XXX. Her Soul
Waking up beside Jackson, naked, isn’t exactly on my list of to-dos today.
I buried my face into my hands and grunt lowly. If I say I feel good after sleeping with Jackson, that would be a complete lie.
My eyes went towards the framed photo on the nightstand.
And now, I feel worse.
The sun is not kind today. The body beside me shuffled under the sheets, and steadily his eyes cracked open. He took a few blinks before he rubbed his eyes, “Good morning.”
“Hm,” I responded.
Jackson sat upward, and the blanket fell off his body. He ran his hands through his messy hair. The hair that I desperately held onto last night. “You okay?”
“Still not a morning person?”
I shook my head.
Jackson smiled softly, “It was my fault,” he said. “I was the one who seduced you last night.”
I chuckled slightly at his attempt to make me feel better. We both know last night was mutual.
“Tempted?” I repeated.
I ran my fingers through my hair, and finally, I looked at him. “Stop it,” I said. I push him lightly.
Jackson ran his hand across my cheek - it’s hot. Steadily, he inched closer to me until our skins touch against each other. He kissed my forehead, “I’m not going to expect anything,” he whispered. “But, I’ll be here for you.”
I closed my eyes and laid against his chest.
“For you. For Crystal. Dustin.”
The sunlight drifted further into the room, and soon, the cool air followed. I must have left the window open last night.
I look up to see the prickly hairs on Jackson’s face. He glanced down and smiled again.
When I heard small heavy footsteps, reality set back in. “Crystal,” I mumbled under my breath.
“Crystal!” I rushed out of bed, “What are you doing? Put your clothes back on!”
Immediately, Jackson rolled out of bed and gathered his clothes. “Shit,” he mumbled. “My shirt is in the hallway.”
I pulled on my underwear, “Why is your shirt in the hallway?”
“You took it off last night and threw it in the hallway,” he whispered.
“And it didn’t occur to you that you may need it?”
He tugged on his pants, “Sorry for not thinking about grabbing my shirt while we were- you know.”
“Mommy! I found something!” My bedroom door slammed open. The thought of locking the door didn’t pop up last night either. Crystal spun into the room with Jackson’s shirt.
While Crystal was spinning, I pushed Jackson down to the other side of the bed.
I tugged the nightgown closer to my body, “What is it unicorn?”
She twirled the piece of clothing I’m the air, “Jackson’s shirt! I found it in the hallway!”
I chuckled, “Why would his shirt be in the hallway?”
She shrugged, “Don’t know. Maybe he dropped it while he did laundry?”
If Crystal thought a bit deeper, she would realize that the laundry room is downstairs and Jackson stays...downstairs.
She sat on my bed, and my eyes flickered towards Jackson, who had the funniest look on his face. He looks like he has to pee but can’t.
I covered my mouth.
I turned my attention back towards her, “Yes?”
“Is your neck okay?”
“There’s a huge bug bite on it.”
Bug bite = hickey.
I covered it, “Yeah. I’m fine. Just need to change the sheets. How about some pancakes with strawberries?”
Crystal jumps off of the bed, “Yes, please!” She rushed towards the door, and I followed her into the hallway.
“Oh! I almost forgot.” She ran back into my bedroom.
“Forget w-what?” I couldn’t catch her on time.
Inside the bedroom, Crystal stood across from Jackson.
Slowly, Jackson stood up, “Good morning.”
“What are you going here?” She asked.
He swallowed firmly before he grabbed his shirt. “I’m looking for my shirt.” He pulled it on. “Thanks for finding it.”
Crystal scratched her head, “But...how did you get in here?”
When I noticed the used condom hanging from the small trash bin, I turned Crystal around. There is an insane smile on my face. “He passed us earlier.”
I tilted my head towards the trash bin. Jackson looks over, and his eyes widen. He rushed towards it and moved it inside.
Idiot can’t even throw away a used condom correctly.
Yes, I’m upset.
Crystal’s face twisted, “Ha?”
Jackson pushed the bin farther to the corner then cleared his throat. “Yeah. I said: Hi. But you kept screaming pancake.”
Our emotions are all over our faces. Anxiety. Shame. And ultimately, guilt.
Crystal puffed his cheeks before her eyes went towards me. Then, it goes back to Jackson and then back to me.
“So, pancakes,” Jackson said. “Umm, how about I call someone, and we can have that tofu seaweed soup you like so much.”
“Oh! Yes!” Crystal rushed out of the room.
“You better take out the trash,” I mumbled before I left the room.
After breakfast, I helped Jackson pack. It didn’t take that long, considering how he barely bought anything. Jackson threw the bag into his car and closed the trunk.
“Thanks for letting me stay here.”
I smiled, “Anytime.”
Jackson bends his legs to Dustin’s level. “I’ll see you next time. Okay, little bud?” He messed up Dustin’s hair.
Dustin sucked on his pacifier and stared at Jackson.
Next, he squats down to Crystal’s level. “I’ll see you around, okay?”
She nods, “With seaweed tofu soup.”
Jackson laughs, “I’ll bring that next time.”
