For the Lancer Writers ‘Fear’ challenge, May 2021
Word count: 600
Crouched under the window, he nursed both his anger and a stinging cheek. Probing fingers gingerly touched the rapidly swelling flesh and he sighed wrapping his arms around his knees.
He knew better. Knew better than to argue with mama when she was in one of her moods.
‘Specially about one of her men.
He hugged his knees tighter, his body beginning to rock back and forth of its own volition.
He hadn’t liked it, the way the pendejo had looked at her. Had told her she didn’t have to do this. That he would take care of them. That she didn’t have to sell herself…
That’s when it happened. She had slapped him. Hard. Right across the face. Told him to mind his tongue. That if he didn’t like the way of things he was free to go.
And he had, had run out the door with the man’s barking laughter trailing in his wake.
But for all his bravado he had slunk back a few minutes later, taking up this vantage point in the shadows.
He shouldn’t have questioned her. Shouldn’t have all but called her…that.
Shoulders hunched, he flinched at the mere thought of what he had almost done.
The anger leeched out of him, replaced by an overwhelming sense of guilt.
It wasn’t her fault, not really.
She only did what she did to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
All because he wasn’t man enough to take things in hand and provide for them both.
She only did what she had to do.
He crossed his arms atop his knees, burying his face as he continued to rock, determined not to cry. Instead turning the pain inward. The pain and resentment and the growing rage against the person who was the root cause of all this.
The man who had thrown them out. Thrown him out because of what he was.
He was no innocent. The poverty, brutality and prejudice of the border towns had burned away his naivety long ago. He knew the end result of when a Mexican woman laid with a gringo. He only had to look in a mirror.
His fault mama did what she did.
The light that flickered through the threadbare curtain sputtered out.
The old worry began to gnaw at him, the one that kept him awake some nights, twisting his gut until he thought he would spew.
Mama hadn’t been happy for a long time. What if…what if one day one of her men was to offer her a better life but one that didn’t include the gringo’s “mistake”?
What if she just up and left when he wasn’t around?
What if …
What if she decided she no longer loved him?
It was all his fault.
If only he could go back…
Stop himself from being born…
This time the tears did leak out and he scrubbed at his face with a tattered sleeve. Brushing wayward strands of hair out of his eyes, he stared into the night.
Mama had been the only one who cared, the only one who loved him.
She didn’t mean what she said. She was tired and had too much to drink is all.
But if she were gone who would want him?
Certainly not his father.
What if no one ever did?
What if he was alone forever?
No one to care what happened to him; whether he lived or died.
Only mama cared.
But what if that changed?
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