutes we are out the door and in the car on our way to the other side of town.
“The storage unit will be way too big after the cleanup,” I say in the car as the trees flash by the car window. “Isn’t there smaller units or something? We might be able to save some money.”
“I don’t know honey. I will find out when we’re there,” my mom answers as the car starts slowing down. We’ve driven past the turn off a couple of times where we needed to turn around and backtrack so she’s learned to actually slow down and look at where it is.
“There,” I mention, pointing at the extremely small sign in my opinion that says where the self-storage place is.
She swerves the car to the left and follows the trees against the road until we come to a big gate from where I can see all the units stacked next to one another.
My mom presses the buzzer and in no time the gate jerks open and we drive in to where our unit is located.
“Number thirteen,” I mumble. “Had to be lucky number thirteen.”
I know it is stupid wanting to in my mind blame everything that has happened to me on a number. I’m not even a superstitious person at all. It’s just that at this stage I am willing to blame anything for the bad luck we have gotten.
“Mom?” I ask.
“Hmm,” she answers, looking at me as she switches off the car.
“Have you ever opened an umbrella in the house? Or walked underneath a ladder?” I continue. I know I am being crazy, but I can feel the stress pushing up into my throat and I would be happy to focus on anything else right now. And it’s the only thing I can think about now. Superstitions.
“Not that I can think off. Maybe as a kid… You know, your grandfather was a carpenter. There was always ladders standing around everywhere,” she says with a smile and opens the door to climb out.
I look behind me at Chloe. Somewhere between the motel and here she has fallen asleep in her car seat.
“Just roll down the windows,” mom says seeing that I am looking at Chloe. It’s not like she is out of sight at all. We’re like two meters away from her.”
“Sure,” I say winding down the window and getting out of the car myself. “So, what’s the plan of action?”
“Everything that can go should go. We keep what we really need and want. Clothing, personal items and such we put to the one side. Everything that can possibly go should go to the other side with the furniture.”
Before I know it we have been through about twenty boxes, Chloe has woken up and started playing around our feet where mom has put some of her toys that has been in storage, and I do my best to control my emotions as I go through every single memory I ever had, knowing that the triggers for my memories will be gone from my life by morning, never to be seen again.
“Mom… Can I keep my books?” I ask. I look at the three boxes stacked around me. Of everything in here I would rather lose my clothing than my books.
“Al three boxes?” she asks raising an eyebrow. “As soon as we get back on her feet you can replace them again. Why not picking out your absolute favorites?”
“They are all my favorites,” I say. “Dad gave most of them to me.”
“Honey… I was really thinking… Maybe we could clean out the unit completely. Take what we are keeping, and the rest have to go. To be honest… We just can’t afford the unit any longer. Not while we don’t know how long it will be till I get a job.”
“If I can find a place where I can store these three boxes… Can I keep them? Please?” I ask. I know I shouldn’t be like this. I promised myself only an hour or two ago that I will be strong. That I will sacrifice whatever I need to sacrifice, but now, standing in front of my book; my most valued possessions. I just can’t.
“Mandy?” she asks.
“Something like that,” I say as I pull out my phone and send a text for the first time in 8 days, 8 hours, and 19 minutes.