A man rushed towards him, “It’s time, Mr.Martinez.” Most likely, Jackson overextended his vacation, but no one would dare voice their anxiety.
He looks at me, “Goodbye.”
I smiled and waved at him, “Bye.”
I watched as Jackson got into the passenger side. The driver closed the door and made his way towards the other side. The car engine started, wheels moved, and finally, it made its way towards its destination.
Crystal sighs, “Well, there he goes,” she said. She turned around and skipped towards the house.
The car turned at the end of the street and disappeared.
The pacifier fell from Dustin’s mouth and dangled against his neck. He opened and closed his small palm at the empty street. “Bai. Bai. Daddy. Bai. Bai.”
I grabbed Dustin’s arm and lowered it. When Dustin looked at me, I only held him closer to my chest and walked back into the house.
This isn’t a big deal.
One day Dustin will realize our reality.
But, for now, I want him to live in a fantasy for a little longer.
I kissed his chubby cheek, “I’ll be the best mommy in the world. My love for you and your sister will be equivalent to two...no three parents.”
The days passed by, and soon, I received a phone call from the private school.
“Yes. That’s me.” I stood up from the chair and released a silent deep breath. A paper fell from the table, and I bent down to grab it.
“This is Tiffany from Blueming Private School.”
“Oh, yes.” I laid the paper on the table. My eyes skewed away from the countless numbers. I’ve been budgeting for Crystal’s school. “How are you?”
“Good. Thank you for asking. We had reviewed Crystal’s files.”
I bit the edge of the pen. “Oh. So fast.”
She chuckled, “Well, we don’t generally get applications in the middle of the school year.”
“Well-” I tapped a finger against the surface of the table, “I’m pretty sure it had happened before.”
“No. Not really.” I could hear keyboards clicking in the background. These private school employees are ruthless. A little comfort mixed with a white lie never hurt anyone.
“I see,” I responded.
“Well, considering how you gain such an amazing letter of recommendation. How can we turn our backs to you and cute little Crystal.” Nina’s husband may or may not have pulled some strings for Crystal.
“According to our records, Crystal’s grades are exceptional.”
“Yes. Yes. That’s true.”
“We were looking through her testing scores.”
“What about her scores?”
“Well-” there’s a long pause on the other side, “it’s just...her scores are the lowest we’ve ever seen.”
“Pardon? L-Low?” Before the phone call, I prepared to discuss Crystal’s behaviors, not her grades. “Are you sure?” Are you sure you didn’t mix it up with some other privileged child?
I’m not going to even lie to myself.
Crystal is privileged.
“Crystal Lynn Lun?”
“I’m sorry to say that Crystal Lynn Lun will not be accepted into Blueming Private School.”
After the phone call, I found myself in the kitchen. My eyes scattered across the infinite amount of papers. The papers that were once useful are now useless. With each ticking second, my grip only tightens onto Crystal’s scores until my palms turn a deep shade of red.
I couldn’t believe it.
There’s no way that Crystal scored low on any test.
But, here it is.
The evidence is in front of me.
The front door opened.
“Mommy! I’m home!” I could hear the shoes being thrown in the other room. “Thank you for today, Aunt Lizzie! I had fun!”
I could hear a muffled reply.
“Okay! I’ll tell mom you said hi!”
The front door closed, and little legs made their way through the hallway. The door in front of me opened. “Mom-” The excitement in Crystal’s voice died down. “Mommy?”
Before we both knew what had happened, we found ourselves in a situation that we never imagined.
There is a scream from deep within my throat, and it terrified even me. But I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t control the monster inside of me from unleashing. All I feel is...anger.
I didn’t want it.
I didn’t want to yell at a small girl who had gone through so much at such a young age.
I should leave instead of screaming at her. It will be safer for her not to be next to me.
Despite all the anger, I knew the truth.
After Emerson’s disappearance, there wasn’t time to breathe. The media. The community. Everyone wanted a piece of us. Everyone wanted a story.
And after the story was told.
They want more.
Her daughter was in the hospital.
Her daughter is out of control.
How would she be able to afford to pay all the bills?
Her son has hearing loss.
Why won’t they stop?
Why do they have to look at us with those eyes?
And the longer I hold it in, the harder my fists clench, and my teeth only ground against one another.
This is it.
This is the result - the uncontrollable explosion.
And by the time I was done, I could only see a small ball in the corner of the room. Crystal had her hands above her head, and her shaky body rocks back and forth in an attempt to calm down.
I exhaled a soft breath, but my heart was beating harder than ever. I took a step forward, “Crystal-”
With her large watery eyes and wet stained face, she looked at me. Each blink only forced the water to drip off h er trembling chin. And with the most heartbroken voice I’ve ever heard, she repeated: “I’m s-s-sorry. I’m s-s-s-sorry, mommy. I’m s-so s-sorry.”
When the words finally disappeared, her whole body twitched in almost an uncontrollable manner.
Her dulled eyes stared at me, but it wasn’t focused on me.
It was as if her soul left this world.And before I could say another word...her body dropped.