Hey guys--just a little ficlet. Hope you enjoy it!
The trailer was dark, and Sophia wasn't home yet. That was usual, and I didn't think anything of it as I climbed up into Niko's bed where he was still awake. He looked over at me with concern.
"What's wrong, Cal? Did you have a nightmare?" He whispered it even though we were the only ones in the house.
I shook my head as I slid under the covers and scooted closer to my brother. It was so cold, which was weird, since it was May. "I had a question," my five-year old self said.
"Maybe I have an answer. What's the question?"
"In school today, Ms. Barnes gave us construction paper and crayons, and she told us to make a card for our moms, 'cause Mother's Day is next week," I explained.
"Oh," Niko sighed, then bit his lip, thinking. After awhile, he spoke again. "That wasn't a question," he pointed out.
I scowled. "So?" He raised a threatening eyebrow at me, and I relented. "Ms. Barnes said that we have to do it, because our mommies are nice and they give us food to eat and toys to play with. But…" I shrugged.
Niko sat up a little and looked at me. "Did you make the card?"
I nodded. "Mm hmm. But I don't think she'll like it."
"Why's that?" Niko said, even though he probably agreed.
"Ms. Barnes told us to write 'thank you' and to list everything that she's given us."
"What did you write?"
I shrugged again, suddenly feeling shy. Niko poked me in the side, causing me to squirm.
"Do you have it with you?" he asked, tickling me again.
"In my backpack," I said, trying not to giggle.
"Go get it. I want to see it."
But it was so warm right where I was… Niko gave me a push, and I rolled out of the bed.
I turned on the light and trudged over to the hand-me-down Goodwill backpack that Nik had produced for my first day of Kindergarten and pulled out the slightly wrinkled, bright pink piece of construction paper. It was folded in half hamburger-style and cut out in the shape of a heart. I handed it to Niko and crawled back under his covers.
"They made us cut it out like that," I muttered, not wanting him to think I made it all girly on purpose.
The corner of Niko's mouth turned up a little when I said that, then he examined the card. Scrawled in crayon on the front was 'Happy Mother's Day.' Nik glanced at me because I was shifting uncomfortably. I was nervous about what he would say when he read the inside. On the inner flap, the teacher had printed 'Thanks, Mom, for…', and then below it we were supposed to write everything we were grateful to her for. I'd written the only thing I could think of.
Niko opened it and read aloud. "Thanks, Mom, for Niko," he read. He glanced at the rest of the card where there were just some drawings of flowers and things, then set it down on the rickety old end-table by the bed. Niko lifted up the covers. "Come here," he said quietly. I clambered over, somewhat nervously, to sit on his lap. He resituated the blanket around us, then shifted me so that I could look up and see him.
"Are you mad?" I asked when he didn't say anything.
"No, why would I be mad?" he asked.
"All the other kids had lots of things written down, and Ms. Barnes got mad when I didn't have anything else. She told me that Sophia had done lots of stuff for me, and that it wasn't good that I didn't realize that. So I tried to think of something, but I couldn't think of shit."
Niko frowned. "Cal. I thought we talked about using that word ."
"She uses it," I said, referring to Sophia.
"Do we do the things that Sophia does?" he asked.
"No," I recited glumly. We'd been through this before.
"Okay then. Now, of course I'm not mad at you for not writing anything else. See, other kids have different kinds of mothers. Nicer ones, and they have lots of things to thank them for. Understand?"
I scrunched up my eyebrows, thinking. "When Charlie's mom comes and picks him up from school, she always hugs him and kisses him on the head. He always wipes it off, but things like that?"
"Mm hmm," Niko murmured.
"Well, how come Sophia doesn't do those things? It seems like lots of the other kids' moms are nice."
Niko sighed a deep sigh. "Sophia…is different. I don't think she knows how to do those things. Does that make sense?"
"She doesn't know how to be nice?"
"Something like that," Niko said.
Niko thought for a moment. "No one ever taught her how, I guess."
"Maybe we could teach her?" I asked uncertainly.
Niko opened his mouth to say something, but went silent as the door was opened and slammed shut. Quick as lightening, Niko lifted me off his lap and got out of bed, turned off the light in our room, and softly closed the door. Sometimes if we were really quiet, Sophia would forget that we were there, and then she'd leave us alone. Niko silently made his way back to the bed and got in. There was the sound of glass breaking and I cringed instinctively, but relaxed when Niko tucked the blankets around us. I turned to face him. "Maybe not," I said with a small, humorless grin.
Niko returned the gesture—as in, the corner of his mouth lifted a fraction of an inch—and he tousled my hair. "So, what are you going to do with the card?"
"I'm not going to give it to her," I said decisively. "You can have it, I guess. If you want," I added hurriedly. "You don't have to or anything. You can just throw it away."
Niko looked very sad for a second, then erased the emotion from his face. "I'd like to keep it," he said, opening up his arms for me to slide in to. I did, and he hugged me close to him, then kissed me on the top of the head. I didn't wipe it off, though, because I wasn't like Charlie. I didn't have a mom who did that every day, and I couldn't even teach her to be nice like that, but I did have Niko, and that was enough.
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