Hey, guys. This is just a quick one-shot about when Don and Alan find out Charlie doesn't like pancakes. Some of the things Don will say will be really mean and harsh. It might be out of character, so I apologize ahead of time for that. I hope you like it regardless of that fact. Enjoy!
It had been four months since my mother died.
Charlie barely spoke a word to me and Dad. It had taken the three months to finally get him out of the garage. He still hadn't gained all his weight back, and I knew he didn't sleep much more than usual.
I had been staying at the house, instead of my apartment. Dad was worried about Charlie and was afraid to leave him alone. So I stayed at home with him - baby-sitting.
I didn't mind it too much. I was worried about him too. By now, though, I was getting fed up with it.
I loved my mother, too. I would like to do what Charlie does and just die along with her. But I haven't. I know I couldn't do that to my father. Dad hasn't even had time to grieve due to worrying about Charlie.
It was getting on my nerves and it was going to stop...soon.
I dragged myself out of bed early in the morning. I heard Dad and Don talking in the kitchen. They were probably talking about me. They did that a lot lately.
I wish I could sleep. I could feel the exhaustion taking over my body. Each step was a struggle. I just wanted to collapse on the floor, but I kept going until I was downstairs and into the kitchen. There, I sat down at the table.
Don was drinking coffee in the seat across from mine. Dad had a place set for himself at the head of the table, but it was currently unoccupied because he was fixing breakfast.
"'Morning, Charlie." He called over his shoulder.
"'Morning," I mumbled.
Dad and Don exchanged glances and I cringed. Why did they have to talk about me all the time? Even when I was right here?
Dad came walking in from the kitchen holding a large plate of pancakes.
He placed a pancake on each of our plates.
"Eat up, boys," He said as he sat down and poured syrup over his pancakes.
Don greedily buttered his and then exchanged syrup and butter with Dad.
They both ate hungrily, and it took them several minutes to notice I wasn't eating.
Instead, I was crying.
The pancakes brought on a wave of memories and I had to bite back a sob.
"What's wrong, Charlie?" Dad asked, looking concerned.
Charlie sat there, staring at his pancakes, crying. He smiled, but he wasn't happy about anything. He laughed shakily.
"What's the matter? Did you want something else? I can fix you some eggs or something."
That made me blow my fuse.
"Oh, come on, Dad! Stop giving in to him! He's got to learn to deal with things. Charlie, you can't get your way all the damn time! Do you know what you curling up and dying like this has done to Dad? Hell, he hasn't had time to grieve himself because he's always taking care of you! Why can't you just grow up and deal with Mom's death? She's gone, Charlie! She's not coming back! Why can't you see that? You've spent the past four months in your own little world. It's time to come back to earth, Charlie. Stop being such a child! If you had cared about Mom you would have been with her when she died! You would have come to visit her every day! But you didn't care! All you cared about was that stupid math problem. Your mother was dying and you did math, Charlie! You weren't there for her! You didn't even care she was sick! You were too wrapped up in that stupid problem to know the real world still went on!"
I would have continued, but Dad interrupted me.
"Donald Eppes! That's enough!" He screamed.
I flinched, still afraid of my father when he used his parental voice.
I looked over at Charlie. Tears streamed down his face, but I didn't care. He needed to hear that.
"Charlie? Kiddo, what's wrong?"
He shook his head a few times.
"I don't like pancakes," Charlie said, then got up and ran from the room.
"He doesn't like pancakes? He's always liked pancakes."
"Maybe he never liked pancakes." Dad suggested, looking at me with that I-am-very-disappointed-in-you look. He took his plate of pancakes and went into the kitchen.
I sank back in the chair, looking down at my pancakes. My appetite was gone.
I groaned, getting up from the table.
I knew what I had to do, but I wasn't looking forward to it.
I wrote furiously on the chalkboard. I couldn't shake Don's words.
Then why are you in here? You shouldn't prove him right.
It's the only thing I know how to do. It's all I've ever known how to do to deal with stress.
