A short story by Marisa Wong for Lori Cohen’s Advanced Composition class.
“Ready Brian? If you win, I’ll buy you an ice cream. We will race to the end of the track,” Marie lovingly pats her son on the head.
“Okay mommy.” Brian looks up at his mom, memorizing her face. Watching every smile, every breath because in the blink of an eye she is gone. But in an instant so is he.
Ready. Set. RUN.
“Mommy I winned! Can I get the SpongeBob ice cream? Or….an ice cream sandwich?” Brian blurts out with his breathe hot and fast.
“Whew…Brian, you are so fast. I don’t know how you win every time” she scoops him up and spins him around “Brian the Superhero, to the ice cream rescue.”
He knows that the time he spends with her is not much, but he does not know why. She wants to be there for him, but she never is. She never picks him up from school and she never asks him every day after school “How was school today? What did you learn?” Instead, her darling Brian is left to walk home from the bus stop alone and to be greeted by his sister, who is with him when no one else is. His sister who is always there for him, who always goes to his meets, who takes him to play dates and who checks his homework for him.
Poor Brian abandoned by his own mother. Maybe she does not want me, maybe it was something I did—why can’t I fix this? No matter what I do though, I won’t make trouble for my dad. I can sit and quietly do my homework. I can go to school every day of the week. I can choose not to make everything else bad. I can sit at lunch with my friends. But I will never be the same. It doesn’t matter what I think because even if I told my dad how I felt—that I missed mom—he is too busy on his cell phone to notice me. And so I run. I use a picture of my family as inspiration to run. It’s a picture back when we were really a family, now we can’t even call ourselves that—a family. We are all just sitting on the beach and lounging but it’s different because we are all together and now we are never together. I’m chasing after my family because that is all that I want and all that I need.
Oh, my poor baby brother Brian. So innocent and young. How could she not care about us? Or at least care about him? And dad can’t stay off his cell long enough to see how this is hurting Brian. Or how it is hurting me. Well, if that is how mom and dad want to play it then FINE. Let the games begin, if they won’t pay attention I will make them pay attention. I will stir up all the trouble at school and at home. I won’t help out around the house, I will get in all sorts of trouble at school and I will date all sorts of riff-raff. We will see what is more important—this family or your job. She cannot even hear me calling for her, wanting her to understand and needing her to be around.
“NO. NOW IS ENOUGH, we won’t wait forever and you can’t ask us to” Alicia stormed off to her room. SLAM. I slumped against my door listening to her leave.
“…I’m sorry” murmured Marie, her plain black rolling carry-on suitcase in one hand and her briefcase in the other.
“mommy? What’s going on?” Brian toddled into the room in his pajamas. Rubbing his eyes, he can sense what is coming.
“Sweetie, I have to go on a trip for a little while.”
“but you just got home yesterday…” Brian sniffled softly, he wasn’t crying—yet.
“I know but I’ll be back in just a few days and I packed a special lunch for school tomorrow.”
Marie couldn’t bear to look her son in the eye knowing that he was looking up at her with big blue innocent eyes.
“take me with you…” Brian wept latching himself onto her leg.
Then in one swift movement she peeled him off her leg and was holding the door open. The same yellow taxi that brought her home was now taking her away, and all Brian was left with was the scent of his mothers’ perfume lingering in the front hall.
“Excuse me ma’am, but there is a young boy chasing my taxi,” the taxi driver informed, “should I stop?”
“No,” Marie replied, “just keep going.” She glanced out the back window, watching her son getting farther and farther away as she sat idly by.
I wish I could be home more often. I want to be with my kids and I want to see them grow up. How could I do this to my family—choosing work over them? I have become that mom who is never at the sports games, never volunteers to chaperone field trips and doesn’t bake cupcakes for their birthday. I have even missed a few birthdays. Why have I let this happen; I need to stop now. How can I fix this? I have missed the running meets, the school dances and I cannot re-create these moments, I have missed it forever. This is it. The time to change is now, and I cannot sit by watching my children’s lives pass me by.
Get the kids ready for school. Drop them off at school. Go to work. Pick kids up from school. Go home and make dinner. Everyday…that is all I do, but what else is there left to do? Nothing. My wife is gone, and my children are left without a mother. I miss her, but all I can do is distract myself from that grief. She is always gone and even when she is home she is not all here. Her work follows her home, and then takes her away at a moment’s notice.
“You were right” Marie fidgeted with her zipper, a nervous quirk she thought she had outgrown in high school.
“Mhmm…and?”Alicia nodded, looking her mother in the eye.
“and…I am sorry about not being there for you or for Brian” Marie sighed.
“I accept your apology but it is Brian who deserves it.”
“I know. I was hoping you knew where his meet is today.”
“C’mon, I’ll drive you there.”
As they got into the blue Prius at the front of the quaint coffee shop they had met at, Alicia saw her mom for the first time in many years.
My heart is pounding. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s the home stretch, that last 10 meters that always get me. I know she isn’t here but every meet I look up into the stands just hoping that one time she will be there smiling, and there she is. I have to win—for her.
“And the winner is Brian, from Rock away High School”
That’s for you, mom.
In that moment, none of it mattered anymore. It didn’t matter that she missed all the other meets, competitions, and birthdays. She loved me, and she wanted me to achieve great things. She should have been there more often but even without her there he was still Brian the superhero.
“Brian that was a great race!” Marie rushed his side.
“oh, hi.” Brian’s words were clipped. Not opening up to her because every time she got close, she was suddenly gone again.
“I know I haven’t exactly been around for you honey—” Marie ventured to say, once again fidgeting with her zipper.
“—you can say that again.” Brian interrupted, unable to look into her deep blue eyes that some say he had—if they ever met his mother.
“I…uhhh, quit my job.” Marie sputtered, for the first time seeing her son.
“what?” Brian asked, almost afraid that if he said it aloud he would jinx it.
“I quit my job and I am going to be around more—to be with you and the family.”
“How do you know that I—that we still want you here?”
“I don’t know…I just came to say I love you and I am sorry for not being a good mom for you”
“well it’s too late now” Brian burst out.
“I wouldn’t expect you to but I was hoping for a second chance.” Clutching a brown paper bag to her chest, she took a step closer to him.
“What’s in the bag?” He looked up with his eyes big with curiosity.
“I knew you would win. You’re Brian the superhero” she said with a smile. Opening the bag she pulled out an ice cream sandwich.