He said she was dead
Five years ago.
From the doorway I stared at my mom as she lay sleeping in the hospital bed, a baby cradled tightly to her chest wrapped in a pale pink blanket. She is tiny, so small she could fit in both my hands combined, and that scared me. Fragile things don’t make it far in this world, fragile things usually end up broken. But there she is, so precious and so pure, and we clicked. I won’t let her get broken because I already love her with just one look.
I didn’t feel this way about Hayes, but I did for her.
The heart monitor stood right next to the bed, showing a steady red breathing line that would spike and fall at a normal rate. Another machine took my mom’s vitals, a needle connected to a clear cord flowing with red blood poked in her arm, it looked really uncomfortable, I just wanted to pluck it off of her. But I knew it was really only giving her the fluids that she lost and needed.
She looked drained, but content nonetheless with her baby she carried for nine full months now in her arms.
“Don’t be scared.” My mom murmured through tired eyes, still so blue and warm even when she’s sleepy. “There’s no reason to be scared, Riley will love you. You’re her big brother after all.” As the words left my mom’s lips, they rang through my ears on a repeated loop. Riley, big brother, Riley, big brother. She named her Riley. That innocent little girl is my sister, small and sweet as a white dove ready to take flight.
My eyes fell to the tiled white and grey speckled floor, I didn’t know what to do, I have never been around a baby before. Nerves crackled beneath my skin at the thought of possibly doing something wrong, I knew I would never hurt her at least not purposefully but what if I did it by accident? She was delicate, everything I wasn’t. “I don’t want to hurt her,” I whisper, feeling embarrassed by my sudden anxiety.
My mom smiled then. “Oh, my sweet boy.” She said, shaking her head. Her long black hair was pulled into a messy braid, loose ringlets sticking to her forehead. The baby had the same hair color, unlike Hayes and me with our dark brown. “You could never hurt her, I see the way you already love her. That’s what makes you so special.”
“I’m not special, not like her,” I mumble, shoving my hands into my pockets not knowing what else to do with them. Why do I feel so insecure about meeting a fucking baby? I can’t even bring myself to get closer, to unglue my feet from the floor of the doorway. If my father could see me right now, he’d be spewing my every fucking flaw and jabbing it right into my chest. He’d be livid.
The smile on my mom’s face fell into a frown and that’s how I know I’ve said something to disappoint her. My hands fisted inside my pockets, beyond angry with myself for feeling the way I am and not being able to stop it.
“I can’t make you feel special, no matter how much I know that you are.” She says defeatedly, her eyebrows knitting together almost like she’s in physical pain. “One day I hope you meet someone who will, I know Riley will be part of that even though you doubt it now.” She looked at me, eyes soft with heavy emotion. “Come here and meet her, let her see you.”
Tension curled my limbs. Still, my mom waved me over, being patient with me, encouraging me in my moment of self-doubt. It took every ounce of strength to stand straight and force myself to move forward in slow cautious strides. The closer I got, the more of Riley I could see, her chubby cheeks, her pouty lips, and even the cute little scrunch of her nose. She is beautiful, a lot like my mom.
As I stopped feet away, still afraid to get any closer, my mom reached over and grabbed my hand. From her shifting even in the slightest of movements, Riley stirred, a quiet gurgle passing through her lips. I couldn’t look away as her tiny fingers moved grasping for my mom’s comfort. Finally her eyes crinkled, then after a moment squinted open, showing faultless ultramarine eyes.
I sucked in a gasp of air as she stared at me. My mom squeezed my hand. I knew right then I would never hurt her nor would I give anybody else the chance to even attempt too. She’s precious, too precious for this world.
A smile no matter how hard I tried to stop it tugged at my lips with no intention of leaving. We just stared at each other, until I brought my eyes to my mother who was looking very pale, ill almost. Was it normal to look like that after pregnancy, after twenty-two hours of labor? “Are you okay mom? Do I need to call a nurse.” I asked voice laced with more than a mild concern.
She should be tired and worn out, but not awfully sick, right?
Her eyes wanted to shut but she fought it. “I love y-you Declan, you k-know that?” She fumbled, her heart monitor suddenly beginning to beep irregularly. She looked so weak like she was going to pass out at any minute. “K-keep her...h-her safe.” The heart monitor began to amplify in sound, rooting wild panic in me, a kind of terror even my own father couldn’t inflict.
“Mom!” I yelled shaking her hand in mine, hers now limp as a log. My heart legit drops at the stillness. Riley starts whaling, the noise probably frightening her like it is me. I looked around the room frantically not knowing what to do, my head spinning in all directions. “SOMEONE COME HELP MY MOM!” I yelled, stupid tears watering my eyes. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.
Is she going to be okay?
Footsteps came pounding down the hall, loud and hurried as people in scrubs began to crowd the room. I was still shaking my mom, trying to get some kind of reaction out of her, anything to get her to open her eyes. With my baby sister crying, the monitor blaring, my heart pounding, and my eyes leaking, I felt trepidation carving its way inside of me.
She was here and now she’s not.
Why isn’t she waking up?
Nurses flooded around me in mere seconds, pulling me away from my mom. I held on tight not wanting to let her go. “You can’t be in here!” They rushed the words out multiple times before finally ripping her from my grasp. I didn’t even notice the sobs falling from my lips or the rivers leaking from my eyes as they dragged me away from her.