I was barely conscious of the tears that streamed down my face. I hardly knew I was crying until my vision was so blurred that I didn't see the overturned chair on the floor.
I was so wrapped up in writing on the board that I tripped over the chair and fell hard on the floor.
I landed awkwardly on my left arm. I heard it crunch beneath my weight and pain shot through that arm.
I sat up, sobbing harder now. I gathered my left arm to my chest and hugged it to me.
I want to get up, to start working again, but I couldn't gather enough strength to stand up.
I tucked my legs closer to me, and backed into the corner of the room. I buried my face in my knees and that's how Don found me.
I looked for Charlie first in his room, though I should have known that he wouldn't be there.
I went out to the garage. I didn't hear the usual scrapings of chalk on the boards, giving me a cause for concern.
I opened the doors and stepped inside. I didn't see Charlie anywhere.
"Charlie?" I called softly.
I was answered by a loud intake of breath.
I looked around the room and found Charlie curled into a ball in the corner of the room.
"Charlie? What's the matter?" I asked when I saw him clutching his left arm.
"Go away," He said quietly when I stooped in front of him.
"Charlie. Talk to me, Buddy. What happened?"
"Nothing. Just leave me alone." His words were barely coherent for the sobs.
"Buddy, listen to me. I'm sorry about what I said. I didn't mean to be so cruel. I just... it's gotten on my nerves how you've escaped the real world. I hate the fact that you weren't there for Mom. I thought you didn't love her, and that's why you wouldn't come see her-" I was interrupted by a hard shove to my chest.
"How could you say that?" Charlie screamed. "I loved Mom! I miss her more than I thought possible! Don't you think I feel guilty? Don't you think I stay awake at night, cursing myself for not being there for her? I was wrong, Don! I should have been there for her and I wasn't. I know I was wrong. I know I should have been there with her. But don't you ever, ever say I didn't love her. Don't you ever say that again." He shook uncontrollably as he buried his face in his knees once more.
We sat there in silence. The only sound that could be heard was Charlie's sobs.
"Charlie... you never liked pancakes, did you?"
He was quiet a moment, then he looked up.
"No. I never liked pancakes. I tried to like them, for her sake. But I couldn't."
"Then why'd you eat them?"
"Because I loved her. I couldn't tell her I didn't like something she cooked. I didn't want to hurt her because that would have hurt me more than it would have hurt her." His voice broke off and he turned his back on me.
Charlie had loved Mom as much as I had. All these years I never knew he didn't like pancakes. Mom never knew, or maybe she did and wouldn't say. It was one thing Charlie had done, put up with, just to keep her happy. He loved her a lot.
I reached out and put my hand on Charlie's shoulder.
"Don't touch me," He barked, though his voice was broken.
Ignoring his order, I reached my other hand out and turned him to face me.
He wouldn't look up at me, so I tilted his chin with my hand.
"I'm so sorry, Buddy. I never should have said that to you. Please, please, forgive me," I pleaded.
His eyes watered over once more and he dropped his head away from my view.
He buried his face in his hands and wept.
I grabbed him by the upper arms and moved him to me. I wrapped my arms tightly around him and held him as he cried.
"I should have been there." He choked out.
"Sh. It's over now."
"I should have stayed with her."
"I shouldn't have stayed away so long."
"I could have helped her."
"You did all you could."
"I abandoned her! She should never have forgiven me."
"But she did."
"I should have told her I loved her more."
"She knew that you did."
I tightened my hold as his broken words began to fade as he was taken over by sobs.
I wiped at my own eyes, knowing that Charlie had finally accepted Mom's death. He had come back down to earth.
When Charlie finally stopped crying, he pushed back away from me.
"I'm sorry, Don."
"There's nothing for you to be sorry for. Come on."
I stood and reached my hand out and he took it.
I pulled him to his feet. He winced when his left arm made contact with the wall.
"I thought there was nothing wrong."
"I fell and landed on my arm."
"You going to be okay?"
"Yes." He smiled, and I knew it was the truth.
We were both going to be fine.