T R Ê S
By the time dinner was ready and on the table, so was Noah. He had memorized schedules and hours and everything had to be done according to his regulations otherwise he’d panic. He moved his hand around lazily, touching three plates, then one, then three again. He touched his fork twice and his knife once. His finger lazily circled his cup before he grabbed his napkin and carefully wiped the rim of the cup with it.
She leaned forward and placed the pots on the table before taking a seat next to her son. The latter looked at her and back at the food while she served him and then nodded once as a thank you.
Joanna wasn’t exactly expecting him to outright say thank you but she longed for the day she’d hear him say it. His life wasn’t exactly easy either she knew. At school, kids refused to play with him and usually made fun of him for things he couldn’t control. Whenever they were out on the town, people would whisper as soon as they walked past and talked among themselves about Jo’s weird kid.
She didn’t exactly consider herself a good mother. She did what she thought was right for him but nothing could prepare her for a child at 17. She had no idea what to do or who the father was. There was no house for them to live at and no legal job for her. She had worked in all the wrong places until she could afford enough to buy the house they lived in now and when she found out about Noah’s condition, she felt even more life a failure. Not that she’d ever say this to her son of course.
He began speaking when he was just three months old. Full on words, not the usual blabbering normal children do. At 12 months, he stopped altogether and only spoke when he was one year old. Since then, he barely opened his mouth but she knew he spoke beautifully. Sometimes she’d hear him talking to himself.
At first, she was so proud of being his mom and she still was but each passing day she felt more and more disappointed in herself for not being able to stimulate her son and his incredibly detailed thoughts. She couldn’t keep up no matter how hard she tried and she could see that it left him disappointed as well. So, they rarely ever spoke and the growing hatred for herself continued increasing.
She munched slowly on the food as Noah began distributing the vegetables and meat on detailed patterns. When he was satisfied with it, he started eating it.
His little fingers drummed against the kitchen table as he chewed on his food but Joanna was far too deep into her thoughts to notice. Somehow, the wolf from before didn’t seem too keen on leaving her mind. It lingered like a bad omen in the dark parts of her brain, waiting for the right moment to strike.
At first she was hesitant to tell Noah but then again, she always told him about her day.
“Wanna know something pop?” She lowered her head so she could take a peak at his face but he was already looking at her through the corner of his eye.
“I had a really interesting day at work today. It was different.” Although she knew he was listening, she didn’t dare to glance his way. If she did, he’d leave.
She munched on her food and looked out the window instead. “Teenagers threw trash on the ground again, but that’s not new. We go through this everyday don’t we baby?” She nodded to herself. “But then, there was this big, beautiful wolf just watching me from the sidelines. You know how much I love wolves.”
She glanced at him through the corner of her eye and he was looking right at her while he ate. Noah wasn’t too good at looking at people in the eyes.
“He tried to ━━ Well, he tried to come home with me. I couldn’t let him of course. I can’t really afford a dog.”
She turned her attention back to her food and that’s when she felt Noah’s hand on her upper arm. She was so surprise by the gesture that her skin broke out in goosebumps.
She looked right at him, her jaw nearly hitting the floor while he looked calm and contained. Still, he was looking down at his food.
“Can we have a dog? We should name it Duke. All my friends have dogs.”
He offered her a rare barely there type of smile and she swore she must’ve had poisonous berries because her son just talked to her. Not only did he talk to her but he smiled. He smiled!
She blinked, once. Then twice. Then three times.
“Say it again pop.”
Her voice cracked and her hands shook so hard that she thought she’d collapse.
“Can we have a dog? We should name it Duke. All my friends have dogs.”
He repeated the exact same words from the before but this time there wasn’t a smile. Noah hated repeating himself.
Without thinking she leaned forward and squeezed him harshly. She was just so happy! Noah never talked, he rarely ever smiled too and not only had he done both but she felt like she would give him anything he wanted.
“We can have a trillion dogs if you want baby!” She said, letting go of her son. He jumped out of the chair and began rubbing his hands feverishly over his arms. His breathing was hard and coming in short breaths. She was so damn happy but she had also committed a mistake.
“Baby, I’m sorry. It’s okay, I won’t touch you again. I’m sorry.” She mumbled, getting down on her knees in front of him. He backed up against the wall and begun scratching himself harshly, sometimes drawing tiny speckles of blood.
“Noah, stop!” She yelled, moving forward and grab his hands. It was the only part of him she was allowed to touch. She pulled them away from his skin and tried to force him to look at her.
“Baby look at me.” She slowly reached into one of the drawers behind him and pulled it open. She reached inside and pulled a weighted blanket before she slowly dropped it on his shoulders.
After a while, he managed to calm himself down but his hands furiously moved in the air. Like birds soaring. He repeated the process for over a dozen times before he stopped and just laid there, quiet and not moving.
“We can have a dog if you want pop. All the damn dogs baby.” She mumbled, suddenly feeling deflated for making her son feel bad. She was always so damn stupid!
She sighed when he didn’t move and stood up before moving to clear the table and clean the kitchen. When she was done, she sat in front of her son and held out her hand. At first he didn’t take it but a little while later, he wrapped his fingers around her own and they both stood up.
“We have to brush our teeth before we go to bed, now, I know you hate it. I know it feels funny and uncomfortable but it has to be done or you’ll be in pain. Understood?”
He nodded once with a grimace. Noah had never been a fan of tooth brushes. Even as a child, he’d cry loudly whenever he had to brush his teeth. She had consulted with a few doctors and one of them had offered him a special tooth brush made for people like him. It surely had made the entire process a whole lot easier, but still, Noah hated brushing his teeth.
He did so without a complaint and when she helped him into his bed, he just laid down and looked at her. He was nervous, she knew him enough to know so but he had calmed down. She tucked the sheets around him and smoothed the blankets until they were straight enough to Noah’s standards.
“Can I give you a goodnight kiss pumpkin?” She mumbled, her shoulders sagging a little. She already knew the answer.
He shook his head and looked away from her.
“Okay.” She sighed, turning on the little night light he kept beside his bed. “I love you so damn much, have a safe night.”
With that, she left his room and moved towards her own.
Aside from everything else, Joanna found herself thinking that the next day, she would definitely get Noah a dog.
Whatever it took.