“MOM!” I screamed, before remembering Riley all alone on her cold chest. Keep her safe. I clawed at the two nurses pulling me away, swelling with both rage and intoxicating fear. “Wait, my sister, w-what about Riley!” My voice rang fierce and sharp as I felt the strong need to protect her, to hold her in my arms just as my mom was minutes ago.
They weren’t listening to me, well, at least not responding and it was frustrating me to the max. “Is she going to be okay?” I kept asking as they shut the door. “Please just get my sister.”
I hate this memory, so goddamn much. I remember every single detail to a ‘t’, the sound of electric shocks from cardioversion, the screams from my sister, the knocking of my fists on the locked door, and so much more. I remember sliding down the door in utter defeat just listening to the medical team and the machines and the yelling. The feeling was just peer cold, so emptily cold.
I couldn’t lose her, she couldn’t leave me and Hayes all alone with my dad. She couldn’t let Riley grow up without a mother. My dad was across seas for the last sixth months of my mom’s pregnancy, expanding his ‘company’ of all things illegal. He took Hayes with him as a last-minute decision deciding to show him the ropes. The only reason my mom and I didn’t go was because he needed someone to trust here, at his original base.
He knew my mom wouldn’t betray him, not when he could make her life a living hell. He controlled her, he controlled all of us. When he found out my mom was pregnant and she was keeping it a secret, he made Hayes and I watch as he disciplined her so we didn’t dare even think to make the same ‘mistake’. What he did was unspeakable, obscene, and just something you could never forget even though you so badly wanted the image out of your head.
There was blood and blood and blood. Screams and screams and screams. Tears and Tears and tears. She begged him, pleaded with him to stop, to at least not make Hayes and I watch. It didn’t matter what she said or how she said it or even how much she apologized, Julian wanted the lesson to be learned, and the fault to be fixed. We answered to him not the other way around, or he would ink your skin with a knife and make you understand, leaving a permanent reminder so you don’t forget again.
I was sick for days, wouldn’t eat or drink for days, couldn’t sleep for days. I knew what he did to her would never leave me.
So when he went overseas, my mom told him she lost the baby. She forged faux medical papers and sent them to him just so he believed her when really she was going to have the baby and have her sister, my aunt take it. She made me promise to not say a thing, even though she knew I wouldn’t. Even after everything Julian did to her, she still fought back in her own way.
After having Riley, my mom wasn’t the same, she was always throwing up, very dizzy, and exhausted all the time. One day after school I came home and all her stuff was gone, completely cleared out as if she never lived with us at all. That’s when Julian told Hayes and me she was dead and we didn’t need to worry about her anymore.
I believed it knowing how sick she was. I believed it for years until I saw a lady on the side of the street with barely any clothing on who at first I assumed was a prostitute, with those blue ultramarine eyes that were so warm but now dazed with fog. The same wild charcoal curls longer than before, and the familiar smile that made you feel special.
She wasn’t the same, but I knew she was my mom.
“Your m-mom.” I stutter, not knowing for the life of me what to say or how to react. What do you say to someone after they tell you they found their mom alive when they thought for so long that she was dead? I swear this day just keeps getting better and better (note the sarcasm). “How do you know?” My voice is just a whisper.
Declan’s hands squeeze the wheel, knuckles whitening as he puts miles between us and the school. “I saw her.” The way he says with exasperation, voice even though I know better, he’s outraged. “One day when I came home all her stuff was gone, everything. She was sick and I believed Julian, he—he said she was dead.”
My heart chest squeezes achingly, as my tummy turns, and my blood churns. How could someone do that to him? Lie such a big lie to my Declan? I can’t even begin to decipher how anyone could do that especially to their own son. What really happened to her then? Where has she been? Declan must be in a horrible headspace right now, I can only imagine how bewildered and hurt and furious he must feel. It’s probably all entangled.
I don’t know how to respond to him, my mouth can’t seem to muddle out any appropriate words to say. I glance at him with quivering lips, only being able to see his side profile because he’s watching the road with a sheer intensity. Lips soft but jaw clenched, eyebrows narrowed, and chocolatey hair a messy array. Angry, but in pain, sad, but won’t break.
My heart hurt for him, longed for him, painfully so. “You can talk to me D, you can always talk to me and I’ll listen,” I say quietly.
“I know Ellie baby, I just need to sort this out in my head.” He tells me in a softer voice that makes my toes curl. “I can’t explode, I can’t. But I want to and it’s getting really fucking hard.” His head turns, his eyes alight as his gaze blazes heat to my very core. “I won’t, but I want to so fucking bad.”
Surprising myself I say, “Me too.”
The green forest I’m staring into darkens, a crooked smile that meant wicked things taking on his red lips. “Oh yeah?” With rosy warm cheeks and hindering embarrassment, I nod my head. Sometimes I feel it with so much force, like when you’re angry and you just want to break something to feel better. You don’t always have to show it but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sit in the inside suppressed, just not expressed.
“Keep blushing like that and I’ll have to do something about it.” He murmurs, his white-knuckled hand falling onto my thigh. “Because it’s driving me nuts.”
Hey guys sorry for any mistakes! I hope you enjoy this chapter, please comment if you do!